At this point in the season, Missouri has a few scattered fields left to harvest. Overall, this has been a good harvest season. According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Nov. 6, 89 percent of our cotton had been harvested. This is 11 days behind last year and 11 days ahead of normal.
Since we started the planting season later than normal due to excess rains and flooding, it is amazing that producers had as good a year as they did. While the cotton looked really good in the field, in many cases, producers were disappointed that their yields were not higher.
The one positive note this season is that we had a lot of heat units. However, this was somewhat misleading in that we start looking at the heat units for May 1 and beyond. While some progress was made this year with the resistant pigweed, we still have a long way to go.
The cotton production year of 2011 is one that will be remembered for a long time no matter where you live. The Deep South was very dry for an extended period of time and came through the growing season about 20 inches below normal in rainfall. However, cotton yields were surprisingly good for the most part. With high temperatures, there was little or no hardlock, and any cotton that got off to a good stand ended up yielding well.
There were a few reports of four-bale cotton yields on irrigated cotton and high yields on non-irrigated cotton. With the La Niña ENSO phase back in effect for the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, many farmers are very concerned about having adequate soil moisture for planting the coming year’s crop. Irrigated producers are concerned about ponds, lakes and water table levels if they have to irrigate as they did this year.
However, there has been a good ending to the 2011 crop in most cases with good prices and good yields after fighting through replants, weeds, high temperatures and drought.
Cotton harvest is winding down in southwest Georgia with just over 70 percent of the acreage harvested by Nov. 13, which is slightly ahead of our five-year average, according to the USDA NASS Crop Progress Report. There have been several reports of exceptional irrigated cotton yields in many areas throughout this part of Georgia, as well as several reports of very good fiber quality.
Dryland cotton yields vary significantly depending on planting date and rainfall patterns experienced throughout the season. Many of the acres remaining to be harvested at this point consist of later planted dryland fields. The frosts during the weekend of Nov. 12 stopped most additional boll development in the later crop. The remaining cotton will likely be harvested quickly from this point forward if suitable harvest weather continues.
Louisiana producers finished their cotton harvest efforts this year and, for the most part, have conducted their post-season operations – including soil testing, phosphorus, potash and lime applications and re-hipping their beds. More producers are finding it necessary to make fall broadleaf weed control applications due to henbit and other weeds becoming more difficult to control.
Winter weeds left unattended can pull precious moisture from the soil that would otherwise be there for spring planting. Consultants and suppliers have also begun to provide field mapping services based on soil electrical conductivity (EC). The EC rating is relative to that field and needs to be cross-referenced to an existing soil map, but it can be utilized as a “proxy” or substitute for soil texture.
Cotton lint yields came out better than many had expected considering the prolonged drought. An unofficial estimate of 780 pounds of lint per acre can be deduced from the number of in-state bales submitted to the Classing Office.
Wrapping up 2011 has most Texas cotton producers wanting to forget this year. Unfortunately, weather predictions for 2012 are not looking too good either. Remembering the past and looking into the future, cotton producers are looking for opportunities to shave input costs without sacrificing yield potential, in case weather forecasts are incorrect. One practice that can accomplish both requirements is a good soil sampling program to determine nutrient availability, including deep soil samples to measure soil residual nitrogen.
Soil tests are our best tool to determine crop nutrient needs and should be the foundation for all cotton fertility programs. Additionally, the return on investment of soil sampling increases as the price of fertilizer increases, and nitrogen prices remain high. Where nitrogen fertilizer was applied in excess for the obtained cotton yields in 2011, significant quantities of available nitrogen likely exists in the soil profile for 2012.
It is hard to believe that Christmas will soon be here, and 2011 will soon roll into 2012. Although we say it every year, time seems to pass very quickly these days, and we should make the most of each day. 2011 was a roller coaster ride for cotton production in Mississippi and several other states in the Mid-South and beyond. The year was marked by historic flooding, record cool temperatures during mid-May and extreme heat and dry weather during the summer months.
As we head into 2012, many folks have already booked their favorite variety for next year, and those who haven’t are mulling over their choices. Variety selection is one of the most critical choices that you make each year. Pick the right variety, and you are primed for success. Pick the wrong variety, and you are stuck with it all year. There are several sources of variety trial information available to you, including small and large plot test results from several universities, variety trials performed by seed companies, trials conducted by seed and chemical distributors and several others.
Knowledge does not guarantee success; however, the more knowledge you have, the more likely you are to be successful in 2012. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2012.
In the High Plains of Texas, the 2011 cotton growing season began under extreme drought conditions. The dry conditions, coupled with high temperatures and winds, resulted in difficulties in stand establishment under irrigated production systems and at or near complete failure of dryland cotton fields. As the season progressed, and the drought worsened, abandonment of some irrigated acres was seen. To add insult to injury, boll size for the most part was lower-than-normal as a result of the droughty conditions.
At the time of this writing, the severe drought conditions continue as harvest is in full swing and nearly 50 percent complete. Yields are well below average for the most part with some isolated reports of two-plus bales per acre from areas with higher irrigation capacities.
Fiber quality, however, has been better than expected with color grades coming in at mostly 11s and 21s, and micronaire values averaging 4.32 for the season from the Lubbock USDA-AMS Classing Office. Although long-term forecasts indicate continued drought conditions, cotton producers in the Texas High Plains are ready to put 2011 behind them and are looking forward to 2012 with optimism.
The 2011 drought relented some in the fall, with much of western Oklahoma receiving badly needed precipitation. The effects of the drought, however, still linger. The huge loss of cotton acres led to a recent record high abandonment by Oklahoma producers. The remaining crop – essentially all irrigated – has presented itself with disappointing quality in some respects. Color and leaf grades are good to excellent. Staple is shorter than what we have been accustomed to seeing and is averaging somewhat over 35.
The good news is that about 45 percent is still 36 or longer. Micronaire is about 90 percent in the 3.5-4.9 range, with about 10 percent 5.0 or greater. About 70 percent is 30 grams per tex strength or greater. Bark contamination arising from stripper harvesting is present in about 30 percent of the bales classed at the time of this writing. Because of lack of boll set during high heat and lack of rainfall in July and August, many producers with good irrigation capacity pushed the crop to set late bolls.
Although October was a great month for cotton heat units, many of these late-set bolls could not properly mature before the “clock ran out.” With the poor yielding season for most producers who did harvest, they should seriously consider if remaining nitrogen is present. This may result in considerable savings for the 2012 crop. Also, although the 2011 heat and drought “gutted” our research and Extension testing programs in western Oklahoma, variety selection and performance are still important. We will be covering these topics during our winter meetings. Many thanks, and I look forward to seeing you at the BWCC!
After a season of several up and down periods, most North Alabama cotton farmers are ending the season on a high note. Some late season rains helped mature many late bolls, and a dry harvest season combined to produce higher-than-expected cotton yields in many areas. Many dryland cotton fields will likely average over 800 pounds per acre of lint this season. Good cotton grades and high turnout are also being reported on many varieties.
Resistant pigweed problems were also generally held in check by most farmers. The proactive approach seems to be working in many areas as resistant pigweed spread slowed greatly in 2011. Farmers are learning it is cheaper to apply preventative treatments than to fight resistant pigweeds all season.
Variety selection will be on a lot of folks’ minds this time of year. This was an unusual year to make a lot of useful comparisons about variety selection and planting dates. Most producers had a severe drought and shed the middle crop. The rains associated with the hurricane produced a very late top crop that was difficult to mature.
Later-planted cotton did better for many producers as it did not tend to cutout as badly during the drought. Producers also should make sure when they compare variety performance this year that they are comparing apples to apples as varietal differences might have been due to planting date and timing of stress.
This was a really good year to see why percent open is often not a good tool to use for defoliation timing. Because of the huge fruiting gap between the bottom crop and top crop, many people defoliated around 50 percent open, and the top crop could not mature.
Over the past 30 years, the cotton producers of Alabama have been providing financial support for research projects that would have otherwise gone unfunded. Through the contributions from the checkoff program, the Alabama Cotton Commission has provided the leadership necessary for critical problem areas to be investigated. Auburn University and Alabama A & M University have been able to shape their investigations through direct producer input.
On-farm, experiment station and lab-based projects have all been part of the directive of associated investigators. Results from the supported projects have been instrumental in the development of conservation tillage; cover crop utilization; variety development; weed, insect and nematode management.
On Jan. 18, cotton producers from across the state will gather in Prattville, Ala., to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the commission. The unique nature of the cotton community makes working with this crop a community-wide effort. More information will be posted at www.alabamacrops.com and www.alfafarmers.org. I look forward to seeing our producers in Prattville.