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It's Time For Planters To Roll

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MISSOURI
Mike Milam
milammr@missouri.edu

Missouri cotton producers are attempting to accomplish fieldwork between rainfall events. The farmers who are no-tilling and using conservation tillage are ready to go when planting season begins. The main problem is that of the resistant Palmer pigweed, and a few producers are going back to tillage to help with weed control.

This will be an expensive crop due to the extra steps in weed control. There are a few producers who are trying to lease their land to let someone else tackle the problem.

As we approach planting season, we have plenty of moisture with warmer-than-normal temperatures and an equal chance for having above, below or normal rainfall forecast for March, April and May. This information comes from the Climate Outlook linked to the Drought Monitor. According to Pat Guinan, state climatologist with the University of Missouri’s Commercial Agriculture Program, this winter was the mildest since 1991-1992 and is in the top five mildest winters.

Since December, the monthly temperatures have been four to six degrees above normal in Missouri. In the southeast region, we are generally warmer than the rest of the state.

With warmer temperatures expected, producers will need to monitor pigweed and make sure that they don’t go to seed. There are burndown and residual options, but producers will need to follow the labels to prevent crop injury.


FLORIDA
David Wright
wright@ufl.edu

Profit potential for cotton is highest when the crop has not been planted and no droughts or floods or packing rains have impacted it. There is a lot of optimism and excitement every spring at planting over the potential of the crop, as well as new available technology and varieties. Testing over the past three to four years has shown a marked improvement for the new varieties that appear to have raised the yield bar significantly.

New technology and better weed control options have also given producers hope that resistant weeds can be contained, and crops can be grown more cheaply when a proper pest management plan is followed. Producers again have the option of rotating with corn, soybean and peanuts as prices of each crop have a good chance to return a profit if good yields are made.

Some of the new high-yielding varieties of cotton are in short supply, but recent releases are very competitive, and producers should try to get a few bags of the newer varieties to begin looking at growth characteristics and how to manage them along with the technology.


LOUISIANA
John Kruse
Jkruse@agcenter.lsu.edu

Cotton planting season is right around the corner in Louisiana. Soil temperatures are warming up, but the rains continued, particularly in the central part of the state. Many cotton producers in Louisiana rotate acres with corn, and corn planting has begun in earnest when they can find a field dry enough to plant. Producers will want to remember that their production practices early on set the stage for the future success of their crop.

With the loss of aldicarb (Temik), producers will be relying more than ever on the efficacy of seed treatments. Nematodes, in particular, can be a challenge, and our Extension nematologist recommends using root-knot nematode-tolerant varieties if that species is present in high numbers. Reniform-tolerant varieties are not currently available, but major seed companies are working on it (but it may be a while yet).

Fertilizer prices have many producers looking closely at their input budgets. The best practice is to soil test and apply the recommended amounts. In this way, the producer is applying exactly what is needed, and only what is needed.

Nitrogen recommendations should be based on realistic yield goals and should take into account residual nitrogen in the soil. Be cautious of applying too many micronutrients in-furrow at planting, particularly zinc, as it can have a negative effect
on germination.

If producers are conditioned to include zinc in-furrow for their corn, they may forget that cotton is different and not nearly as tolerant. Louisiana producers are including more herbicides with residuals in their cotton herbicide program, attempting to push back the day that glyphosate is no longer an effective tool.


ARKANSAS
Tom Barber
tbarber@uaex.edu

May temperatures in March have many producers anxious to get started on planting some cotton seed. Although warmer-than-normal temperatures in March can get our blood pumping, we need to remember the potential for cooler weather moving back into the South. No one wants to see a late frost like the one in April of 2007, but we do know that it is a possibility.

Planting dates play a major role in yield potential each year. This especially holds true with cotton. The flooding and cool conditions last spring resulted in one of the latest-planted crops we have had in Arkansas. Late-planted cotton can still yield well, but it is a gamble and is completely dependent on temperatures in September. Assuming the weather cooperates, an early planted crop can maximize yield and profitability most years, with fewer input costs associated with supplemental irrigation and potentially reduced applications for plant bugs and late season pests.

Many years, planting earlier on the calendar can reduce overall infestations of all pests. However, soil and air temperatures, as well as moisture content, play the key roles in seedling establishment, and planting should be scheduled based on these environmental conditions instead of the calendar.


TEXAS
Gaylon Morgan
gmorgan@ag.tamu.edu

As of mid-March, the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend of Texas had a very dry fall and winter. However, rains of two to four inches occurred in February and delayed the grain and cotton plantings in these areas. Less than 30 percent of the cotton crop had been planted and was behind the five-year average. In these regions, soil profile is estimated to be about 50 to 70 percent, depending on the crop rotation and tillage practices, and this is compared to a full-soil profile in 2011.

In this situation, the success of the 2012 cotton crop will depend on timely in-season rainfall. In the Upper Gulf Coast, upwards of eight inches of rain has occurred during the past two months. This has delayed corn and sorghum planting and will likely cause a delay in cotton planting. The Blacklands are in good shape on soil moisture, and some of the 2011 cotton acres are currently being planted into corn in 2012. The Southern Rolling Plains and Rolling Plains have caught a couple of inches of rain over the winter, but soil profile moisture remains below normal.

The Section 18 label of TopGuard from Cheminova for managing cotton root rot in Texas cotton has resulted in a lot of excitement for cotton producers across West and South Texas. As with all new products, especially with a perennial disease like cotton root rot, there will be a steep learning curve this year for the producers, Extension and research folks, as well as consultants. TopGuard is expected to be applied to more than 250,000 acres, and everyone should have a better idea of the strengths and weakness of the product after this season.


MISSISSIPPI
Darrin Dodds
darrind@ext.msstate.edu

Cotton planters will begin to roll this month, beginning a journey that will likely end in September or October. Although many preparations have been made to get to this point, the one thing that can never be counted on is the weather. Weather conditions last year seemed to be following the path of a roller coaster as warm conditions were followed by cool conditions, which were followed by warm conditions.

Although the urge to get out in the field and get the growing season started can be strong, keep a watchful eye on the immediate and long-range weather forecasts. Waiting a few days to avoid inclement weather may save you some sleepless nights worrying about the fate of the cotton you just planted.

Once your crop becomes established, focus should turn to early season pest management. This is particularly true for thrips. A large percentage of acres in Mississippi received insecticide applications for thrips even when a premium seed treatment package was utilized. Several factors certainly contributed to this, albeit the weather being one of them. If you are one who likes to plant early, keep a keen eye on your crop as poor weather conditions after planting may have a detrimental impact on your crop.

Have a good planting season and be safe.


OKLAHOMA
Randy Boman
randy.boman@okstate.edu

Late winter and early spring weather in our region has been significantly better than what we encountered last year at this time. We still have a long way to go in rainfall and runoff to get spring crops to harvest and to prep our fields, reservoirs and alluvial aquifers for summer ones. The winter has been very mild, and a lot of things were a little different this year. The winter weeds came on with a vengeance, germinating after late 2011 rainfall, and then coming out swinging with early seed production.

Common groundsel has been a real challenge for a lot of our no-till producers. This weed seemingly came out of nowhere to get established and raced into reproductive mode by early February. We are rapidly getting down to the wire on preplant burndown applications due to the plant-back interval required for many products.

We have an excellent market for our crop in spite of lower prices compared to last year. Hopefully, producers will take heed of potential glyphosate resistance and be wise with herbicide management in 2012. I want to say good luck to everyone and remember that in 2011 we went through the worst drought on record, which, according to NASS, resulted in the lowest production and harvested acreage in Oklahoma since records began in 1894. It will be better in 2012.


NORTH CAROLINA
Keith Edmisten
keith_edmisten@ncsu.edu

We have talked several times this winter about producers dealing with producing cotton without Temik. I mentioned before that in-furrow applications of starter fertilizers can be very damaging to cotton. We also need to keep in mind that seed treatments generally do a good job on thrips for us. A major difference between thrips control with seed treatments and Temik is the length of control. Seed treatments provide about three weeks of control versus about five weeks with the five-pound rate of Temik. Producers need to pay close attention to cotton to make sure that foliar applications are made for thrips control where needed in a timely fashion.

Once we see the obvious thrips damage to cotton leaves, we have likely already delayed maturity and possibly reduced yields. Research has shown that when thrips pressure is significant, foliar applications are most beneficial when they are made early at the cotyledon to one-leaf stage.

Last year was a year with a lot of stress due to dry weather. We saw some varieties not perform as well as they had in the past. We have no idea what this year might hold, but planting multiple varieties certainly spreads the risk.


TEXAS
Mark Kelley
m-kelley@tamu.edu

In the Texas High Plains, cotton planting time is quickly approaching. At the time of this writing, we are still considered to be under extreme drought conditions. Although there have been some precipitation events, they haven’t amounted to much in terms of inches. Typically, these events are followed by high wind events that tend to reduce the amount of moisture going into the soil profile.

For the most part, cotton producers have made variety selections and have their fields ready for planting and are just waiting on significant rainfall and warmer temperatures to plant. We just recently have had a rain event that provided much needed moisture. However, the highest reported measurement was 0.5 inches in the Lubbock region.

Most producers I have visited with concerning irrigation strategies for 2012 as compared to 2011 have indicated that they plan to reduce the amount of pre-plant irrigation applied – especially under center pivot systems (LESA or LEPA).


CALIFORNIA
Bob Hutmacher
rbhutmacher@ucdavis.edu

Weather patterns leading up to the 2012 planting season have been unusual, with a relatively warm January and February and an extraordinarily dry winter season right up until mid-March when some rains finally came. Uncertain weather and forecasts of limitations in irrigation water supplies have already resulted in a range of strategies for pre-plant and early season irrigations, and these will impact irrigation scheduling and strategies from here on out.

Many producers have been restricted or uncertain about available irrigation water and up into early March hadn’t seen much winter rain to replenish soil profiles – resulting in reductions in pre-plant irrigation amounts in fields planted to cotton, as well as some other crops. In addition to being drier than normal, increases in plantings of some other crops, including safflower, a wide range of vegetables and continued tree and vine plantings, mean that your cotton plantings may have “neighboring crops”– a little different than in past times.

This situation may warrant some extra attention later on, since the mix of pests and beneficial insects you end up with and treatment options may require some adjustments going forward. At least at planting time, stick with some tried-and-true approaches (wait for good, solid five-day heat unit forecasts for planting combined with acceptable soil temperatures, carefully check for early season insect and disease problems with seedlings and check on upper soil moisture relative to depth of rooting when trying to diagnose early season stand and vigor problems).

Heat unit forecasts are available in multiple places, including the UC cotton Web site: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu. Since cotton is known to be quite salt-tolerant, many producers will see their cotton ground competing with more salt-sensitive crops for limited supplies of their best quality irrigation water. With this in mind, decisions are likely to utilize some more degraded water supplies, perhaps somewhat saline ones, for cotton ground.

With use of more saline water and a potential water-short year, plant growth and yields can be impacted by combination stresses produced by delayed irrigations/water stress, as well as salt accumulations.


ALABAMA
Charles Burmester
burmech@auburn.edu

For the last two seasons, five northern Alabama counties have not been able to apply the herbicide fluometuron (Cotoran) on cotton fields due to groundwater concerns. In February, EPA approved a supplemental label for Cotoran use in these counties through the 2014 cropping season. This label restricts Cotoran use near karst soil features, such as sink holes and disappearing streams.

It also does allow the use of Cotoran on very sandy soils with high water tables. Farmers in these five counties must have a copy of this supplemental label before applying Cotoran in 2012. Most Alabama cotton farmers are growing several row crops besides cotton, and weed resistance is requiring the use of more residual herbicide products. Reading and following label restrictions is critical in planning the crop rotations many Alabama farmers are now using. We must follow all label restrictions closely to maintain these products in the future.


GEORGIA
Guy Collins
guyc@uga.edu

Planting of the 2012 cotton crop in Georgia will soon be underway. Acreage should be similar to that of 2011, depending on several factors, such as prices of other commodities and the weather (rainfall) prior to and during the planting season. Time will tell. The current moisture situation has slightly improved as I write this on March 17, due to a few rain events during early March.

However, continuing rain throughout planting and beyond will be very important to the success of the 2012 crop, as we have been relatively dry throughout most of the winter.

Temperatures have also been warmer than usual throughout much of the winter, with daily highs exceeding 80 degrees by mid-March. As a result, pigweed began to emerge during that time in a few places, reminding us that effective weed management begins much earlier than planting. This also reminds us of the importance of starting the season CLEAN.

The challenges of the 2011 planting season illustrated how difficult stand establishment can be when conditions remain hot and dry throughout planting. Although the weather is out of our control, there are a few things producers can control, such as seeding rate, planting depths and planting into good moisture, which could help avoid stand establishment issues.


ARIZONA
Randy Norton
rnorton@ag.arizona.edu

Planting season is upon us for the 2012 cotton season, and decisions are being made as to proper timing of placing seed in the ground. Remember that the temperature experienced by the seed during the first critical hours and days after planting will, to a large extent, determine emergence and eventual stand establishment. Optimum soil temperatures for seed germination are between 60 and 65 degrees. Temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees become marginal and below 55 degrees are dangerous and likely will result in reduced germination and unacceptable stand establishment.

Soil temperatures typically reach the optimum range when air temperatures reach more than 80 degrees for highs during the day and stay above 50 degrees for low temperatures overnight. Waiting for adequate soil temperatures will increase the likelihood of obtaining adequate seed germination and stand establishment and reduce the likelihood of experiencing a situation where a replant decision would have to be made.

It is also critical that a good forecast is predicted for the first three to five days after planting. Cotton advisories are produced on a weekly basis by the University of Arizona, providing current soil temperature data along with forecast information for the week in all cotton-producing regions across Arizona.

These advisories and regular updates can always be found at the University of Arizona’s various crop information Web sites, which can be accessed at cals.arizona.edu/crops.

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