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Get Your Crop Off To A Fast Start print email

Scott Fuchs
San Angelo, Texas

Establishing a stand is critical to getting your cotton crop off to a good start. Stand establishment starts with proper planting, germination and emergence. As we near planting, it’s good to review a few basic planting tips to ensure you’re putting seed in the ground under the right conditions.

Soil Temperature

Cotton favors soil temperatures greater than 65 degrees F for germination and emergence. A good rule of thumb is to plant when the soil temperature is 65 degrees F at 8 a.m. at a soil depth of four or more inches. When soils warm up depends on several factors, including air temperature, sunlight, moisture, soil type and crop residue. Warm air increases soil temperatures, aided by sunlight. Wet soils require more sunlight to warm than dry soils. Sandy soils hold less moisture and warm up faster than clay soils, while light-colored soils reflect more light and warm up slower than dark soils. High levels of residue also delay soil warming.

Weather Outlook

A favorable five- to 10-day weather outlook is critical to achieving a cotton stand. Research indicates that getting greater than 25 DD60s in the five days following planting provides the best chance at getting a solid stand. The growing degree-days (DD) concept is based on a developmental threshold above which a crop grows. Below that temperature, little or no development occurs. For cotton, the threshold temperature is 60 degrees F; therefore, the degree days are referred to as “DD60s.” The basic formula for calculating heat units is: Add the maximum daily temperature to the minimum daily temperature, divide this number by two, then subtract 60.

Cotton can suffer chilling injury when soil temperatures dip below 50 degrees F. The longer the cotton seed is subjected to cooler temperatures, the more severe the injury will be. Cotton is most susceptible to chilling injury when the seed is initiating water uptake and in the first couple days after planting.

Moisture, Seedbed And Planting Depth

Under dryland conditions, planting into moisture is essential. Cotton seeds can absorb moisture from fairly dry soils and begin germination. However, if the seed softens and runs out of moisture during this process, it will spoil and die. Adequate soil drainage is also critical, as seed may be deprived of oxygen if there is excessive moisture at seedling depth.

It is important to start with a weed-free seedbed. Plant varieties with herbicide tolerance for early season weed control. Optimum planting depth is between 0.75 and two inches but is dependent on soil type, moisture availability and forecast. Adequate seed-to-soil contact and sufficient moisture are essential for rapid germination and emergence.

Click here to ask Scott Fuchs a question or submit a comment about this month’s Cotton Consultant’s Corner.

• Scott Fuchs has been a cotton development specialist
(CDS) with Dow AgroSciences for nearly six years.

• He and his wife, Karen, reside in San Angelo, Texas, with their children.

• As the first Southwest CDS for PhytoGen, Fuchs’ territory once included all of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

• Scott now concentrates his efforts on the Texas High Plains, West Texas and the cotton-growing regions of Oklahoma and New Mexico.

• Prior to joining the Dow AgroSciences team, Scott worked as a senior technical services agronomist for 12 years.

• He also has worked as an assistant with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

• Scott combines his knowledge of cotton production and pest evaluation with a passion for helping growers succeed.

• Scott received a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from
Tarleton State University.

Recap: Pre-Season Planning Pays Off

1. Stand establishment starts with proper planting, germination and emergence.

2. Wait to plant until the soil temperature is 65 degrees F at 8 a.m. at a soil depth of four or more inches.

3. Research indicates that getting greater than 25 DD60s in the five days following planting provides the best chance at getting a solid stand.

4. Plant into moisture and have adequate soil drainage.

5. Plant varieties with herbicide tolerance for early season weed control.

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