Specialists Speaking - March 2009
Be Sure To Monitor Input Costs
The decision on what to grow in 2009 seems to be the biggest decision that most producers are facing this spring. It has been hard to pencil out a profit with most crops. With La Nina back, meaning a dry winter and early spring for Florida from a historical perspective, producers need to decide soon what to grow so that cover crops can be killed early to prevent moisture depletion on the non-irrigated fields.
Cover crops should be killed five to six weeks before planting to conserve moisture and eliminate insect pests for the following crop. Early planting will help ensure a good stand and early development when rains begin. With herbicide-resistant weeds becoming more of a problem all across the state, residual herbicides should be included in the burndown program. Materials like Valor and glyphosate make a good combination for a fast kill and residual activity. Residual herbicides should also be included at planting to help with weed-resistance problems.
Cotton will continue to play a part in the Florida row crop acreage since it can do well on sandy soils in relatively dry years.
Recently released acreage estimates indicate that Mississippi cotton acres will decline again in 2009; however, if these estimates are correct, the acreage decline will not be as dramatic as we once thought. The National Cotton Council (NCC) planting intentions report suggests upland cotton will be planted on 7.97 million acres in the United States in 2009, which is a 14 percent reduction from 2008.
Mississippi cotton producers are anticipated to plant 268,000 acres in 2009 compared to 365,000 in 2008. Texas is expected to plant 4.5 million acres of cotton in 2009, which accounts for 57 percent of the total anticipated upland cotton crop in 2009. On a brighter note, by the time this is published many producers will be back in the field making burndown herbicide applications and/or spring tillage operations in preparation for planting.
In addition to planting multiple varieties, beware of any miracle products that make claims of saving money by reducing the need for fertilizer, pesticides, etc. Generally speaking, anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true.
By the time Georgia cotton producers are reading this article in March, they should have a pretty good idea of what they are going to plant where, how much they’ll pay for rent, what new varieties they’ll audition for 2010, how much fertilizer they’ll use, etc. Right? Well, hopefully. And even then, the best plan in the world can go wrong due to factors beyond our control.
Extreme weather events, for example, come to mind. So maybe the best thing to do is minimize the potential for things going wrong that are under our control. Recheck your soil sample results, read more about how to manage the varieties you ordered and plan for early season insects and nematodes. Have a plan for every field. The plan for this field may be different than the plan for that one. Then, before you know it, it will be time to put that plan into action.
One encouraging piece of news is that the price of DAP, urea and nitrogen solution are all down significantly. This should certainly help meet those budget lines.
Planting date studies in North Carolina show very little difference in yield potential for cotton planted in May. We have for many years recommended that you try to get your cotton planting completed by May 25 to allow for a little safety factor. Sometime in June there is a severe penalty for planting late. That may occur during the first week of June or more likely during the second week in June.
Spreading cotton planting out is a good idea in terms of dealing with risk, as early planted sometimes outperforms late planted, and sometimes it is the exact opposite. Many producers are not planting as many acres as they have in the past and may not need a long planting window. Delaying planting more towards the middle of May can be very helpful in terms of avoiding severe thrips damage.
While this is not an update related to cotton production in Missouri, it is a reflection of reality. The ice storm beginning on Jan. 26 has impacted many here in southeast Missouri. I have seen it described as a “100-year storm,” and it has affected Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky. At one point, the news indicated that there were 1.3 million homes without power throughout this area.
Many of the electrical workers coming from other areas indicated that this was some of the worst damage that they had seen to the electrical grid, and several had worked many of the hurricanes of the past several years.
The good news about this storm is that many farmers helped clear roads and debris for other people. There is a tremendous need for food and money to cover the extra costs for many of our families affected by this weather event.
The 2008 crop year was challenged by high temperatures and winds during much of the stand establishment period. Later in September, cool temperatures resulted in poor heat unit accumulation, which had a detrimental impact on fiber maturity, particularly north of Lubbock. Rainfall during September and October, coupled with immaturity, compounded the problems. A somewhat early freeze on Oct. 23 capped the growing season. The crop, which had tender, succulent plants going into the freeze then produced the highest bark contamination since 1991. Working with several colleagues, cooperators and ginners, we established four replicated, commercially harvested, ginned and classed picker versus stripper harvester comparisons.
When comparing picker to stripper harvesting, the following were observed: higher micronaire, somewhat longer staple, higher uniformity and somewhat better leaf and color grades. Strength was essentially unaffected. Bark contamination was substantially reduced – found in about six percent of picker bales and about 84 percent of stripper bales. In 2008, gains in lint loan value from picker harvesting ranged from about two cents to nearly six cents per pound.
Based on our 2007 results, this gain in loan value is not likely to be encountered every year. Although lint and seed yields were reduced, turnouts went from approximately 29 percent to 35 percent.
What’s The Outlook For La. Acreage?
Most Louisiana cotton producers will either maintain the same acreage in 2009 as they had in 2008 or will reduce acreage. Although a long way from being certain, many are predicting that acreage will be 50,000 to 100,000 acres lower in 2009 than 2008. This sets the stage for the state acreage possibly falling below 200,000.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, agronomists in the LSU AgCenter recommended using grain crops in rotations as alternative crops with cotton. Today, the pendulum has swung such that it may be time to view cotton as the alternative crop in rotations with corn, soybean or other crops, so that crop diversity can be sustained.