Cotton acreage is expected to increase all over the Belt. This is in response to the price of cotton, and cotton is perhaps the most viable crop for rotation with peanuts on non-irrigated sandy soils of the Southeast. Since much of the row-crop land in Florida fits this classification, acreage did not decrease as much in this state as in other areas over the past three to four years.
Producers had difficulty harvesting cotton in the fall of 2009 due to wet soil conditions, which delayed harvest and, hence, little cover crop was planted. Much of the cotton planted in the Southeast is strip-till planted into cover crops, previous crop residue or winter weeds.
With climate forecasts calling for potentially hot, dry conditions for the next couple of months in the Southeast, it will be important for producers to have winter weeds and cover crops killed as early as possible to conserve soil moisture for planting. In most years, cotton yields best if planted in late April or early May so that blooming coincides with afternoon showers in July and August.
This year is sure to bring challenges different from any other year, but producers will adapt as they have had to do in
Missouri cotton producers are optimistic about planting this season’s crop. In general, our yield trend continues upward. The 2009 crop was at 949 pounds per acre, which was about 157 pounds lower than the previous year. However, the 1,164 pounds per-acre projection was downgraded due to the excess rainfall and wind.
With our projected acreage of 290,000 acres – about a seven percent increase – our acreage is moving up. The reason for the increase is the price and slight downturn for both corn and soybeans. I can’t remember when we have had better conditions going into the planting season. We have had favorable conditions for tillage, fertilizer application, burndown and other field operations. The temperatures have been favorable, and it certainly won’t be long before our optimum planting season in early May begins.
While our date of planting studies have shown that the first week of May is optimum, we still have good opportunities with later planting due to the absence of the boll weevil and being able to harvest the top crop.
Now that cotton planting is underway in Georgia, it will be important for producers to monitor seedling emergence, stand establishment and early season growth of this year’s crop. Seed of some varieties are already limited. Therefore, replant options could be even more limited. Consequently, it will be imperative for all producers to establish and maintain adequate seedling growth in order to guide the crop into the fruiting period and to prevent delays in maturity. Planting when soil and environmental conditions are favorable will promote optimal emergence and growth, which will in turn help to promote uniform development of the crop, as opposed to skippy stands.
After difficult environmental conditions during the spring of 2008 and 2009, this year is shaping up to be more favorable than the previous two. Warm air temperatures and dry weather conditions during mid-April have prompted Mississippi producers to begin planting cotton. Although somewhat earlier than normal, the first cotton seeds planted in 2010 were planted during the week of April 12.
Early planting can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on weather conditions following planting. Optimum environmental conditions following planting and vigorous early season growth may potentially reduce the impact of thrips. Cotton that reaches the four-leaf stage without thrips damage is likely out of the woods in terms of susceptibility to thrips. However, poor early season vigor (and increased time to reach the four-leaf stage) can lead to increased problems with thrips. This is particularly true when cotton is not growing off well due to cooler temperatures.
I have visited with my Extension and crop consultant colleagues across Southern Texas, and everyone is optimistic about the 2010 cotton crop and moisture situation. Cooler temperatures and wet soils delayed planting, which means cotton development is about two to three weeks behind in the Rio Grande Valley to about one week behind in the Upper Gulf Coast and Southern Blacklands.
However, many folks in the Coastal Bend area and Rio Grande Valley have indicated that this is the best start to the season in about four or five years. No major pest or stand establishment issues have arisen so far. Cotton planting began last week in the Northern Blacklands region and will continue until completion in a week or so.
With the exception of a few isolated areas, soil moisture is adequate for good cotton growth and development in South Texas and the Blacklands of Texas. Cotton planting in the Rolling Plains should be in full swing in mid- to late-May. Currently, the Rolling Plains has good soil profile moisture, but rains will be essential for good stand establishment in this region of the state.
Louisiana producers are showing more caution than producers in other states when it comes to increasing cotton acreage this year. The USDA planting survey indicates cotton acres across the country will increase 15 percent this year, but will be down 10 to 15 percent in Louisiana from an already record-low number of acres. Several factors may be contributing to this situation, and the most important may be that producers in the state suffered not one but two difficult crop seasons in the immediate past. By all accounts, the crop of 2008 was in excellent condition and headed for very high yields until Hurricane Gustav cut a destructive swath across the heart of the cotton-growing parishes.
The 2009 cotton crop started off in relatively good condition and rallied through a mid-summer drought to come into harvest season in great shape. Then the rains started and did not stop. Harvested yields were cut by 50 percent or more, and quality dropped off markedly. These weather-related challenges coincided with declining cotton prices, and that also had an influence on the number of acres planted.
The good news is that the price of cotton is up over last year, and world demand for cotton seems to be on the rise, which should reduce standing stockpiles and keep cotton prices stable for a time.
May is typically the month when the bulk of the cotton crop is planted in Arkansas. With warmer-than-normal temperatures in April this year, Arkansas producers have planted more cotton before April 15 than they have in a long time. Counties in central and southeast Arkansas had the bulk of their cotton crops planted before May this year, which is a far cry from only 30 percent of our total crop planted by May 20 in 2009.
An early planting date can be good as long as temperatures remain favorable for rapid growth after emergence. Early plantings generally lead to earlier maturity and harvest with hopes of the peak bloom period occurring prior to a major heat wave. Earlier cotton planting dates may also help to dodge insect pressures later in the season. If we can reduce just one plant bug application by maturing the crop a little earlier, we are money ahead in our insect control budget.
Weed control this year should be the focus of your early season management decisions. The only way to combat the resistant pigweed issue is to stay on top of your residual weed control strategy and scout fields early and often.
As of this writing, we are wet in the High Plains. Excellent winter precipitation recharged the soil profile. Most producers had a chance to get land prepared, and then additional rainfall was obtained to replenish the moisture lost during tillage operations. From the soil moisture perspective, we are in excellent shape. One of the big questions is when will we be able to commence planting.
The optimum planting window for much of the High Plains is around May 10-25 or so. However, due to the growth in farming operations – with many producers covering so many acres, we often times have to “push the envelope” with planting. Seed quality is very important, especially as producers squeeze seeding rates to lower and lower amounts in order to reduce seed and technology fee costs on a per-acre basis.
Most seed companies will provide cool germination test data upon request. At a minimum, soil temperatures in the seed and root zone should exceed 60 degrees, and the five-day forecast for daytime maximum temperatures should exceed 80 degrees.
Additionally, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be above 50 degrees for the following five days. Producers should consider delaying planting if the five-day forecast predicts the accumulation of less than 25 DD60 heat units after planting. During critical germination times, soil temperatures below 50 degrees can result in chilling injury to seedlings and result in malformed seedlings, reduced vigor and stand establishment and increased likelihood of seedling disease problems.
I recently attended a meeting on climate phenomenon and what the current El Niño pattern might mean for our weather this coming summer. While it is nearly impossible to predict what our weather will be this summer, April in Alabama turned out to be extremely dry. There was a good bit of tillage during the early season just to smooth out the ruts from last fall’s crop.
Actually, last year’s cotton crop harvest ended in mid-April of this year for a few of our producers. We are hoping that May brings relief and a good start to the season. We should not have to be reminded that our producers ensure that our country has a safe, abundant supply of food and fiber.
There are a myriad of cotton varieties hitting the market that we have little or no university data on this year. When transgenic varieties hit the market several years ago, we spent a lot of time in the field examining the plants and evaluating their response to stress. This will likely be a similar season where the newest varieties come under very close scrutiny by producers, industry representatives and university specialists.
For more information, contact your local REA and visit www.alabamacrops.com.
Proper early season cotton management is crucial to ultimately producing a profitable crop. That management includes maintaining proper soil moisture with adequate and properly timed irrigations, maintenance of proper plant nutrient status through timely fertilizer applications, efficient early season insect control through proper scouting techniques and adequate control measures.
Timely control of weed pests is also critical to achieving optimum crop production. Herbicide tolerance in cotton has revolutionized weed control over the past decade. However, recent years have seen the occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds. No documented cases of resistance have been confirmed in Arizona, and it is critical that steps be taken to prevent this from occurring.
Use of full-label rates of glyphosate along with timely applications and proper coverage are critical for reducing the risk of resistance. Utilizing herbicides with residual activity as a part of your overall weed control program is also another recommended technique for reducing the potential for weed resistance.
It is always important to monitor all fields after applying glyphosate, looking for weeds that do not seem to be affected by the application.