Kansas cotton farmers are seeing better yields, but the crop is losing ground to other commodities.
Cotton continues to lose acreage to corn, milo and other crops in Kansas. Acreage for cotton spiked at more than 115,000 in 2006. But the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reports that the forecast for 2015 was 15,000 harvested acres, down 48 percent from 2014.
Cotton production in Kansas was forecast at 24,000 bales in 2015, down 50 percent from 2014, The Hutchinson News reported.
But the crop is doing well where it's still being grown. Isabel-area custom cutter Steve Keimig said yields in southern Kansas have been helped by the perfect mix of sun, heat and rain.
Cotton has been growing in southern Kansas for about two decades. It took off in the 1990s when a better variety was developed that's more tolerant to the state's growing season.
Drifting of a type of herbicide remains an issue, causing some farmers to shy away from cotton for a while, especially in the southwestern part of the state near Moscow.
"Out in western Kansas, they are hurting," said Roger Sewell, manager of business development for High Plains Cotton.
Gary Feist, manager of Southern Kansas Cotton Growers, said new varieties will come up in the next few years to help with the herbicide drift and weed control issues. Companies have been developing varieties resistant to the herbicide, and Feist said some of it could be planted in Kansas this year.
Sewell said he has heard from many producers interested in planting cotton in the spring. He said companies are making shorter-season varieties that will work in Kansas.
"I think the future of cotton in Kansas is fantastic," he said.