In some aspects, Missouri producers are in better shape than they were at this time last year. While we were abnormally dry late in the season, we now have plenty of moisture at this time of year. In comparing the Missouri yields of 2011 with other states, we were fortunate. We had plenty of heat units and overall good yields. While there were disappointments, considering the late planting date due to rain and flooding, in general, we did better than expected.
At the present time, it is unsure if our acreage will increase. It all depends on corn and soybean acreage. The cost of dealing with the resistant weeds will also impact some producers. It has been forecast that some of the producers might take the opportunity to get out, but the weed problem will still exist for those who choose to increase their acreage.
Missouri producers also have a lot of irrigation potential. Each year, our irrigated acreage grows, and this should help to stabilize yields. In some years, a single irrigation might be enough to make the difference in profitability. In dry years, such as 2010 and 2011, irrigation really made a difference.
Producers are trying to make their seed purchases and are getting ready for this season. In talking with some of our producers, there is a cautious optimism toward this growing season. They have learned that timely planting gives them a higher yield potential and an opportunity to get the harvest completed early.
Producers across much of the Southeast are very concerned about the 2012 growing season. Lake and pond levels are at historic lows, and there is a lot of concern if irrigation wells will hold up if this year is as dry as 2011. We are projected to stay in the La Niña weather pattern, which is warmer and drier than normal for much of the spring.
Many of the non-irrigated Florida producers are looking at killing out cover crops earlier so that they do not deplete soil moisture and will try to plant earlier this year to get a stand on the first try. There was a lot of replanting with some producers planting as many as three to four times last year due to the dry soil conditions.
New cotton varieties have performed very well, and producers are excited about the potential with good prices that are lower than this time last year. Even with that trend, we should see almost the same acreage of cotton being planted in Florida in 2012 for a rotation with peanuts. Producers should begin to get seed of top-yielding varieties set up for their farms for the coming year even though supplies of most varieties will be adequate.
There will be some new technology available this year that producers should try on parts of their farms that may help in weed control in coming years.
Each year seems to teach us something new about cotton, and, from that aspect, the 2011 season was no different than usual. In 2011, yields varied widely across the geographic areas of the state as well as within individual producers’ crops. Some fields produced near all-time high yields, with little rainfall, and some fields were much less productive. The overwhelming factor in consistency of cotton performance last year and many others in Georgia was irrigation.
We often receive enough rainfall to produce a successful dryland crop, but during the past few years we’ve really seen the value of timely cotton irrigation. The weather in 2011 seemed to reveal that cotton varieties we now grow have the ability to reach substantially higher yields when irrigated properly. In our 2011 research, irrigation increased lint yields anywhere from 270 pounds per acre to as much as 1,200 pounds per acre over dryland production.
More importantly, we observed substantial increases in yield when irrigation was applied more timely and at proper rates. Every production situation is different, and these yield responses are not likely to be what we see from year to year, but producers in Georgia have experienced this firsthand. Increased input costs paired with relatively outstanding cotton prices have producers scrambling to install irrigation at a very rapid pace.
Our only hope now is that 2012 brings us a year where irrigation isn’t our limiting factor. Nevertheless, proper scheduling of irrigation in drier and even in wetter years is critical for maximizing yield potential and maintaining our valuable
Producers in Louisiana are gearing up for planting season. Many are spending valuable hours analyzing the results of the LSU AgCenter Official Variety Trials and on-farm demonstration trials to determine which variety or varieties have the best fit in their production system. The good news is that producers have a real choice among top-performing varieties that seem well adapted to our state.
The only concern is that these varieties are coming out of trials and onto the market in a period of hot and dry growing conditions in our state. It will be interesting to see how they perform if the weather patterns revert to a more typical pattern of occasional afternoon thunderstorms that lower the rate of heat unit accumulation and extend the growing season.
Producers are also going over soil test results and making plans for fertilizer applications. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium prices are forcing many producers to look carefully at their nutrient inputs and are leading to increased levels of interest in variable rate technology, grid and zone sampling and use of yield monitors on pickers. These tools have been around for a little while, but increasing input costs are making them more widely adopted. Weed control began in the fall with some producers applying a fall burndown with preemerge. The new year saw a significant increase in aerial applications for burndown, and the hope is that producers will respond to the concern over increasing glyphosate-resistant weed populations this year by adopting a weed control program that includes overlapping residuals. Planted cotton acres will probably be similar to last year’s levels.
With the 2011 cotton season behind us, it is time to begin making decisions for the 2012 season. Many of these decisions can begin to be made during the cold winter months. A representative pre-season soil sample from a management area can provide a basis for developing a nutrient management plan. A significant amount of work has been performed in Arizona to develop and validate soil fertility and testing guidelines for Arizona cotton.
This work has resulted in critical soil test levels for Arizona cotton. These critical values can be found at the following Web site: http://cals.arizona.edu/crops/cotton/soilmgt/soil_fertility_testing.html. Soil test levels above the critical value indicate a low probability of a positive crop response to fertilizer applications of that nutrient, while soils that test lower than the indicated critical level for that nutrient have a high probability of a positive yield response to fertilization with that nutrient.
If you have questions about proper soil sampling techniques, you may want to contact your local cooperative Extension agent, who can provide instruction and tips on how to collect a soil sample properly and where the analysis may be done. Keep in mind that the soil test result is only as accurate and representative as the soil sample, so make sure your sampling techniques are appropriate.
According to the NASS drought monitor and visiting with producers, 2012 is shaping up to be a more challenging year than 2011 for the Rolling Plains, Central Texas and South Texas. The Northern Blacklands are the exception where good soil moisture currently exists. In South Texas, the 2011 season began with a full soil profile of water, and a decent crop was harvested despite dry conditions during the 2011 season.
For 2012, cotton planting will begin in mid-February, and most of the cotton production regions are categorized in an extreme or exceptional drought. More than 85 percent of the cotton acres in South Texas and Central Texas are not irrigated. If a decent crop is obtained for 2012, a widespread planting rain will be necessary and continued rains throughout the season. If producers have some soil moisture, they need to do everything possible to conserve the current soil moisture, especially plant-ing moisture.
One of the biggest robbers of soil moisture is winter weeds. Significant water can be lost from the top two inches – the planting zone – with each tillage event. So, burndown herbicides are recommended over mechanical weed control. Seed quality is critical every year; however, the majority of cotton seed will be planted and expected to emerge under adverse weather conditions. Producers should obtain as much information as possible about the seed quality.
Specifically, producers should obtain percent germination for the warm and cool germination test. These germination tests are not always correlated to in-field emergence, but they are the best indicators currently available. The cool germination test can be conducted by the state seed testing laboratories or can be obtained from the seed companies or distributors by seed lot number.
Over the past several months, several of my colleagues in other states and myself have emphasized the importance of variety selection in our Specialists Speaking comments. Given the lasting effects of selecting the wrong variety for a given situation, the importance of selecting the proper variety cannot be overstated.
To that end, I would encourage you to attend one of the local production meetings hosted by the Extension Service in your area. You will likely have the opportunity to speak with someone who has grown a particular variety in which you may be interested. Drawing from the experience of others should assist you with managing a given variety for optimum performance.
In addition to finalizing your variety selection decisions for 2012, many of you will be gearing up for burndown herbicide applications. In 2011, numerous reports of poor henbit control following burndown applications were received. Although no clear explanation as to why this occurred is available, glyphosate resistance does not appear to be the cause.
Weed scientists here at Mississippi State have screened henbit populations for glyphosate resistance and have reported no positive results. Given that henbit and other winter weed species can harbor insects and mites, a successful burndown program can help minimize the risk of winter weeds contributing to early season insect and mite infestations.
With the advent of 2012, producers in our area are still watching forecasts, looking to the skies and hoping for more precipitation. Although October, November and December all provided close to long-term average rainfall amounts, we have had quite a bit of wind and need some additional help. When we summarize what few 2011 variety testing sites we had that did make it to harvest, the question has to be asked, “What will it mean?”
The likely response should be “not much because we hopefully won’t see another year like 2011.” Some of the varieties that rendered less than stellar performance in 2011 typically have performed well in other years. Therefore, I think that producers should take some of the lessons learned in 2011 and consider varieties that have a recent history of good yield performance and perhaps look back at 2009 and 2010 data.
I still believe that the seed that a producer plants is one of the most significant decisions of the growing season and should not be taken lightly. This is because the seed integrates the biotechnology, yield and quality performance and disease resistance to name a few. Seed treatment technologies have also greatly changed over the past few years, and many companies are offering excellent products.
With seed booking underway right now, it is difficult to determine what might be the best package for a given year, but knowing the history of specific fields will certainly provide information on which to base that selection.
Cotton producers in the Texas High Plains are currently considering varieties for planting and booking seed for the coming season. Variety selection is one of, if not the most important, decisions producers make on an annual basis. With the vast number of commercially available varieties, this task can be daunting. However, there are some considerations that can significantly narrow the field of likely candidates. With the loss of Temik, producers with significant root-knot nematode infestations have little choice but to opt for varieties that have resistance to the pest.
Currently, there are four varieties that are suitable for production in the Texas High Plains. Two contain Roundup Ready Flex and Bollgard II stacked technologies. One has Roundup Ready Flex and WideStrike stacked technologies, and one has Roundup Ready Flex technology only. Also, producers with known Verticillium wilt issues should certainly consider varieties with known tolerance to the pathogen.
Although this disease was not as significant in 2011 as it has been in the past (due in most part to drought conditions), producers should not expect the same in 2012 should moisture return to the region. Drs. Terry Wheeler and Jason Woodward have made available on the Lubbock AgriLife Web site a very informative publication “Response of Cotton Varieties to Diseases on the Southern High Plains of Texas, 2010.” A PDF version can also be obtained by going online to http://lubbock.tamu.edu/files/2011/11/DiseaseRecommendations.pdf. Producers can consider results from variety testing programs of university and industry to help make decisions easier.
We talked earlier this winter about using starter fertilizers with the loss of Temik to improve early growth. I want to reiterate that we know of no safe rate to use in-furrow. This is not a matter of salt injury, but of ammonia evolution that can cause seedling death in the right soil moisture conditions. There are some things we can observe to help with seedling development in the absence of Temik. These include: timely foliar applications for thrips where needed, hill-drop placement of seeds in crusting soils, avoiding planting too deeply on soils that crust, avoiding planting too early and matching cool germination for seed lots with planting conditions.
In the absence of Temik, I think that cool germination is more important than ever. We want to get the plant up and growing so that it can eventually outgrow thrips damage. The seed you buy may have a cool germination value of anywhere from 50 to 90-plus. It is important to use the seed with higher cool germination values when planting under early cool conditions.
Plan ahead to find the cool germination values for the seed lots you intend to plant. Paying close attention to all of these sound agronomic practices can help with seedling development.