Harvest is being finished, and it is time to pull soil samples for nematodes and nutrient testing. The economic climate changes for crops every year with fertilizer prices being the big story for 2009, and decisions have to be made on doing a better job in the future. Some of our long-term research trials indicate that using cover crops and livestock can be beneficial for recycling nutrients, as well as utilizing the land and cover crops.
Our budget models indicate that having perennial grasses in the rotation offers positive aspects to a cotton/peanut rotation, and cattle are an added benefit. The same is noted to be true with winter annual crops over no cover crops or cover crops without livestock.
Our data from a 10-year rotation with cattle and perennial grass show that irrigation and fertilization may be reduced as much as 60 percent in this system, lowering input costs and reducing risks while increasing yields of row crops. Irrigation is reduced due to an increase in organic matter, which increases water-holding capacity and enhances soil and water quality.
When getting into a system like this, producers with livestock should be the first ones to try the system since they are familiar with both crops and livestock and the time demands with a year- round farm system.
We used to think that hurricanes were one of the worst things that could happen to the Louisiana cotton crop in September. That is, until this year. Crop development and harvest conditions have been atrocious from early September through mid-October with rainfall occurring on 28 of the past 38 days in most of the state’s cotton-growing regions.
Most of the days without rain were still cloudy. We have had only four days since early September when we could pick cotton, and 70 percent of the cotton crop is yet to be harvested (as of Oct. 15). We will never know the total losses in yield and quality, but they will be substantial. Quality losses will be somewhat easier to document than yield losses because we know what the quality characteristics of specific varieties should be and what they were before the rains began in early September.
Yields losses will be more difficult to pin down. Losses from the cotton that opened in mid-September will be primarily from lint falling to the ground from the deteriorating bolls as the boll’s carpel walls detach and separate from the plant. Cotton that has been trying to open since mid-September has a high percentage of hardlock, which is as high as 40 percent in some fields. In addition to the lint and quality losses, seed value will be reduced. Some seed germination in bolls has occurred, but most seed have lost viability and deteriorated internally.
However, some good news is that the seed coat seems to be remaining intact and may do so through picking and ginning. If that can occur soon, contamination of lint with seed fragments may be avoided. Further top crop development has been curtailed by the lack of sunshine, and heat units and many bolls in the top of the canopy have not completed development to the extent they are mature enough to open. Overall, there is little to be optimistic about at this time, as the end to the 2009 growing season could easily be termed a disaster. When all the losses from boll rot, unharvestable lint, reduced lint and seed quality are added up, they will exceed 40 to 50 percent.
A concern is that this weather may affect the ability of cotton farmers to plant cotton next year, and loss of more acreage will make it difficult to maintain a cotton industry in Louisiana. However, we have seen these types of events in the past on more than one occasion, and the cotton industry has survived and recovered.
Despite the losses, the fiber remaining to be picked is in surprisingly good condition and, if we can get in the field next week, which now seems likely, we will make a good start toward saving the remaining crop.
According to the Oct. 11 Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report, we are 19 days behind normal. Harvest has begun, but less than one percent has been harvested compared with 37 percent at this time last year. There were reports of a few modules at some of the gins, but with these wet conditions, harvest anytime soon is unlikely.
The situation that cotton producers dread the most has come to pass with almost daily rainfall. Not only is harvest being delayed, there are reports of boll rot. I have seen defoliated cotton fields that already have plenty of re-growth. There are many fields that are ready to defoliate, but it is not possible due to the heavy rainfall.
With glyphosate resistance, we are most concerned about horseweed and Palmer amaranth in southeast Missouri. I saw plenty of “big weeding” again this year. This has become part of our overall weed control strategy. With some of the options available with transgenic varieties, we do have choices now.
Producers will have plenty of options for varieties next season. As I have mentioned in the past, it is important to gather as much information as possible about new varieties. Sometimes a variety may be in a university yield trial only one year when it becomes available. Information from the seed companies, producer strip trials and on-farm testing will help with the decision of what variety to plant next year.
Frequent rainfall events during the months of September and October with accumulations reaching 20 inches or more have resulted in high percentages of boll rot, hardlock and germinating bolls in most cotton-producing areas. Only five percent of the cotton acres were harvested by the middle of October compared to an average of 50 percent harvested by this time in most years.
Cotton lint yield, seed weight and fiber quality have been reduced across the state with losses reaching 60 percent or more in some fields. Ironically, the cotton that was planted after the optimum planting window, May 21–June 8, may actually turn out to be the highest yielding because this cotton was not as mature as the earlier planted cotton when the rains began.
This has been a very frustrating year for anyone involved with cotton production in Arkansas or the Mid-South as a whole. The late season rains have put a “nail in the coffin” in a crop that at one time might have been one of the highest on record.
A month ago most Alabama cotton farmers were very optimistic about the 2009 cotton crop. Much of the crop was planted later than normal, but boll set was very good, and with a warm September the prospects of an above-average crop seemed likely. Temperatures in Alabama for September and early October have been near normal, but overcast days and rainy weather have dominated the weather pattern across the state.
At my location in northern Alabama, we have received more than eight inches of rain in September and more than five inches by Oct. 12. It doesn’t appear the rainy pattern is over yet. With very little drying, the bolls of the early cotton have much hard locking and boll rot. We are seeing the same thing in the younger cotton as it tries to open. Seeds sprouting in bolls have also been reported.
It is very difficult to estimate the yield loss since so little cotton has been picked, and gins are not open. We definitely know this cotton crop has lost significant yield and quality. We are losing more with each passing rain event.
For those who regularly read this section of Cotton Farming, you have undoubtedly read about the struggles many in the Mid-South and other regions have faced in 2009. Unfortunately, the weather has continued to be uncooperative into October. Normally, we are in excess of 75 percent harvested at the time of this writing; however, we are currently less than five percent harvested.
Issues with hardlock and boll rot mentioned in last month’s issue have only intensified. In affected areas of Mississippi, up to 75 percent damage has been observed from hardlock and boll rot. 2009 will most likely be remembered as one of, if not the most difficult, growing seasons many have ever experienced.
When making variety decisions for next year, there are several sources of information available, including university variety trials, private industry variety trials and on-farm trials among others. Keep in mind the growing conditions we went through this year when examining results from these trials and deciding which varieties to plant next year.
Data from 2009 may be used to determine how a given variety will perform under difficult conditions; however, it is important to examine data from multiple years (if available) to determine variety performance under a range of conditions. As we move toward the end of 2009, the No. 1 item on many of your Christmas lists will be an optimum growing season in 2010.
According to a recently released USDA report, Deltapine’s DP 555 BG/RR remained the dominant cotton variety in Georgia, being planted on 82 percent of our acreage during 2009. This isn’t big news considering the success it’s had here, but what is big news is that Georgia will likely have over a half a million acres of cotton planted with a new variety in 2010, assuming overall acreage remains stable.
This change will likely affect most, if not all, of Georgia’s cotton farmers, making variety selection one of the biggest issues discussed this winter. Be sure to take advantage of all the information that’s to come after this year’s harvest.
At the time of this writing (Oct. 15), harvest is still in its infancy. Considering all the late-planted cotton, this isn’t unexpected, but rainy weather has kept some pickers from running. However, of the cotton that has been harvested, reported yields seem to be very good. Hopefully, the weeks to come will bring good harvest weather and continued good yields. On a personal note, I wanted to say “thank you” to everyone for supporting me and making me feel so welcome here since taking this position at the University of Georgia.
The crop across Arizona has experienced a varied and interesting year. Early yield results thus far are almost as variable as was the year. I have visited with producers who have fields averaging more than four bales, and some fields coming in below three. We’ll have to see how the rest of the harvest season proceeds before a final judgment can be made as to our yield.
As the harvest progresses, we will begin to see what varieties are performing well in Arizona this year. The 2010 season will bring new EPA requirements prohibiting the planting of any Bollgard I varieties. We have been operating under the assumption that the original Bollgard varieties will be allowed through the 2010 season, as long as seed was purchased in the fall of 2009. A recent decision by EPA prevents that from happening in several western states of which Arizona is one. This will definitely have an impact on variety selection decisions for the 2010 season.
It will be very important for you as a producer to gather as much information on available new varieties that perform well in your area. This data will be available soon on the university’s Web site (cals.arizona.edu/crops) and will be presented in Extension meetings across the state over the next several months.
Heat unit accumulation in the High Plains in the early part of September was good to excellent. The remainder of the month provided fewer heat units than normal plus a cold front that arrived on Sept. 23 that stunned many fields northwest of Lubbock. This has resulted in considerable cotton acreage generally north of Lubbock struggling with maturity.
Dr. Jason Woodward, Texas AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist, has noted that root knot nematodes (RKN) have been a challenge in many sandyland fields in the High Plains for many years now. RKN symptoms include stunted plants with chlorotic leaves and fewer bolls. This can also resemble nutrient or water deficiencies. The female nematode establishes herself in the cotton root and modifies cells to support reproduction. This results in the formation of galls.
Some fields in the High Plains are also infested with reniform nematodes. Symptomology is somewhat similar to RKN, as the reniform causes severe stunting and chlorosis, and the infected plants may wilt. Overall, reduced root growth is noted. This time of year is a good time to sample infested fields, provided there is good soil moisture. Twenty core samples per composite sample are best. Sampling patterns could be systematic, random or zig-zag. Each core should be taken down to the 12-inch depth.
It is best to collect a composite sample for each one-third of the field. If considerable variation in soil texture occurs, more samples may be needed. Samples should be placed in a new plastic bag and stored out of direct sunlight until processed. Preferably, the samples should be submitted the next day if possible.
The fresher the nematode sample, the more reliable laboratory results should be. Management options are dependent upon soil populations and consist of at-plant nematicides, nematicide seed treatments, in-season nematicide applications and crop rotation. For more information regarding nematode sampling or management, contact personnel at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock (806-746-6101).
Importance Of Earliness
Everyone gets tired of hearing me stress the importance of earliness for Tennessee cotton. Not only do I stress planting early maturing varieties, but managing the crop for early maturity as well. Never has this been more important than during 2009.
Looking ahead to the 2010 crop, extra emphasis will be placed on two aspects of cotton production for our producers. First, we need a production system that allows us to control glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed. Second, we need to choose early maturing varieties for the majority of our acres. The abnormal weather pattern for 2009 will make maturity and yield potential determination difficult at best for first-year varieties in the 2009 testing program.