As I am looking back on 2010, I am pleased that we are getting some rain and snow with more planned for the next several weeks. Our cotton- growing area is still considered abnormally dry to extreme drought. The National Weather Service has projected above normal precipitation for February, March and April. Yet, we are still below our normal moisture levels.
The National Cotton Council’s Planting Intentions report has been released and projects an increase of 12.4 percent in Missouri. This would give us about 350,000 acres this year. The expected increase would come at the expense of soybeans. Being boll weevil-free certainly has its advantages in Missouri. Our yield has steadily increased since boll weevil eradication began in 2001.
While the latest cotton date of planting has shown mixed results, the early May plantings have been more consistent. Being able to harvest a “top crop” has benefited all of the planting dates. One more bit of good news in Missouri is that in 2010 the boll weevil committee made the decision not to charge farmers and landowners any assessment for the boll weevil maintenance program.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that any state declined to collect this money. The reason is that the program has assets and enough assessments that additional money was not needed.
The concerns for this season will be dealing with the resistant pigweeds and other resistant weeds. We will need enough moisture at planting to activate our pre-emergence herbicides.
Producers are excited about growing crops this year but are worried about the price of fertilizer and other inputs that often go along with higher crop prices. Producers who have not had good rotations for a number of years are gearing up to grow more cotton to help eliminate nematode and other pest problems.
One of the big concerns in the cotton community right now is making sure that producers are using the right prescription to control Palmer amaranth.
This weed can be controlled but will take diligence and proper timing as well as using different modes of action of residual herbicides for season-long control.
Those producers who rotate with corn need to have a plan for Palmer control for the period after corn harvest in late July and early August.
Pigweeds have the ability to have two to three generations in a three-to-four month period. Growing a crop may be the best option, and that could include other summer grasses or even a late soybean crop if irrigation is available, and if it would not mess up the rotation.
New cotton varieties have performed up to expectations, and an excellent harvest season in 2010 has led the way for the high hopes for 2011. Be sure to look at variety trials in the area and choose those that perform well over a wide range of conditions and soil types.
The debate over what crop or crops to plant this year still rages in Louisiana. Producers are watching the commodity prices closely and putting a sharp pencil to variable costs before making final decisions. With 2011 crop cotton prices as strong as they are, an overall increase in cotton acres compared to last year is still expected.
Another topic of intense discussion is how to choose and manage the new cotton varieties available for the Mid-South. As producers shifted from the dominant DP 555 BG/RR to other varieties, many producers had to go through a learning curve on optimal management. Growth regulator application rates and timing were particularly difficult to nail down due to the unusually hot and dry spring that caused many to hesitate before making their initial application.
or some, it meant playing catchup for the rest of the season when the rains finally came and pushed the crop. Many of the top performers last year were early maturing varieties that tended to be a little more determinant and set bolls earlier than past varieties, so producers are also learning as they go about when to start backing off high and frequent growth regulator applications. Producers attending agronomic meetings are also asking questions about the best possible weed management in the face of possible glyphosate-tolerant weeds, and about optimal fertility and insect management.
It seems we are in a new era of interest in cotton, but it needs to “pay its way” in the current landscape of high commodity prices and high input costs. Overall, many sense a renewed interest in cotton production.
As of Feb. 17, we recently emerged from a couple of weeks of cold weather. However, a week of warm days and nighttime temperatures has excited some farmers, and corn planting has begun in the Rio Grande Valley and up through the Upper Gulf Coast. The soil moisture situation is fair in these areas as it is in the Northern Blacklands. However, much of the rest of the state desperately needs rain.
The NCC pre-plant survey for Texas estimates a 12 percent increase in cotton acres, which puts Texas at 6.24 million planted acres. Based on comments from producers and distributors, Texas may be higher than the NCC predictions. Agronomically, producers need to remember to start clean and weed free, rotate herbicides and use a PPI or preemergent herbicides.
As the 2011 cropping season approaches, cotton prices are at levels only once dreamed of. In addition, economists are predicting that prices will remain in excess of $1 per pound for the foreseeable future. In spite of these prices, cotton acreage increases will be tempered as other commodities are priced favorably as well.
The National Cotton Council’s 2011 Planting Intentions Report estimates that Mississippi producers will plant 524,000 acres of cotton in 2011, which is a 25 percent increase over 2010. In the Mid-South, only Tennessee is predicted to have a greater increase in planted acres on a percentage basis (40 percent) higher than Mississippi.
Increased prices and increased acreage are accompanied by increased expectations. Higher prices provide somewhat of a safety net for profitability if expected yields are not met. However, the pressure to produce a bumper crop and take advantage of high commodity prices will be as high as ever. Although there are few guarantees in life, and success is certainly not one of them, success will routinely find those that are well prepared more so than those who are not.
To that end, many preparations have already been made for the upcoming growing season. For those preparations that have not yet been made, the next few weeks are critical and could mean the difference between a good crop and a great one.
Cotton acreage in Georgia is expected to increase once again in 2011. Most estimates that I’m hearing right now put Georgia in the range of 1,500,000 to 1,550,000 acres, which will be up from the 2010 harvested acreage of just over 1,300,000. Final acreage in 2011 will be largely dependent upon the later peanut contracts and weather during planting time.
Regardless, there is a great deal of enthusiasm about cotton as prices remain high. Variety selection continues to be a topic of discussion as we plan for the 2011 season. One tool that producers can utilize to assist in their variety selections is the UGA Cotton Variety Performance Calculator. This tool is available online and can be accessed through our home page, www.ugacotton.com.
This calculator is a very quick and easy method to compare variety performance and has several selection options, including the year trials were conducted, trial type (OVT or on-farm county trials), trial location or region and environment (irrigated, dryland or both). As planting time draws near, producers need to prepare by starting clean with an effective burndown herbicide program to combat pigweed. They also should observe their soil fertility recommendations and make any necessary amendments in order give this crop the best start possible.
Those of us involved in the cotton industry are experiencing unprecedented times, with cotton prices near $2 per pound, and with supply and demand positioned to keep the market strong for the foreseeable future, our producers could experience some of the highest gross returns they've ever seen. Unfortunately, along with the high commodity prices, we are seeing some strong increases in fuel prices along with a strong uptick in fertilizer pricing.
Producers with whom I have visited have also indicated that land-lease prices are beginning to be renegotiated by land owners. All of these things being considered, efficiency still needs to be our greatest concern.
Profitability and economic sustainability are determined not only by our gross returns but also by how much we put into the crop. We will likely see an increase in the number of products on the market making claims to improve yield.
My suggestion is to be wary of any product presented to you that does not come along with good scientific data to support any claims that are made. Remember that every dollar you put into the crop reduces your bottom line unless that dollar provides a return in terms of a tangible, positive crop response. This may be the year that you do something new or try something that you have been wanting to try, but I would always proceed with caution on anything new and try it out on a small scale in a comparative fashion where it can be evaluated against your standard practices to determine its effect on the crop and ultimately your bottom line.
We have the opportunity this year to make some good headway in terms of economic sustainability. I encourage everyone to be smart and deliberate in the decisions you make.
Today (Feb. 17) has cotton futures prices over $2 for March and May 2011. December 2011 futures are at $1.35. We are going to grow a cotton crop of record economic impact in 2011. During the winter of 2007 when cotton prices were hovering at 50 cents, producers would get up and leave a meeting when I began to talk about cotton production topics.
Yeah, I know, maybe it was me, but the trend has reversed itself in 2011. Our recent Cotton Focus meeting had attendance above the past three years even with several inches of ice and snow covering West Tennessee roads. Every county production meeting has seen above average attendance. Producers are listening! They sit quietly and absorb as much information as possible and ask questions that indicate they are paying attention to media reports and advice from their fellow farmers.
The National Cotton Council survey indicates a 39.5 percent increase in cotton acres for Tennessee. The question has been asked many times “Where are those acres coming from”? The answer is from full-season soybean acres in our traditional cotton-growing areas. Corn will continue to be planted at levels near 2010, and wheat acres dropped considerably. The excitement surrounding cotton in Tennessee is back, and welcomed by many!
High cotton prices can make it tempting to want to spend more money on a cotton crop. If a product does not cause an increase in yield with 50- cent cotton, it doesn’t make you any additional money with one dollar cotton. Nitrogen fertilizer is one input, in particular, with which producers need to be careful.
Excess nitrogen can not only cause difficulty in defoliation but also can result in delayed maturity and decreased yields.
The potential for excess nitrogen to reduce yields was evident in a recent Beltwide study conducted by the Extension Cotton Specialist group in coordination with Cotton Incorporated.
Low cotton prices have had a negative impact on our infrastructure.
Hopefully, with higher prices, we can reinvest some capital in equipment and residual herbicides to reduce the seed bank of resistant Palmer amaranth rather than spending resources on unproven products.