When it pertains to cotton farming, nobody likes the “R” word – replant. Sometimes it’s a hard call to make, but if it must be done – as several east-central Louisiana producers decided this season – there are ways to manage a late-planted crop.
Danny Baker, who farms near Jonesville and is part owner of Jonesville Gin, planted several hundred acres of dryland cotton, which did receive a rain that brought up part of the crop, but, in the end, he had to replant a couple of hundred acres during the second week in June.
“Growing soybeans is not an option for us on this farm, so we made the decision to replant those cotton acres,” Baker says. “We planted DP 555 BG/RR and ST 5288B2F.”
The Louisiana farmer says he will leave the “how to manage the late-planted cotton” decision-making to his consultant Roger Carter with AMS, Inc., in Clayton.
“I know I will have to pay attention to the defoliation timing,” Baker says. “We’ll take the cotton as far as it will go, probably 65 percent open bolls, then we’ll have to defoliate it a little early to give us time to pick it.”
Extra Urea Strategy
Another of Carter’s clients, Chase Williams, who farms on Louisiana Delta south of Jonesville, also faced a replant situation in the second week of June when he had an 80 percent stand on 320 acres of ST 5288B2F.
“I replanted most of it back to 5288, then when I ran out of that variety, I planted DP 141 B2RF on the remaining acres,” Williams says. “As soon as I got the cotton up, I watered it with a center pivot.
“However, the pivot keeps the ground just wet enough to keep the crop going, but we really need a good rain so the fertilizer can do its job. Right now, I’ve got 100 units under that cotton, but since it is a little stunted, I’ll probably fly on another 24 pounds of urea per acre (July 12) to try to jump-start it.”
Williams says each year is a learning experience for him since he began farming on his own in 2004. He has grown his acreage from 200 to approximately 1,800 acres in 2010.
“Because I started on my own with little help, I think this will make me a better farmer,” he says. “I love to farm and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Managing Late-Planted Cotton
John Kruse, LSU AgCenter Extension cotton specialist, also has some advice for producers who are working with late-planted cotton, which calls for intense management and quick decision-making.
First, if the late-planted cotton is non-Bt, the farmer should watch for insects much more carefully.
“Even with Bt cotton, the surrounding crops are maturing ahead of the late-planted crop,” he says. “Insects are prone to funnel into the late-planted crop, and pressure will be high. Insect threshold numbers will change faster than they would in an earlier planted crop. When that happens, it’s important to make quick decisions regarding insecticide applications.”
As far as plant growth regulators (PGRs) in late-planted cotton, Kruse says this is a management issue.
“If the late-planted cotton appears to need a plant growth regulator, make the application quickly instead of waiting around for a week or so,” he says. “However, it’s also important to check the forecast first. If you’re looking at high temperatures with a forecast of continued dry, droughty weather, then don’t apply a PGR.”
When to defoliate is another management issue associated with late-planted cotton. Kruse checked with other cotton specialists, and the consensus appears to be that 60 to 65 percent open bolls makes sense, especially if there is a threat of a freeze coming.
“When you decide to defoliate, ideally you want a five-day window before a freeze hits so the defoliation regimen will have time to work,” Kruse says. “Two days is an absolute minimum, but it’s a good idea to keep up with the weather forecast and stay ahead of the freeze by several days.”
Although managing late-planted cotton is certainly not at the top of a farmer’s “things I most enjoy doing list,” intensive management, a sense of urgency in decision-making and a little luck will make the most of the late crop’s potential at harvest time.
Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.