What an interesting year for Missouri cotton production. We were wet and now mostly dry. We made the abnormally dry rating several weeks ago on the U.S. Drought Monitor, and part of the southeast region is now classified as moderate drought. It is estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of our cotton is irrigated, which helps to prevent cotton from wide fluctuations in moisture levels.
This irrigation also helps to cool the plants during the hot spells that we have had this year. According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending July 11, we have 35 percent of our cotton blooming, which is nine days ahead of last year and two days ahead of normal. Cotton condition was rated three percent very poor, 14 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 53 percent good and three percent excellent.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this year’s weather has been the level of heat units. The Portageville data showed that from May 1 through June 28 a total of 976 heat units was recorded. To put this into perspective, last year on July 15 we only had accumulated 727. In the last six years, the only other year that had fewer than 1,000 units on July 15 was in 2003.
We know that we have problems with the cotton when it is less than a foot tall and blooming out the top in late June. This normally doesn’t occur until July or August.
As of July 16, the statewide cotton crop looks very promising. Most areas of the state continue to have sufficient moisture to develop and mature a good cotton crop. Some parts of the state, including the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and the Upper Gulf Coast have had considerable precipitation from tropical disturbances over the past month. Weeks of wet cloudy weather caused a lot of fruit shed, but the crop maintained most of its good yield potential.
In the RGV, some early dryland fields are at 30 percent to 40 percent open boll, and some harvest-aid applications will probably start around July 20-25. The Coastal Bend should begin application the first week in August. The yield potential in each of these regions should be around 1.5 bales on dryland fields.
Much of the cotton in the Upper Gulf Coast and Southern Blacklands are at or quickly approaching cutout in the majority of the fields, again with good yield potential. The majority of the state has adequate to surplus soil moisture except for the Northern Blacklands, which has received erratic rainfall events. Cool weather with heavy rainfall events has slowed the cotton progress due to below normal heat unit accumulations the first two weeks in July for the High Plains, Rolling Plains and Southern Rolling Plains. However, the long-term impact of these rainfall events will continue to push an already good crop.
Cotton producers are hopeful for the 2010 season. Most growers got off to a good start and had adequate rainfall with cotton blooming and setting fruit earlier than normal. Many growers are fighting late-season weeds, and there has been more herbicide damage this year due to the use of residual herbicides. However, most fields are clean and have excellent potential. Many new cotton varieties are being tried, and management for most of these is quite different from DP 555 that was used almost exclusively the past several years.
There will be more challenges this season, and most of our producers have the experience to make changes as needed to make a successful crop. A critical late-season management step for high yields is control of stinkbugs, which are present in many crops throughout the season.
Cotton becomes especially attractive as other crops start drying down. Cotton will continue to bloom through August, and young bolls are susceptible to damage from stinkbugs for about three weeks after bloom. This means that protection is necessary into September.
Nearly half of the cotton crop in Georgia is now blooming as I write this on July 12, which is slightly ahead of schedule. Up to this point, most areas in Georgia have received decent rainfall, with a few dry places here and there. However, we are never too far away from a drought during this time of year. One or two weeks with little or no rainfall can have significant impact on yield potential. July and August are very critical months in terms of rainfall, as water demands are high due to the developing boll load.
During July and August, intense scouting for insects will be very important for protecting the crop. Many areas were hit hard by plant bugs earlier this season, so it will be increasingly important to protect our crop from other insects such as stinkbugs.
Additionally, I have seen several fields with surviving pigweeds in them. Many producers are now hand-weeding surviving Palmer amaranth plants, which should have a significant impact on reducing the seed bank and combating this pest in future years.
Cotton producers in Louisiana continue to face challenges brought on by the difficult weather patterns in the spring. So much of the cotton- growing areas were dry during the optimal planting window that some producers had to plant late or replant following a failed stand. At the same time, other areas and even neighboring fields received timely rain showers that allowed for early planting. The result is a cotton crop that is scattered across the calendar.
This condition keeps the producers, consultants and scouts on their toes as insect pressures build and shift. The state remains in a 6- to 12-inch rainfall deficit overall, and the effect has been an increase in spider mite populations compared to wetter years. Despite the overall dry weather (broken by the highly appreciated occasional shower), most producers, agents and consultants remain optimistic about the overall crop this year.
No one is getting too excited yet, though, because strong memories of the past two crops that were eviscerated by late season rains remain on everyone’s mind. The dry weather combined with high heat has also made growth regulator decisions very challenging. If a field has not received rain in quite a while and the five-day forecast does not call for any precipitation, but the cotton seems to be pushing internode length at a rapid pace, producers and consultants are finding the decision to spray or not to spray very difficult to make.
High temperatures throughout June and July, coupled with sporadic rainfall patterns, have accelerated the maturity of the 2010 crop. Compared to average June temperatures and heat unit accumulation, heat unit accumulation in June 2010 was akin to having 39 days in a 30-day month. As of late July, maturity appears to be accelerated by nearly two weeks based upon the difference in time between planting and first flower.
However, the majority of the 2010 crop holds good yield potential if carried through to harvest. Over the past few years, the tarnished plant bug has become our No. 1 insect pest in cotton. Tarnished plant bugs as well as two-spotted spider mites continue to be problematic in 2010. Cotton producers, primarily in the Mississippi Delta, averaged 6.5 insecticide applications per acre for tarnished plant bugs in 2009, and we are on track to reach that number again in 2010. In addition, heavy bollworm egg lays and limited insecticide applications have also occurred.
August is a month of transition for many. Children return to school, college students come back to campus and SEC football is right around the corner. The same is true for the 2010 cotton crop. Upper bolls will continue to fill, and lower bolls will begin to open. Soon, the smell of cotton defoliants will be in the air once more.
The cotton crop in Arkansas is on a fast train to maturity, and many early planted fields have reached cutout or five nodes above white flower (NAWF=5) by the third week in July. This crop overall is probably two weeks ahead of an average crop year. The remainder of the crop should be approaching NAWF=5 by the end of July.
Increased heat unit accumulation and mostly sunny days in June and July have resulted in excellent fruit retention thus far. As we move into August, the number of questions concerning the potential of the crop and when to stop spending money safely on it are common. Tracking NAWF values from first flower to cutout can offer great insight on the condition and potential of the crop. This time of the season we are interested in using this tool to help us in crop termination decisions.
We have a great amount of diversity in this crop in terms of planting dates. There comes a time in the season when we can’t count on a white flower to contribute significantly to yield and profit. This point in time is referred to as the latest possible cutout date. This date is based on the likelihood of accumulating 850 heat units through the remainder of the season.
The cropping situation in the High Plains has been very favorable for both dryland and irrigated production thus far this year. According to the June USDA Crop Report, we substantially increased cotton acres this year compared to 2009. Combined 1N and 1S acres for 2009 were about 3.27 million, and for this year about 3.83 million. This sizeable increase in cotton acres, coupled with the current relatively low abandonment and excellent-to-excessive July rainfall across much of the region, means that we are well on track for a large crop. I certainly hate to jinx this situation, as we are a long way yet from having this cotton in the bale sack. The last half of May and most of June 2010 produced very hot days, and our heat unit accumulation is well above normal for that time period.
Much of this crop should bloom by mid-July. As of this writing, we have experienced substantial flooding in some counties, which resulted in the loss of a few acres adjacent to playa lakes and in other low lying areas. Many producers have lost more than two weeks of field work due to wet field conditions.
he good news is that irrigation systems have remained idle due to the rainfall. Big issues confronting our producers include nitrogen fertilizer, glyphosate and plant growth regulator applications. Some have concerns about fruit retention going into bloom. However, if we can get back into the field soon and play catchup with field work, we will need a warm finish, and we should be in excellent shape for a large crop.
Only time will tell.
Roundup-resistant pigweeds are now being found in scattered cotton and soybean fields across much of northern Alabama. In most fields, the resistant pigweeds are still in isolated spots, but in a few fields the resistant pigweeds have spread across major areas of fields. In some cotton fields, the resistant pigweeds are in streaks due to being spread behind last year’s combine. All this indicates we must change our production practices and vary the mode of action of our herbicides if we expect to slow down this resistance problem.
Alabama farmers will need to become proactive now because of how fast this resistance can spread in one year. Many pigweeds have been pulled or chopped in the last three weeks, and farmers are planning to rotate the worst fields to corn to use different herbicides for weed control. Pigweeds can still grow after corn harvest, produce a seed head and ruin your weed control efforts. Residual herbicides will be a must in all cotton and soybean fields next season in northern Alabama.
August 2010 may go down as the month that helps decide the future of cotton variety selection in Georgia. Many producers have planted several varieties across their crop, looking for the right varieties to fill the void left by the loss of our predominate variety, DP 555 BR.
Many new varieties have performed extremely well to date and will be well into bloom during August. In 2009, much of Georgia experienced frequent and timely rainfall during the bloom period. Assuming this year is more typical, episodic dry spells are likely to occur during bloom, and we’ll get to evaluate the ability of these new varieties in drought stress.
Insect management will also be critical during the month of August. As cotton begins to bloom, stinkbugs can severely impact lint yield and fiber quality so be sure to check bolls throughout the bloom period for internal damage. We should also remember to monitor for caterpillar pests, especially in blooms and bloom tagged bolls.