Cotton harvest is well underway in the Bootheel of Missouri. We had excessive moisture early in the season with some replanting due to flooding. We have also had the U.S. Drought Monitor classify much of our cotton acreage as severe drought. The rest of the acreage is listed as unusually dry-to-moderate drought.
The main difference this year is our earliness. The reason is because of the accumulated heat units. From May 1 through Sept. 1, we are at 2,446 at Portageville. This is by far the highest number in the past eight years. We have been much higher at every stage of development this season. On Sept. 1 in 2008, we only had 1,673.
As in most areas of the Cotton Belt, our irrigated cotton will be really good. I expect that some producers will set personal yield records, barring any late season catastrophe. Meanwhile, the Sept. 13 Cotton and Wool Outlook has Missouri cotton projected to yield 866 pounds per acre.
With the high temperatures and ample time for fiber to develop, we know that the micronaire values tend to run high. In Missouri, we recommend the Hal Lewis Method to reduce high micronaire. This method has been very important to several of our producers, and it keeps more cotton out of the penalty range.
Harvest season for cotton in the Southeast will be earlier than the past few years when DP 555 BG/RR was the main variety being grown. As we enter late September and early October, many cotton fields have been or are 60 percent open bolls. Typically, peanuts are harvested ahead of cotton due to the potential for severe leaf spot disease and vines dying – causing peanuts to fall off the vine before harvest.
Current full season cotton varieties mature earlier overall than 555 did in recent years. However, the quicker maturity this year may be due in large part to the heat units that accumulated. Most of the Southeast region ranked in the top three hottest years in the past 116 years of keeping records. This speeds up fruiting and boll set if plants are not under water stress.
Recent dry weather over much of the Southeast will slow down defoliation so producers should take advantage of any rainfall to defoliate. There are areas of severely stressed and wilted cotton that may not defoliate well while many of the leaves are falling off naturally due to plant stress where not irrigated.
Last year taught us that producers should be focused on getting the crop out as quickly as possible when it is ready to harvest. Producers should be ready to harvest both cotton and peanuts at the same time if necessary to maintain yield and quality of the crops.
Cotton defoliation and harvest are widely underway in southwest Georgia, with an estimated five to seven percent already harvested as I write this on Sept. 17. If conditions remain dry, like we have experienced for the past couple of weeks, I expect that maybe 30 to 40 percent or so of the crop will be harvested by the time you read this. The early crop this year is atypical for the most part. The USDA NASS report for Sept. 12 estimates that 73 percent of our crop has bolls opening, whereas we are normally at 45 percent at this point in time.
Some producers have seen substantial boll rot and hard lock as a result of the rainfall and cloudy conditions during August. However, more and more cotton is looking better as defoliation progresses. Yields seem to be variable, with decent yields in places and poor yields in others, especially in dryland fields planted in late April or early May. Defoliation has been a challenge for some producers up to this point, which I think is a consequence of the hot, dry weather during July that resulted in significant regrowth or otherwise difficult to
Many producers have reported considerable desiccation, which is the likely result of the high temperatures. The most effective defoliation treatments that I’ve seen up to now have been mixtures containing higher rates of ethephon and thidiazuron, along with a modest rate of a herbicidal defoliant with little to no additives.
The cotton crop in the High Plains should be a big one, with lots of optimistic discussion centering on six million bales of production. Although we didn’t get the hoped-for rain in early to mid-August over much of our dryland, we still have a lot to be very happy about. It appears that the northern High Plains crop (District 1N) will likely be bumping record per acre lint yields.
The rainfall north of Lubbock was not as extreme during July and was actually spaced out very well with some timely rainfall events in August and early September. On top of the good rainfall in that area, August and September temperatures have been hot. August was about 13 percent above normal for cotton heat units, and the first half of September was about 30 percent above normal. This should set up the crop for excellent maturity, and as of this writing, many fields are being staged for harvest-aid applications.
It appears that 2010 will result in the best finish to a High Plains cotton crop since the record 2007 year. As we move further south, we can see a few fields where harvest-aid applications have been made, with harvesting operations hopefully underway soon. Considerable dryland acreage in District 1S will be sub-par.
With all of this being said, it appears that we will have a very unique celestial alignment of factors, including generally good-to-record yields across the region, a relatively low pumping cost year due to substantial, but sometimes excessive, rainfall in July, and crop prices that are outstanding. Of course, we don’t have this crop in the bale sack yet, but there is significant optimism at this time in the High Plains of Texas. All we need is a warm, dry harvest period. This will hopefully be a year to remember.
Harvest activities were well underway by mid-September, and many have reported higher than anticipated yields. We have had a nearly ideal harvest season and have managed to dodge weather problems that have plagued us for the past three growing seasons. Hurricane Igor is projected to move up the East Coast and little to no rainfall is forecast through the end of September.
If weather conditions allow, timely harvest and field preparation this fall should put us in position to start the 2011 season on the right foot.
Interest in cotton continues to increase in response to current production and increased market prices. At the time of this writing, prices are in excess of $1 per pound, which has piqued the interest of many, including some who had no intention of plant-ing cotton next year. Although market prices are favorable at this time, they don’t necessarily translate to a successful and profitable crop in 2011.
Addressing production-related issues this fall will increase your chances of success next year. Among others, activities such as soil sampling (and fertilizing accordingly), nematode sampling and addressing compaction problems will pay dividends next year. In addition, begin doing your homework on variety performance now, especially if you have not grown cotton in the past few years. Varieties are continually changing, and the more information you have the better decisions you will make.
Continued high temperatures have pushed the Louisiana cotton crop into maturing rapidly. The northern third of the state was able to plant most of its cotton earlier than the other cotton-growing areas and is a bit further along defoliating and picking than the central and southern regions. Cotton harvest is well underway as producers are taking full advantage of the relatively good harvest weather this year.
We have had some scattered afternoon thunderstorms that have interfered with defoliation and harvest, but, in general, producers are relieved that the weather is cooperating for the first time in two years. Most insect-related production practices have ceased as the crop matures, offering some welcome relief to producers who fought plant bugs, spider mites and bollworms most of the season.
As a whole, the Louisiana crop is much further along than where it normally is at this time of year, and modules are stacking up in and around the state’s gins. As the price crept up later in the season, more producers talked about the possibility of increasing their cotton acres next year. This is a welcome turn-around from the downward trend cotton acres were under here for at least the past five years.
Many producers are providing feedback that while this may not be a record-breaking year in lint yield, it seems to be a solid, respectable crop. That is also another welcome change from the recent past where producers had good-to-excellent crops going into harvest, only to be denied the opportunity to pick them because of the late-season rains.
As we move into the likelihood of cooler weather in October, we will need to change our defoliation strategy. Most all of the crop in North Carolina has a tremendous amount of regrowth that will be difficult to take off. Much of the regrowth is so thick that it may require a split application strategy to get adequate coverage. With cool temperatures, higher rates of thidiazuron (Dropp) will be needed if it is used to deal with the regrowth. Adding herbicidal defoliants to thidiazuron is also more critical in cooler temperatures.
Thidiazuron is a comparatively slow acting defoliant, even more so in cool weather. Producers need to keep this in mind in scheduling defoliation with desired harvest schedules. I would not use thidiazuron without significant help from the addition of a herbicidal defoliant in cooler weather. Thidiazuron can be purchased mixed with diuron in a product such as Ginstar to add good herbicidal activity.
Once-over defoliation this year will likely result in the producer having to decide whether to apply an additional defoliant or try to pick through the remaining leaves as well as possible.
Despite delays during the harvest season, the Rio Grande Valley and the Coastal Bend of Texas have virtually completed harvest with a lot of two-plus bale cotton. Hurricane Hermine hit with four to 12 inches of rainfall across most of the Upper Gulf Coast and the Blacklands and delayed cotton harvest for about one week in most areas. Fortunately, most of the rain showers were not strong storms, and most of the lint remained on the plants.
However, lint quality was negatively affected. Cotton harvest in the Upper Gulf Coast was making good progress with about 25 percent of the crop harvested prior to the hurricane. Hermine delayed harvest for about seven days, and harvesting resumed during the week of Sept. 13. Farmers ended the week with about 70 percent of the crop harvested. Thus far, I am hearing reports of a 1.5-bale cotton crop in the Upper Gulf Coast Region. Rain returned to the Upper Gulf Coast this weekend and will delay the harvest of the remaining 30 percent for several more days. Much of the cotton in the Blacklands was ready to harvest when Hermine’s three days of rain arrived.
However, harvesting was in full swing last week in the Blacklands and will continue this week. Many of the yield reports from the Blacklands are from 1.25 to 1.75 bales per acre. Cotton harvest in the Rolling Plains of Texas has not begun, but some scattered showers should result in an average or slightly above average dryland crop.
The Arkansas cotton crop is being harvested at a record breaking pace. Extended dry weather and high temperatures have matured the crop quickly, and many producers who planted early have already completed harvest. Cotton yields are variable and very low on some dryland acres, but irrigated fields have yielded much higher than expected following extreme temperatures in July and August.
Cotton producers are estimating 1,000 to 1,200 pounds per- acre averages across the state with some fields yielding more than three bales. Approximately 35 percent of cotton acres have been harvested by the third week in September with the possibility of completion by the first or second week of October. Increased optimism exists around cotton with higher prices, and acres will likely increase in 2011.