Cotton Farming Peanut Grower Rice Farming CornSouth Soybean South  
In This Issue
Is Comeback Inevitable?
Futures Market, Rotation Positive For Cotton
Increase Expected In Southeast Acres
California Farmers Need Reliable Water Supply
Weather Events Affected 2009 Cotton Crop
New Varieties Show Promise
California Cotton Bounces Back
Cotton Finds A New Use In Wall Covering
Publisher's Note: Learning Lessons From The Past
Editor's Note: When Prices Improved, Producers Responded
Cotton's Agenda: Raise Your Conservation IQ
Specialists Speaking
Industry News
Industry Comments
Web Poll: Multiple Factors Affect Clear Vision
My Turn: Cotton’s Rebound In Georgia

Optimistic Prospects For 2010

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David Wright

Cotton acreage held steady in Florida in 2009 and will probably increase in 2010 with the improvement in price and the need for rotation. Peanut growers like to have both cotton and corn in rotation with peanuts, and it also works well with soybean rotations. Lower nitrogen prices for 2010 will also result in an increase in acreage.

The biggest unknown for most producers will be what variety of cotton to grow and the value that they will be getting for using transgenic varieties. Many of the cotton and peanut fields across the state had glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth and will have to use residual herbicides for good weed control.

Yields of cotton in 2009 were good with more hardlock/boll rot than average. Each year is different and brings new challenges, but producers are good at adapting and finding ways to solve problems. The ag industry works closely with farmers to solve problems and have historically had a good working relationship, and together have found ways to keep cotton profitable.

Don Boquet

The final numbers are just about in for the 2009 cotton year. Louisiana will average about 700 pounds of lint per acre. This is greatly reduced from expectations in early September when we had a better-than-average yield potential of 900 to 1,000 pounds per acre. Most of our better fields would have picked 1,200 to 1,400 pounds this year.

Additional losses from reduced fiber and seed quality add up to about 50 percent loss of value for the 2009 crop compared to what it should have been. A summary of the 2009 Louisiana Cotton Variety Trials has just been completed. Two noteworthy items are worth mentioning that illustrate how this season was affected by weather patterns and other problems.

The average yields of the trials harvested before most of the weather damage were 1,000 to 1,400 pounds per acre. Trials harvested during and after the rains averaged 700 to 900 pounds. As variety selection begins for 2010, and producers are analyzing the cost involved with biotech fees, there seems to be great interest in planting cotton varieties that do not have transgenic traits for herbicide or insect resistance.

Although only a limited quantity of seed of such varieties will be available, producers should approach these decisions with great caution. One of our variety trials in central Louisiana this year, for example, was a cautionary tale about use of non-Bt varieties. The trial average for Bt varieties was 1,590 pounds per acre. The non-Bt varieties averaged 645 pounds per acre, much less than varieties with Bt traits.

The reason for this difference was that caterpillar pest infestations were very high, and persistent rainfall prevented timely applications of insecticides, which led to the low yields of non-Bt varieties. This is not to say that, in some areas, non-Bt varieties will not be economical to use, rather, only that these decisions should be made with knowledge of the possible outcomes, including availability and cost of efficacious insecticides, application options for weather conditions and the need for increased scouting in non-Bt fields. For more information, contact local county agents, ag consultants and AgCenter specialists.

Mike Milam

Missouri certainly had its share of problems during the 2009 growing season. While the weather did not cooperate during planting and harvest, things could have been worse. Prior to harvest, the USDA estimated yield for Missouri was at 1,134 pounds per acre but with the rainfall that occurred during our harvest period, we were fortunate to get a decent yield.

While our final yields have not been determined, I think that it is safe to say that our yields will top the 2000-2008 year average. With the past nine years averaging 910 pounds per acre, even with a 200 pound drop as a result of the poor harvest conditions, we would still be above the nine-year average.

The problem with delayed harvest is that many producers are not able to get their field preparation completed for next year. This weekend, I saw a few unharvested fields, uncut stalks and many fields that have not had field preparation for next season. The only good news is that there were zero boll weevils caught in traps this season. The $2.50 an acre assessment for boll weevil eradication was really welcomed by producers.

While we have only 263,000 acres to be harvested, some producers are likely to expand their acreage next year. However, there will be challenges during our next growing season. We have more resistant weeds in Missouri with both marestail and Palmer pigweed having surfaced.

Tom Barber

It is nice to hear positive comments on cotton acreage in Arkansas. It is a good change from all the pessimistic views about cotton being on its way out in the Mid-South. Although the increase in cotton acreage may not be huge, I believe that the downturn in the state is over, and, if prices continue to look good, we may see acreage reach 550,000 if not more in 2010.

Variety selection will be the first and most important decision as in any season. However, producers in Arkansas this year should do their homework on each field to develop a game plan to manage resistant weeds. Weed management on problem fields begins with variety selection. Producers who have fields with populations of glyphosate-resistant pigweed have options to change to herbicide-tolerant technologies to help in management of these resistant weeds.

Liberty Link cotton varieties, which are tolerant to Ignite herbicide, can provide an alternative to the more common Roundup Ready Flex varieties. Ignite can control small pigweed and is a good option in combination with other residual herbicides, especially in fields where high populations of glyphosate-resistant pigweeds are present.

Charles Burmester

Making next year’s crop predictions in mid-December is about as accurate as scouting cotton in a pickup driving down the turnrows. It’s easy to do but seldom accurate. As I visited farmers last winter, they were constantly changing their seed orders right up to planting time. I don’t expect that to change this next season. Farmers have to stay flexible to take the best advantage of the markets and plant crops that have the best chance to make them a profit.

Having said that, I think there are several reasons we may see more cotton planted in Alabama next season. I think some corn acreage will return to cotton due to lower corn prices and the need to rotate. Late planting and wet soils will also reduce wheat acreage, which could also turn into some cotton acres in Alabama.

Most farmers will also not want to gamble on just growing soybeans. They have been burned doing that several times in the past. That is another reason to plant some cotton. How much will cotton acreage rise in Alabama in 2010? Cotton prices at planting will be the biggest factor!

Darrin Dodds

The holidays have come and gone, and thoughts are slowly beginning to drift towards the upcoming growing season. Although planting time is still several months off, many folks will be spending a portion of this spring preparing land that they were unable to work into shape last fall. In addition, the optimum window for burndown applications is quickly approaching, especially in areas infested with glyphosate-resistant marestail and/or Italian ryegrass.

Many folks have known that they have glyphosate-resistant marestail for a number of years. However, over the past several years Italian ryegrass populations have become more and more difficult to control in several areas of Mississippi, leading many to believe that glyphosate resistance is becoming more pronounced in this species as well.

Recent research conducted at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center indicates that at least 12 counties in the Mississippi Delta contain populations of glyphosate-resistant Italian ryegrass. Ryegrass can be very difficult to control in the spring, especially once it begins to get larger in size. If you have had difficulty controlling ryegrass with glyphosate in the past, your concerns over resistance may be valid. In these areas, it may be more prudent to attack this pest with a true graminicide rather than taking your chances with glyphosate.

The big question heading into 2010 surrounds cotton acres, and, more specifically, where are they going? I am not sure at this point in time that anyone can accurately determine what quantities of all crops will be planted this year. As our acreages have shifted over the past several growing seasons, our producers have become diversified to the point that changes in cropping systems can be made relatively quickly. However, in general, it appears that cotton acreage will increase to some degree in 2010. Let me quantify that statement by saying everyone is right, except when they are not.

Jared Whitaker

The 2009 season will likely be remembered as the “hurry up and wait” year. Rains delayed planting, continued throughout the year and left most producers scrambling to get everything done during much of 2009. However, these rains have almost certainly brought record cotton yields. Recent USDA reports estimate the Georgia crop will break 900 pounds per acre for the first time ever.

The issues of cotton prices and variety selection will be on everyone’s mind as we move into 2010. With variety selection, Georgia may be able to take a step forward in 2010, at least with irrigated cotton production. Several varieties performed extremely well this year under irrigation, but dryland cotton variety selection presents a more unclear situation with the rainfall of 2009.

Preliminary data on cotton yields from UGA’s Statewide Variety Testing program can be found on the UGA Cotton Web site at Only time will tell, but my personal opinion is that cotton will remain strong in Georgia, and acreage will likely increase
in 2010.

Randy Norton

Agriculture in Arizona has seen some major shifts in production and distribution of crops recently.  Over the past five to eight years, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of dairies moving into the state along with a dramatic rise in the acreage planted to forage and feed crops, specifically alfalfa. A lot of this acreage was shifted from cotton to these forage crops, resulting in declines in cotton acreage across the state.

The last year and a half has seen a dramatic decrease in all commodity prices with milk prices being hit particularly hard and prices down nearly 50 percent from their highs in 2008.  Many dairies have culled their herds in an effort to try and stay in business. This drop in the dairy industry has many producers contemplating a shift from forage crops back to an alternative crop.

An uptick in cotton prices over the past few months along with other factors is making cotton more attractive to Arizona producers. Estimates in acreage increases range anywhere from five percent to more than 20 percent. In visiting with producers across the state, my feeling is that it will be closer to a 15 to 20 percent increase with acreage around 160,000 to 170,000 acres. This means that there will be producers coming back to cotton production that were removed from it for as much as five years.

Major changes in varieties have occurred over that period of time. It will be important for these producers to obtain information on currently available varieties and their performance in the region. Contact local seed company representatives along with local Cooperative Extension personnel to obtain this important information.

Randy Boman

High Plains producers have pretty much wrapped up harvesting operations as of this writing. It was another roller-coaster year here. The harvest window was stressful, but overall we can't really complain, especially when we see what happened in other regions across the Belt. Looking back on the season, we really struggled with dryland and sub-surface drip irrigated (SDI) stand establishment, whereas center pivot acreage fared considerably better.

The standing dryland crop was a very mixed bag. Overall lost acreage totaled about 750,000 for the season. Our planted acreage was up slightly from 2008 and was about 3.28 million acres planted, but the overall crop size was much higher due to about 600,000 more harvested acres compared to 2008.  Production was nearly 900,000 bales more than 2008, likely to total about 3.8 million. The cool finish to the crop and an early freeze in some areas reduced fiber quality, especially micronaire.

For the crop classed so far at Lubbock and Lamesa, both offices are reporting somewhat better color than last year with about 60 percent color grades 11 or 21. They are also indicating somewhat shorter staple than 2008 (36.8), with the average for 2009 about 35.7. It appears that average micronaire will be similar or perhaps somewhat higher than the 3.68 observed in 2008.

Strength may be close to the 2008 average of 29.7 grams per tex. Bark contamination in 2009 was substantially lower than what was encountered in 2008, which averaged about 60 percent. Verticillium wilt disease pressure continues to build in many fields. Yield and quality impacts can only be managed by variety selection.

Our plant pathologists are summarizing data from several variety trials conducted in the region. If you have little knowledge about this disease, it is time to get educated. It will be important to obtain these reports on new variety performance during our winter meetings. It is critical to consider what was learned in 2009 and make sure that these lessons learned are applied in future years.

Keith Edmisten

I hope all producers have had a great holiday and football season. It is now time to think seriously about the next cotton crop. With the late crop this year, many of you will probably still be compiling all the variety information you can and making decisions about which varieties to plant. Varieties have a short shelf life these days, and it is more important than ever to compile as much information as possible.

At one point, we could slowly try out varieties and get to know their strengths and weaknesses before we committed major acreages to them. I think this makes it imperative that we not depend on any one source of variety trials and look at county and state trials as we can, even to the point of looking at neighboring states. All varieties have strengths and weaknesses, and we may overlook potential weaknesses if we base our decisions on one on-farm trial or the closest OVT location.

I also believe that in this era of rapid variety turnover it is more important than ever to spread our risk by planting multiple varieties. It is also time to start thinking about weed resistance. This is especially true since our best tools for dealing with resistance involve burndown and pre-emergence treatments.

Guy Collins

Despite the frustrations of the uncooperative weather during planting and harvest in 2009, cotton yields in Georgia were very strong for the most part. Hopefully, 2010 will also be a prosperous year for Georgia cotton producers. Variety selection for the upcoming season will be more important than it has been in the past several years, as the majority of our cotton acres in 2010 will be planted to relatively new varieties.

Several of the new varieties that were evaluated in the 2009 variety trials performed well. However, the summer rains that produced high yields in 2009 left us with no accurate assessment of variety performance in dryland situations. Therefore, producers may be faced with some potentially difficult decisions regarding variety selection for 2010, especially for their dryland acres, and they will be challenged to learn as much as possible about these varieties this winter. It is also likely that multiple varieties will be planted in order to spread risks, as opposed to a widespread adoption of a new “single” variety.

Overall, my counterpart in Statesboro, Jared Whitaker, and I are very optimistic for Georgia cotton in 2010. Producers will have several opportunities to learn about new varieties, technologies and the latest research this winter, one of which is the 3rd annual Georgia Cotton Conference to be held on Jan. 27 in Tifton. This will address a wide array of issues facing Georgia cotton producers and will be a very valuable experience.  Details regarding the conference can be found at or by calling (478) 988-4235.

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