There is a lot of excitement in the cotton industry with good prices and yields across most of the cotton-growing region this past season. Machinery and biotechnology have advanced the cotton industry more in the past 10 to 15 years than the previous 50 to 100 years. With things changing fast, farmers have to study the options they have before them to do the proper thing for their farming operations.
New cotton varieties have performed very well the last couple of years, while changing from a one-variety culture to having many options. Producers can expect to have new options in the way of genetic technology that will come at them faster in the next 10 years than what we had in the past 10 years. It will become more important for producers to keep up with the technology and determine if it pays on their own farms.
Whatever farmers have to deal with, they seem to adapt and move forward – keeping pace in a fast moving world. We have been blessed to live and work and farm in the greatest country in the world and work with people who are the salt of the earth!
Louisiana cotton producers are assessing what worked and what did not work during the 2010 growing season after many changes. Perhaps one of the most significant changes producers had to contend with was the absence of DP 555 from the list of varieties available for planting. Many different varieties were planted this year, and most of the results were encouraging.
It is hard to say if any one variety came out on top, but they all had to contend with the dry spring weather and rapid buildup of heat units. Surprisingly, some of the early-to-mid varieties did as well as the mid-to-full season varieties, even though producers had a long and dry harvest season.
Now is the right time to evaluate the condition of the fields. Louisiana producers had ample opportunity – for a change – to work their fields after harvest, and most have been re-hipped and prepared for spring planting.
Now that the physical condition of the land has been taken care of, it is time to evaluate the chemical condition of the fields. Cotton requires a significant investment from a producer, and that investment should not be put at risk by less-than-desirable soil fertility.
Even if the land is rented, check the pH and make sure it is at least 6.0 or greater. Money spent on nutrients can be left un-utilized if the soil pH is so acid that the crop cannot take it up. Make sure phosphorus and potassium levels did not drop, especially if it has been a while since they were last applied or you had a successful previous crop.
Some crops can remove quite a bit of nutrients from the field at harvest. If you have never paid attention to your sulfur levels, take a look this year. The free sulfur we used to get from atmospheric deposits is not around anymore, while your consumption could be going up. Update your soil tests and be in the know!
For more information about soil testing data, contact our LSU AgCenter office in Alexandria.
Looking back on this past cropping season, Missouri producers can count their blessings that we had a very high number of heat units and were able to finish harvest at least a month earlier than normal. The yields were also higher than expected, but with our drought situation supplemental irrigation made a tremendous difference.
For January through October, 2010 was in the top five driest periods since the records began in 1895. This year we had 26.13 inches during this period, which is a 13.4 inch departure from the average. This was the second driest period in the top five with only 1953 being drier.
Looking forward to 2011, producers will be making planting decisions regarding cotton. While prices are not expected to be as high, we were not expecting cotton to reach more than $1.50 per pound this year. It is possible that Missouri acreage could increase by 10 percent next year.
The biggest challenge in Missouri next year will be the resistant Palmer pigweed. Producers will need to use multiple strategies to reduce the number of seed. So, for the next several years, producers will rely on old chemistry to reduce the number of seed of this weed.
Alabama’s cotton farmers experienced a very mixed year in 2010. Some farmers had their best cotton crops in several years, while others had some of their lowest yields in quite some time. In a few areas, late season rains, combined with a late frost, allowed farmers to mature cotton bolls they normally do not harvest.
Overall, with the late season jump in cotton prices, I expect to see Alabama cotton acres increase about 10 percent in 2011. New cotton picker orders have been strong in some areas, but cotton is still competing for acres with corn, soybeans and wheat – especially in northern Alabama. The higher commodity prices for most crops are allowing Alabama farmers to rotate crops more, and this will help in the fight against diseases, nematodes, and now herbicide-resistant weeds.
The 2010 crop year has been an experience that will not likely be forgotten. Cotton prices have reached levels that have not been seen since the middle of the Civil War when it traded for $1.89 per pound (Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 Wall Street Journal). These prices obviously create an increased amount of excitement surrounding the prospects of potential return from the 2010 crop and for the 2011 crop.
There are many indications that this price will remain strong during the 2011 season, including sustained strong demand for raw fiber and a tightening of the supply available on the world market. Extra Long Staple (ELS) Pima cotton has also benefited from the strong demand and reduced supply and has traded as high as $2.60 per pound.
Under these strong price conditions, predictions are that cotton acreage across Arizona could increase in 2011 by as much as another 25 percent, which would bring total acreage to approximately 250,000 acres. Another factor other than the price differential between ELS and Upland cotton that may influence the distribution in cotton acreage is the fact that herbicide tolerant, specifically Roundup Ready Flex ELS cotton varieties will be commercially available to plant for the 2011 season in Arizona.
The 2011 season will be an interesting one in Arizona as we see what happens to acreage and distribution of cotton across the state.
December is the month where I really like to look back at the previous year to seek lessons learned. Our early season rainfall storm seasons were real blessings and enabled us to have the lowest abandonment in recent history, coming in at about four percent. July rainfall – and in some cases disastrous excessive rainfall – resulted in considerable acreage of “yellow cotton.”
The first half of July was very wet, cloudy and cool and resulted in some early square shed. Other challenges such as nitrogen fertilizer issues (timing, lack of fertility, etc.) and zinc deficiencies occurred in some areas. It should be noted that many dryland fields south and west of Lubbock have zinc soil test levels that would indicate a potential problem. That problem was manifested this year by severely reduced yields in some fields where this was not addressed.
Producers should do a thorough job of soil sampling and testing prior to 2011 crop planting. We will cover this topic at winter meetings again at specific locations where this may be of interest. For other folks, July rainfall resulted in considerable optimism, and we were teased by huge crop estimates by NASS. However, once we began harvesting, it was apparent that the situation in July followed by a lack of August and September precipitation really put a dent in yield for a lot of folks.
The good news out of all of this includes 1) we may ultimately end up with a crop that closely rivals or eclipses (latest estimate at 5.54 million bales) the record 2005 crop (5.6 million) in terms of total bale production, 2) we may ultimately produce the highest quality crop ever and 3) prices are extraordinary. The 2010 crop classing at Lubbock and Lamesa Classing offices indicates excellent color with about 85 percent at 11 or 21. We also have good maturity due to a hot and open September and October, which resulted in less than 12 percent of the crop with a 3.5 or lower micronaire at the Lubbock Classing office.
Average micronaire should be considerably higher than 2008 (3.6) and 2009 (3.7) and possibly higher than 2007 (average 4.1). It was also a low bark contamination year with only about 8 percent bark. Leaf grades are excellent and should average about 2.5. Strength will likely set a record at around 30.1 grams/tex average.
There is certainly a lot of interest in cotton with prices where they are now as producers are making plans this winter. Most producers will be looking to increase acreage. The desire to increase acreage coincides for a lot of producers with an explosion of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth and/or horseweed. Managing increased acreage will be more difficult than managing the same acreage a few years back when resistance was not a problem.
I would be hesitant to increase cotton acreage if it meant expanding acreage into fields with heavy populations of resistant Palmer amaranth. The key to dealing with Palmer is to reduce the seed bank, which can be done more effectively in some other crops.
Dealing with increased cotton acreage will make it even more important to use residual herbicides in burndown and preemergence applications. The use of residual herbicides in burndown applications prior to preemergence applications gives us more time to “catch” a rain to activate residual herbicides.
Producers planning to use Ignite-based systems need to realize that for this system to work well, residual herbicides are also important. Ignite-based systems will not allow farmers to revert back to total over-the-top systems that once were viable in Roundup Ready/Flex systems and allowed rapid coverage of many acres. Ignite-based systems need to incorporate residual herbicides and well-timed applications of Ignite to small Palmer amaranth.
2010 has been a very interesting year for Georgia cotton producers. The crop got off to a great start in most places, with decent temperatures and frequent rainfall from late April through mid-June. As a result, pre-emergence herbicides appeared to have been activated very effectively, and plant growth was especially vigorous as the crop approached the bloom period.
However, July was quite a different story. Abnormally high temperatures (day and night) prevailed, and rainfall was less than adequate in many places. The bloom period was prematurely shortened as a result of these conditions, especially for the earlier planted cotton. Later planted cotton generally performed slightly better this year, largely due to the fact that later planted cotton had really only just begun blooming when the hot dry conditions prevailed, whereas early planted cotton was well into its bloom period during which time these conditions resulted in the most yield loss.
The August rains rejuvenated upper boll development, and many producers decided to wait on the top crop, which proved to be a successful strategy in many cases this year. Harvest conditions from September and forward were better than in most years, with decent temperatures and dry, sunny weather throughout most of the harvest season.
A lot of production information will be discussed in depth at all of our county meetings this winter, as well as during the Georgia Cotton Conference, which is scheduled for Jan. 26 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.
Many cotton producers in the SJV are well-versed in what it takes to grow both Pima and Acala cotton. They understand the variety, growth habit and growing season length issues that can be important when trying to decide to grow Pima, Acala, or when they mix it up with plantings of both types of cotton.
Price differentials in favor of Pima have driven expanded interest in Pima recently, but some improvements in Acala prices may assist in maintaining interest in Acala production. Due to efforts of the past 10 years or more by seed companies, California producers still have access to some really outstanding Acala varieties, with high-yielding, high fiber quality conventional and newer transgenic varieties available. For producers focused on expanding their Pima evaluations, there remain some concerns and considerations if they are relatively new to Pima.
A number of Pima varieties are available, including newer Roundup Flex varieties and Fusarium-resistant varieties. Most Pima varieties still require a long growing season, typically about one to two weeks longer than for Acalas. However, they can be managed (with delayed irrigations, PGR use and sequential harvest aid programs) to mature and be ready for harvest within a few weeks of the normal timing of operations for Acala plantings, as long as early and mid-season fruit set is moderately good and fall weather favorable.
However, Pima production under higher fertility, full irrigation and with higher early to mid-season fruit losses can be particularly challenging.
Depending on factors like soil type, soil fertility, rooting depth and success in setting early season fruit, many producers have had experiences at both ends of the growth spectrum: (1) plants that are moderate in size, with late season nutrient uptake problems, which reduce later fruit set and yield potential, a problem we have called “early decline”; and (2) large, difficult to manage plants with vigorous vegetative growth.
Problem No. 1 is best addressed through improved fertility programs and attention to factors that limit rooting depth, such as compacted layers, while problem No. 2 can come from problems with excessive irrigation or nutrients, planting too late, improper variety choice for the conditions, or repeated, unchecked fruit losses.
The fall run of cotton prices has many of our producers looking once again towards planting in a positive light. We had an increase in cotton acres in 2010 and are likely looking at an increase once again in 2011. The level of increase is debatable at this point. I have spoken to a few producers who are increasing acreage, switching some of their acres to conventional varieties if they can get seed, or keeping their acreage intact because it fits their current rotation scheme.
Stronger cotton prices may make this a year that is favorable for maximizing inputs. However, some of the angst over current seed and technology costs still exists, especially in areas that historically do not irrigate and are subject to drought.
While cotton produced more in our state than we expected given the hot, dry conditions, there were local areas that suffered severe, long-term drought that caused near complete crop loss (150 pounds or less).
As with many states across the Cotton Belt, the support that the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and College of Agriculture provides through on-farm visits, timely communications and research is being stretched very thin due to tight budgets.
However, Alabama has a very dedicated group of crop specialists, regional agents and county coordinators who are striving to continue efforts to provide support to the cotton industry and producers across the state. We will continue to provide information (www.alabamacrops.com) and search out additional ways to effectively support the producers of Alabama.
The producers in the Northern and Southern Rolling Plains are wrapping up harvest with about 80 percent and 90 percent complete, respectively. Most producers have been very pleased with the yields from the entire Rolling Plains area. Looking toward next year, there is a lot of enthusiasm for cotton in Texas. I am hearing reports of 10 to 20 percent increases in cotton acreage for 2011 throughout the South Texas, Central Texas and Rolling Plains regions.
With similar acreage increases expected in many areas of the Cotton Belt, it will be very important for producers to obtain seed of locally tested and adapted cotton varieties. Producers should gather as much information on the prospective cotton varieties as possible, because it is quite common to see a 20 to 30 percent difference between lint yield in our replicated on-farm trials.
Even though we all focus on pounds of lint, we need to remember the importance of cotton fiber quality, especially with 80 percent of our U.S. cotton being exported. As the cotton variety results become available for Texas, they will be accessible at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/cotton/index.htm.
Last, the current dry weather pattern and predictions for a dry 2011 are definitely on producers’ minds throughout Texas. So, many of us will be asking Santa for some rain.
I look forward to seeing my fellow Extension specialists and producer friends at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta. This is always one of the highlights of the year for me. Here’s hoping it was a happy holiday season for everyone!