Hutchinson Cotton might never be king in Kansas, where grain elevators dot the prairie and corn and milo fuel a growing ethanol industry.
But in the southern part of the state, farmers are producing some of the region's best cotton crops.
"I never imagined stripping cotton in Kansas," custom harvester Clay Stewart said.
Stewart, whose own fields in Oklahoma went unharvested because of drought, was in Reno County harvesting a crop that - despite Kansas' own drought problems - was expected to make more than 600 pounds per acre.
Roger Sewell, manager of business development at High Plains Cotton near Pratt, said dryland fields are averaging one bale or more per acre, with irrigated fields averaging around two bales.
By comparison, milo and dryland corn have not fared as well for some farmers.
"This is good cotton," Sewell said. "All across Kansas, the cotton is good. It's sure more profitable than these fall crops. We didn't have near the expense and insect pressure this year, either."
The Kansas Agriculture Statistics service reported last week that the cotton harvest was about 22 percent complete, with 55 percent of the crop rated good or excellent. The agency said statewide production will go up 50 percent - to about 115,000 acres - over last year.
"We're going to have some cotton that is the best ever raised and some that won't be very good depending on who had water," said Jerry Stuckey, manager of the Northwest Cotton Growers Co-op Gin in Moscow.
Farmers in the co-op added 8,000 acres to cotton this year, Stuckey said, and expect to gin more than 50,000 bales this season. In central Kansas, several farmers planted cotton for the first time in years - or ever.
Joe Swanson, who farms near Windom, said he planted cotton about 20 years ago but hadn't done it again until this year.
While triple-digit temperatures and little rain hurt the yield, Swanson said, "It definitely takes the dry weather better than other crops."
"I'm thankful for what we got, with no more rain," Swanson said. "It's one of the driest seasons I can remember in a long time."
But with demand for corn and milo increasing because of the state's increasing number of ethanol plants, Swanson wasn't sure he would plant cotton again next year.
"It's an economic thing," he said.