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cotton bales in field in Medina County
Cotton bales in Medina County. Photo by Robert Plocheck.



Cotton has been a major crop in Texas for more than a century. Since 1880, Texas has led all states in cotton production in most years, and today the annual Texas cotton harvest amounts to around 40 percent of total production in the United States. The annual Texas cotton crop has averaged 5.37 million bales since 1996.

Value of upland cotton produced in Texas in 2016 was $2.47 billion. Cottonseed value in 2016 was $480.38 million, making the value of the Texas crop around $2.95 billion.

Upland cotton was harvested from 5.2 million acres in 2016, and American-Pima from 15,000 acres, for a total of 5.22 million acres. Yield for upland cotton in 2016 was 720 pounds per harvested acre, with American-Pima yielding 1,024 pounds per acre.

In 2015, total cotton acreage was 4.52 million acres. Upland cotton was harvested from 4.5 million acres, with a yield of 610 pounds per acre. American-Pima was harvested from 15,000 acres with a yield of 896 pounds per acre.

Total cotton production amounted to 7.83 million bales in 2016 and 5.75 million bales in 2015.

Cotton is the raw material for processing operations at gins, oil mills, compresses, and a small number of textile mills in Texas. Cotton in Texas is machine harvested. Field storage of harvested seed cotton is a common practice as gins decline in number.

Most of the Texas cotton crop is exported. China, Turkey, Mexico, and various Pacific Rim countries are major buyers. With the continuing development of fiber-spinning technology and the improved quality of Texas cotton, the export demand for Texas cotton has grown.

Spinning techniques can efficiently produce high-quality yarn from relatively strong, short or longer staple upland cotton with fine mature fiber.


Interest in corn production throughout the state has increased since the 1970s as yields improved with new varieties. Once the principal grain crop, corn acreage declined as plantings of grain sorghum increased. Only 500,000 acres were harvested annually until the mid-1970s, when development of new hybrids occurred.

Harvested acreage was 2.55 million in 2016; 1.97 million in 2015; and 1.99 million in 2014. Yields were 127 bushels per acre in 2016, 135 bushels per acre in 2015, and 148 bushels per acre in 2014. Most of the acreage and yield increase has occurred in Central and South Texas.

In 2016, corn ranked third in value among the state’s crops. It was valued at $1.21 billion in 2016; $1.12 billion in 2015; and $1.3 billion in 2014. The grain is largely used for livestock feed, but other important uses are for ethanol and in food products.

Grain sorghum

Grain sorghum in 2016 ranked second nationally in value of production, with Kansas ranked first. Much of the grain is exported, as well as being used in livestock and poultry feed throughout Texas. Ethanol production is another demand source for Texas sorghum.

Total production of grain sorghum in 2016 was 115.5 million bushels, with 66 bushels per acre yield.  With an average price of $6.00 per cwt. (hundredweight), the total value reached $388 million.

In 2015, 2.5 million acres of grain sorghum were harvested, yielding an average of 61 pounds per acre for a total production of 149.45 million bushels. It was valued at $6.83 per cwt., for a total value of $571.6 million.

In 2014, 2.3 million acres were harvested with an average of 61 bushels per acre, or 137.25 million bushels.  The season’s average price was $7.23 per cwt. for a total value of $555.7 million.

Although grown to some extent in all counties where crops are important, the largest concentrations are in the High Plains, Coastal Bend, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley areas. Research continues to develop high-yielding hybrids resistant to diseases and insect damage.


Wheat for grain is one of the state’s most valuable cash crops. In 2016, wheat was exceeded in value by cotton, corn, hay, and grain sorghum. Wheat pastures also provide considerable winter forage for cattle that is reflected in the value of livestock produced.

Texas wheat production totaled 89.6 million bushels in 2016 as yield averaged 32 bushels per acre. Planted acreage totaled 5 million acres, and 2.8 million acres were harvested. With an average price of $3.55 per bushel, the 2016 wheat value totaled $318 million.

In 2015, Texas wheat growers planted 6.1 million acres and harvested 3.55 million acres. The yield was 30 bushels per acre for 2015, with total production of 106.5 million bushels at $4.71 per bushel, which was valued at $501.6 million. Texas wheat growers planted 6 million acres in 2014 and harvested grain from 2.25 million acres. The yield was 30 bushels per acre for a total production of 67.5 million bushels, valued at $432 million or $6.40 per bushel.

Wheat was first grown commercially in Texas near Sherman about 1833. The acreage expanded greatly in North-Central Texas after 1850 because of rapid settlement of the state and introduction of the well-adapted Mediterranean strain of wheat. A major family flour industry was developed in the Fort Worth–Dallas–Sherman area between 1875 and 1900. Now, around half of the state acreage is planted on the High Plains and about a third of this is irrigated. Most of the Texas wheat acreage is of the hard red winter class. Because of the development of varieties with improved disease resistance and the use of wheat for winter pasture, there has been a sizable expansion of acreage in Central and South Texas.

Most all wheat harvested for grain is used in some phase of the milling industry. The better-quality hard red winter wheat is used in the production of commercial bakery flour. Lower grades and varieties of soft red winter wheat are used in family flours. By-products of milled wheat are used for feed.

Nursery Crops

The trend to increase production of nursery crops continues to rise as transportation costs on long-distance hauling increases. This has resulted in a marked increase in the production of container-grown plants within the state. This increase is noted especially in the production of bedding plants, foliage plants, sod, and the woody landscape plants.

Plant rental services have become a multi-million dollar business. This service provides the plants and maintains them in office buildings, shopping malls, public buildings, and even in some homes for a fee. The response has been good as evidenced by the growth of companies providing these services.

The interest in plants for interior landscapes is popular among all age groups, as both retail nurseries and florist shops report that people of all ages are buying their plants — from the elderly in retirement homes to high school and college students in dormitory rooms and apartments.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension specialists estimated cash receipts from nursery crops to be around $1.9 billion in 2016. Texans are creating colorful and green surroundings by improving their landscape plantings.