Wichita Cotton was once touted as a promising alternative crop for Kansas farmers and cotton gins were built to handle an increased acreage devoted to a crop far more familiar in southern states.
But a government report issued Tuesday showed the state's cotton crop this season was reduced by more than half from last year as farmers returned to more profitable grain crops like corn.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported in its December crop production forecast that Kansas will harvest about 45,000 acres of cotton. That is well below the 110,000 acres Kansas farmers harvested a year earlier.
At the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Cooperative in Winfield, customer manager Gene Latham blamed the decline in planted acres of cotton on high grain prices. Cotton prices have gone up, but have not made the huge climb that grain prices have made.
But Latham was optimistic that many farmers will eventually return to planting cotton, especially in arid western Kansas, because input costs such as fertilizer and irrigation are so much higher for grain crops than for cotton.
But for this past season even high yields - averaging 533 pounds per acre in Kansas - were not enough to offset the state's decline in harvested acres, the report showed.
The agency forecast the 2007 Kansas cotton crop at 50,000 480-pound bales, well below the 117,000 of those bales harvested last season.
One 480-pound bale of cotton can make 3,400 athletic socks or 3,015 diapers or 782 bath towels, according to the Southern Plains Cotton Cooperative Association.