According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending Oct. 16, harvest is at 58 percent, which is 11 days behind last year but five days ahead of normal. The reason that we are now ahead of normal after such a late start is because of the excellent harvest season. We have not had many days of rainfall during the past month.
While a majority of the cotton harvested was non-irrigated, we are now getting into the irrigated cotton, and yields are expected to be good. I have had conflicting reports about yield potential and producer expectations. However, the USDA Cotton and Wool Outlook Report of Oct. 13 estimates our average yield at 1,132 pounds.
We still have a few more weeks of harvest and, in my opinion, some of our best cotton is yet to be harvested. The weather forecast is favorable for the remainder of harvest with higher than normal temperatures and less rainfall than normal. The heat units have really been good again this year.
In talking with producers and dealers, many producers have already decided on which varieties to plant this next year based on this year’s performance. Producers are looking strongly at the LibertyLink system to help them with the resistant Palmer pigweeds. Producers have learned a lot in how to deal with the resistant weeds and are looking to improve their strategies for next year.
Selection of cotton varieties is a very important decision for producers every year because of new technology from seed treatments, biotechnology and challenges from nematodes to weeds. Deep South producers have been searching for a replacement for Deltapine’s 555 cotton variety for the past two to three years.
In many cases, 2011 was a year when producers became comfortable with varieties being offered, and many have shown to be high yielding and have performed well under very adverse conditions. As yield data comes in from different locations over the next couple of months, it will be important to study the trials to choose varieties for the coming year.
Seed companies, as well as university specialists, try to provide the best information available for producers so that they can make informed decisions on variety selection. Yield potential for the new varieties seems to be increasing with many producers making the highest yields that they have ever made in long careers in farming. This is a testament to the breeding work done by seed companies and evaluation by university people across the Cotton Belt.
Our hope is that prices will stay up, and producers will be able to rotate and use other sound management practices that allow them to make a good living and encourage young people to look at farming as an attractive career opportunity.
The cotton harvest in Georgia has been progressing fairly well with a few delays due to rainy weather during early/mid-October. There were several reports of difficulty defoliating the earlier harvested crop, likely due to the condition of the crop that resulted from heat and dry weather in August. Rains and cooler weather in early October substantially improved defoliation from that point forward, but regrowth became a challenge in some places during mid-October, as well as reports of some cotton stringing out or falling from the burrs in places that received several inches of rain.
There have been numerous reports of excellent yields from earlier harvested cotton, which mostly consisted of early planted irrigated cotton. The later planted dryland crop will likely be defoliated and/or harvested throughout November, depending on crop condition and when the first notable frost occurs.
The cotton harvest is winding down rapidly in Louisiana, as the pickers make their way to the last fields to be defoliated. The weather has been cooperative for harvest activities for the most part over the past month. Our state FSA office certified 288,404 cotton acres this year – about three percent more than early season estimates. Sixty-three percent of those acres planted were in Stoneville 5288, as it demonstrated solid performance in trials over the past two years.
Deltapine 1133 covered eight percent of cotton acres, and PhytoGen 375 and PhytoGen 565 together added up to about 11 percent, according to the USDA 2011 Variety Report. Although glyphosate-resistant weeds have been confirmed in Louisiana, producers are attempting to hold on firmly to a glyphosate-tolerant cotton system, as very few LibertyLink varieties have been adopted thus far.
A few more producers, particularly in the Louisiana Delta region, shifted from module-building harvest systems to baling technology. The cotton gins are adapting as needed as more of their storage areas are filled with bales instead of modules. Producers cite the difficulty in finding and keeping reliable labor during harvest as the biggest single reason for the switch, and the initial cost as the main hesitancy in switching systems.
As we spoke with producers around the state and participated in picking the Extension on-farm trials, it became more obvious that the drought affected the central and western parts of the state more severely than the northeastern portion. Dryland cotton in the Delta and on the Macon Ridge just west of the Delta generally outyielded non-irrigated cotton in the Red River Valley, as more frequent thunderstorms popped up in the northern part of the state over the season. As this season concludes, producers agree that a stable cotton price this fall will help them decide to maintain or increase cotton acres next year.
Of all the decisions a producer must make each year, variety selection is probably one of the most critical. The increasing number of varieties, along with the transgenic technologies currently being incorporated into these new varieties, can make the decision a difficult one. Planting an appropriate variety adapted to your local growing conditions could make the difference between a successful crop and a failure.
In an effort to provide a source of variety performance, the University of Arizona conducts a series of variety evaluations across the state each year. The trials are typically conducted on producer/cooperator fields in which anywhere from eight to 12 varieties are planted in statistically valid experimental designs, allowing the data to be analyzed appropriately to draw conclusions regarding the performance of a particular variety in a particular region.
Plant growth and development, lint yield and fiber quality are all evaluated and then summarized and made available through the University of Arizona’s crop Web site atcals.arizona.edu/crops. Additional variety performance data also can be obtained from the seed company. A valuable summary of variety availability and characteristics are presented in this issue of Cotton Farming, beginning on page 9.
As of Oct. 20, cotton harvest was more or less completed in south Texas, with a few late planted irrigated fields remaining in the river bottoms of the Southern Blacklands. In the Rolling Plains, some much needed rain (two to four inches) occurred the first week of October. The rain was poorly timed for cotton harvest, but nobody is complaining.
Cotton harvest is estimated at about 50 percent harvested in the Rolling Plains and is a about one to two weeks ahead of a typical year. The dry harvest period in south Texas allowed for some of the best color and leaf grades in a long time. However, strength and length have been lower for many of the popular varieties this year compared to 2010. Most of the classed crop has been on the high end of the base range for micronaire for south and central Texas areas.
The 2011 harvest season has taken a different shape than that of the harvest season in 2010. In 2010, we enjoyed a long, favorable fall that allowed for a timely harvest as well as extensive land preparation. While the 2011 harvest season has not been marked by severe weather problems or extensive delays, we lagged slightly behind the five-year average (in terms of percent of our crop that has been harvested) for the later part of September and most of October. In general, many producers picked a respectable crop that will likely come in above average but not record breaking.
As many aspects of farming have changed over the past few years, so has the variety selection process. In years past, it was common to have three years of data from university and private industry trials prior to the commercial release of a given variety. However, the accumulation of three years data prior to the commercial release of a given variety has become the exception rather than the rule.
Given the speed with which varieties are being brought to market today, the value of variety testing cannot be overstated. When selecting a variety for your farm, it is vital to look at all possible data, including university and private industry data. The more variety testing data that you examine, the better prepared you will be to select the best variety for your farm. As everyone knows, making the wrong choice in variety selection is a decision that will haunt you all season.
The Texas High Plains recently received some much needed rainfall, but much more is needed for next year’s crop. Cotton harvest is well under way, and harvest aid applications are continuing at a rapid pace. Lint yields are coming in at around a bale per acre on the average in most locations. As was anticipated, due to some low seed count bolls, yields from some fields are around 30 percent less than boll counts would indicate. For the week ending Oct. 13, the Lubbock USDA-AMS classing report showed 27,381 bales classed for the week and 55,799 for the season.
Color grades are coming in at mostly 11 and 21. Micronaire for the season is averaging 4.24, with length and strength averaging 33.86 32nds and 28.63 g/tex, respectively. Uniformity for the season is averaging 80.02 percent, and leaf grades are mostly 1 and 2 with a season average of 1.9.
Of the bales that have been classed so far this season, 10.1 percent have had bark content. If the warm temperatures and dry conditions persist, harvest should wrap up quickly as compared to previous years.
The most important decision a producer makes after deciding to plant cotton is determining what varieties will be planted. There are many different ways to choose varieties. Some look to their experience with past varieties. Some look across the fence to their neighbor, and some look at data from the previous year’s research. The smart farmer uses all available tools.
Not all varieties are created equal or perform the same in all locations. It is important not only to look at data from your state or region, but to look at data from places similar to the ground you farm. In Tennessee, we have hills, terraces, creek bottoms, river bottoms, Delta ground, irrigated and dryland fields combined with a short growing season. No one variety will perform the best in all these situations. When choosing a variety, look for results from a situation similar to your own. When you choose a variety based on trial average, that is exactly what you get – the best average variety. University researchers and seed companies spend tremendous resources to figure out what varieties work in different situations. Take advantage of this powerful data.
Here in the North Delta, we are beginning to select varieties based on how successfully we can control pigweed with different technologies. Often this leads us to choose the best variety within a technology offering that may not be the variety best suited for our farm.
The release of LibertyLink varieties adapted to the Mid-South can help us be timelier controlling pigweed, but don’t be fooled. If we change all our acres to LibertyLink crops and use only Ignite herbicide on all those acres, how long do you think it will be until we have weeds that Ignite won’t kill? If you look at ALS- inhibiting herbicides and widespread, repeated use of glyphosate-resistant crops during the time from adoption to resistance, it has averaged five years.
In Tennessee, we started using Ignite to kill pigweeds that glyphosate missed in 2009. As we go into 2012, our clock is ticking on year No. 4. Choose your varieties carefully, continue to use residual herbicides and hooded sprayers, and remember that the resistance clock is ticking.
The 2011 season is winding to a close as most northern Alabama farmers continue harvesting a good but later-than-normal cotton crop. There is no doubt that diversifying cropping systems in Alabama is paying dividends for many farmers. A good wheat crop followed by an average but better than expected corn crop and what now appears to be potentially good cotton and soybean crop is good news for most farmers. Due to the rotations, I thankfully have much fewer cotton calls about early season nematode damage.
Now, however, I have many more calls about rotational restrictions and rates of products as producers seem to be plant-ing or harvesting crops all year long. There is no down time and little room for error with growing multiple crops in one year, but this year many Alabama cotton farmers are seeing the benefits.
It won't be long until cotton producers will be faced with variety selection again. I am not sure how many lessons we can take out of this year's crop. There are probably a few, but they should be tempered by the knowledge that the dry weather this year hurt certain maturities and certain planting dates were worse than others. We don’t know much about next year except that it will probably be different.
I think years like this past year really drive home the need to spread risk by having a lot of varieties and to a lesser extent to have our planting dates spread out somewhat. This year tended to favor later plantings that did not cut out quite as badly during the drought. That is not unusual, but it is not something we can depend on.
I think another lesson we learned this year is that you can really get into trouble basing defoliation on percent open boll. Most fields had a wide fruiting gap due to the drought, and when the cotton hit 50 to 60 percent open, the top crop was not ready.