The 2017 Cotton harvest is underway and cotton is showing a profit for producers.
Kansas is the wheat state but right now cotton is king in Pratt County. Across the county, cotton bales hold their place in fields in bright yellow wrappings like a Christmas present for farmers.
In other fields, rows of unharvested cotton make the landscape look like it has snowed in fields around the county.
The cotton baler has taken over for the cotton stripper, bole buggy and module maker. There are very few module harvest systems left with about 90 percent of the cotton in Pratt County and nearby counties being harvested by John Deere round balers, said Roger Sewell, general manager for Next GINeration Cotton Gin in Cullison.
Ginning has just gotten started and no reports on quality and condition have come into the gin but one thing is certain, more acres of cotton will be harvested this year in Pratt County than in the past. There are about 25,000 cotton acres in the Next GINeration Cotton Gin trade area that includes Pratt, Kiowa, Stafford, Kingman, Barber and Ford Counties with the bulk of the acres in Pratt County, said Sewell who predicts even more acres will be planted to cotton next year.
The number of acres planted to cotton in Pratt County is about triple from 2016, said Pratt County Extension Agent Mark Ploger.
Harvesting has been sluggish because of humidity and fog. Cotton has to be harvested when its dry and while the area hasn't received rain in a long time, there has been enough humidity and dew to keep the machines from the harvest field.
But with recent dry weather, the cotton balers are rolling across fields and pushing out bales on a regular basis.
A close examination of the fields reveals that some bolls have refused to open and farmers are waiting for more cotton to show before getting into the fields.
The primary reason more acres are going to cotton is the price. Of all the commodities in the area, cotton is the most profitable at this time. Wheat, corn, milo and soybeans are all going through a low market, making it hard for producers to make a profit on their product.
When comparing how much it cost to produce a crop against how much they can get for the crop, farmers are looking for a crop that is the most profitable and right now, cotton is that crop.
It takes about a third less water to irrigate a circle of cotton than it does for a circle of cotton. Until this year, there were more acres of irrigated cotton than dry land but its about a 50-50 split this year and thats the first year it's been like that, Sewell said.
The immediate future for cotton is bright. As long as the demand stays high, the price will continue to be attractive to farmers.
But just like any other crop, if the supply gets too high, the demand drops and so does the price. For now, the cotton market is pretty stable and cotton is the crop to beat for profit.
"Cotton is one of the few crops that's making any money," Sewell said.
A finished cotton bale weighs about 500 pounds and is selling for around $330 a bale. This price is close to what it was at this time last year.