Missouri cotton producers are both excited about this season and have some anxiety about dealing with Palmer pigweed. The latest NASS cotton yield for us is 1,068 pounds, which is our second highest yield. It is behind the 1,106 average from 2008 and slightly ahead of the 1,054 average in 2004.
Our acreage projection is in the 350,000-acre range, and it could go higher. I know of people who have not grown cotton for a number of years who will make the plunge this year. Part of Missouri’s cotton-growing region is still listed in the abnormally dry category, according to the U.S Drought Monitor of April 12. However, we count our blessings when we look at Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. They are in a similar situation that we were in last year.
While seed prices are increasing primarily due to the technology fees, there is little interest in growing conventional varieties.
There are several reasons for this. One is protection from drift and another is not being familiar with the conventional varieties. I do know of someone who is interested in planting a conventional cotton variety along with conventional soybeans.
In spite of the resistance, the genetically modified varieties are usually stacked and offer other advantages over conventional varieties.
One potential problem that we might have this season is herbicide carryover. With the dry conditions from last spring and fall, some of the herbicide might not be degraded. I know of some carryover in wheat and in corn.
Producers are adopting technology faster than ever as new varieties become available for planting. The past 10 years have shown producers that the technology works well even though it may not always be in the best varieties initially. Most cotton companies have done an excellent job of developing good, high-yielding cultivars for new technology as they become available.
The crucial development for technology will be getting multiple modes of action of herbicides into varieties to combat weed resistance. Multiple herbicide traits are on the horizon but not yet available. Technology has made it easier to grow cotton, and producers do not like having to go back to practices from 10-15 years ago, including tillage.
Much of the cost of growing cotton with technology is borne upfront, making it more important to control seedling diseases and to have a good seedbed and proper conditions for germination and early growth, using either conservation or conventional tillage. Our producers are the best in the world and can figure out management on the go to make a crop. Each year brings its own problems, and we don’t know what many of them will be until we get into the season.
As of April 15, Texas remains in a serious and widespread drought that covers every cotton production region of the state. Most cotton producers in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend had adequate moisture for stand establishment, and the crop is holding on reasonably well due to some adequate sub-soil moisture. Some ofthe earliest planted cotton in these areas are in the early squaring stage.
In the Upper Gulf Coast, producers had planted about 75 percent of the cotton acres by late March, but virtually nothing has been planted through mid-April due to inadequate planting moisture. The producers in the Blacklands are in a similar situation with the vast majority of the farmers waiting for rainfall to have some planting moisture. Fortunately, some isolated areas in the Blacklands received rain and planted in early April.
In the Rolling Plains and High Plains, soil temperatures have been adequate for planting but not soil moisture. Time is getting short to receive planting moisture, and irrigated producers are pre-watering to obtain adequate moisture for seed germination. With this being said, the Rolling Plains and West Texas may increase planted cotton acreage as farmers have decided to move from a poor wheat crop and plant cotton.
Cotton planting has begun in earnest in Louisiana. Many producers are on some type of rotation that includes corn, and rapidly warming soil temperatures did not give them much time between corn and cotton planting. Water continues to be a factor producers have to deal with. Louisiana soils had adequate moisture for corn planting but now that temperatures are warming, evapotranspiration rates are rising.
As a result, some producers have had to drag beds down to get to adequate moisture or wait for rain. Our winter producer meetings emphasized taking a balanced approach to cotton fertility and not becoming overly reliant on high rates of nitrogen. Several producers commented that they were not aware that excess nitrogen can actually reduce yields compared to using adequate rates.
It appears that the seed manufacturers were able to supply the varieties that were in demand. Most acres will be planted to mid-maturing varieties, with a scattering of early-maturing and full season varieties rounding out the selections. Cool night-time temperatures may slow germination and put seed-treated fungicides to the test. Producers remain optimistic about cotton, and I have spoken with a few who will be planting cotton for the first time in several years.
If we can get through the growing season without getting hammered by plant bugs, stink bugs and other insect pests – and avoid devastating weather events – then Louisiana producers should be able to look forward to a good year.
As planting season progresses and cotton seedlings emerge from the soil, thoughts about how good this crop will be invariably begin to occur. It is no secret that in order to make the best possible crop, careful management is required. One of the keys to success in cotton production is to minimize or eliminate organisms that limit growth and development, especially early in the growing season.
Pests such as insects and weeds often manifest themselves in such a way that potential damage from their presence is obvious. Other pests such as nematodes are often not as easily identifiable, and damage may be occurring without obvious signs. Nematode management has been further complicated via the loss of aldicarb (Temik). Although many producers have opted for seed treatments in place of in-furrow insecticides and nematicides in recent years, the loss of aldicarb may make economical nematode control more challenging in coming years.
As cotton prices and cotton acres have increased in 2011, the number of “yield enhancement” or “plant health” products has increased as well. Generally speaking, if something sounds too good to be true, than it likely is. If you are considering using a product you have never used before, there are several things to consider. Where was the research conducted that you are being presented? Were the research trials replicated or strip trials? Are the reported yield benefits statistically different from the untreated areas? And how many of the total locations this product was tested on produced a statistical yield benefit?
If these, and other questions, are not answered to your satisfaction, it is likely better to take the conservative approach and save your money.
By the time this issue comes out, cotton planting in Georgia should be largely underway. May is typically the month when soil temperatures and weather forecasts are generally favorable for cotton planting on a widespread and consistent basis. Due to the anticipated increase in cotton acreage this year, a slightly greater proportion of our cotton may be planted in April, depending on weather.
This season will bring about its own unique challenges, like every year. In 2011, I think it will be very important for producers to monitor early season growth. Due to the loss of Temik, the subtle differences in seedling vigor may now be more important than in the past. In many cases, seedling vigor has little impact on final yield. However, factors such as herbicide injury and cool weather, or anything else that could influence growth rate, could have more impact on final yield now that Temik is phasing out.
By now, most producers realize that the extensive use of residuals is an absolute necessity in combating glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, and that some herbicide injury will occur in a few fields. With that said, herbicide injury may slightly affect seedling growth rate to some extent, so it will be important to monitor for the presence of thrips very frequently, and to treat accordingly if justified from scouting.
Cotton acreage in Alabama is expected to be up nearly 15 percent in 2011, but this acreage increase looks to vary greatly across the state. In some northern Alabama counties, wheat and corn acreage will limit the amount of acres that will return to cotton. In other counties, large cotton acreage increases are expected, especially where corn acreage is low and soybeans produced a poor crop last season.
Farmers have to make many management decisions at planting, including variety selection, seeding rates and weed control. The increase in glyphosate-resistant pigweeds in Alabama in 2010 has most cotton producers planning to return to using some residual herbicides in their weed control programs in 2011.
This is critical if we are to slow down the spread of this resistance. Early season weed control has always been critical in cotton production. In 2011, I am advising all producers to have a weed control plan and also a backup plan.
Glyphosate-resistant pigweed has spread across the state and can be found in most cotton-producing counties. The days of being able to produce cotton with a total post-herbicide program are over for most of us, at least for the foreseeable future. The key to controlling this problem is to have overlapping residual herbicides.
As one residual begins to play out, we need to have another herbicide in place to take over. Producers need to start planning for this overlapping residual program now in fields with resistant pigweed. Utilizing residuals will also help prevent the development of resistance in fields where it has not yet occurred.
Ignite-based systems will be popular this coming season with many programs in an effort to deal with resistant pigweed. We need to keep in mind that Ignite is not as effective a herbicide on pigweed as was Roundup prior to resistance. It is critical that Ignite is applied to small pigweed (three inches or less) for consistent results. Because of this, residuals will be necessary in Ignite-based systems for successful control of resistant pigweed.
Producers need to keep this in mind that Ignite will not provide a silver bullet that allows us to stay with total post-programs that do not utilize residual herbicides.
The recent weather in Arkansas that was unseasonably warm with temperatures climbing to near 90 degrees left several anxious cotton producers sitting on go to put the first seed into the ground. A few acres have been reported planted in extreme southeast Arkansas despite a forecast for cooler conditions. As I am writing this report in mid-April, the forecast over the next five days is calling for cooler temperatures falling into the 40-degree range tonight and the latter part of this week.
The cooler daytime high and low temperatures over the next five days will not provide adequate DD60s for rapid emergence and growth of cotton seedlings. With this in mind, producers statewide should consider waiting until next week before planting large acreage.