Weather continues to be the force that is most affecting our cotton. According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending June 10, squaring is at 25 percent or beyond, which is 14 days ahead of last year and 11 days ahead of normal. Cotton condition was six percent very poor, 24 percent poor, 46 percent fair, 22 percent good and two percent excellent.
The Drought Monitor dated June 12 shows that most of our production area is now in the moderate-to-severe category. In fact, even with scattered showers, the area of severe drought in Southeast Missouri doubled from the previous week. The forecast through August shows higher-than-normal temperatures and little likelihood for much rainfall.
According to our Extension climatologist, Dr. Pat Guinan, April and May in Southeast Missouri were shaping up to be the driest in 118 years. Missouri set a number of record highs this past month. The heat units for May 1 planted cotton through June 14 were 688 compared with 533 for the same period last year. Last year, much of our cotton was planted well after the recommended planting date.
With the warmer temperatures and “flash” drought, thrips, tarnished plant bugs and spider mites pose a greater threat. Irrigation will be needed to supplement our scant rainfall. Pigweed control will continue to be a challenge, and we already have hoeing crews trying to get rid of the escapes.
Producers go into every year with different expectations when growing cotton. Last year was one of the toughest years our producers faced during planting and the growing season, but harvest turned out well and most received a good price. There was a lot of uncertainty about where prices might be at planting this year. Producers planted slightly less cotton on adequate rainfall in most areas with dry pockets in some areas and excessive rainfall in other areas.
Overall, the crop is looking good going into bloom period with good stands and weed control in most cases. Our irrigated areas are being looked at closely since water table levels are at historic lows in several areas near high population centers, and the long- term outlook is for higher water withdrawal from the aquifer.
Producers are spending more money during the establishment phase of cotton production, and many are looking at putting in additional irrigation systems to ensure high yields. Research and Extension efforts are aimed at helping producers make better yields with fewer inputs, and research will become more important as we have more competition for scarce resources.
As I write this on June 15, which marks the end of our planting window in Georgia, the large majority of the 2012 cotton crop continues to be off to a good start. The progression of planting was about 10 percent ahead of schedule for most of the planting period, with a few acres planted just before our planting window ended. Rainfall continued to bless most of the state up through mid-June.
Of course, rains could subside at any given time, but, in general, the 2012 situation is much better than it was during mid-June last year with regard to soil moisture status. As of June 15, the majority of cotton in southwest Georgia ranged from eight to 12 leaves and was growing vigorously. Very few widespread concerns were experienced in southwest Georgia by mid-June, largely due to adequate rains in most areas. Many of the pre-bloom PGR applications were made during that time.
Monitoring growth will continue to be important, especially if rains continue. For cotton planted in early May, the early bloom PGR applications will likely be made during early July and may have already been treated once during early squaring. For later planted cotton, pre-bloom PGR applications will likely be made in early July.
Due to the vast range in growth potential and maturity of our modern cotton varieties, producers need to consider the current environment, field history and variety growth potential when making PGR decisions. For some dryland fields planted in moderate-to-less aggressive varieties, PGR applications may need to be delayed until cotton approaches first bloom unless continued rains result in excessive growth prior to onset of blooming.
Across Texas as of mid-June, we have been experiencing above-normal temperatures and heat unit accumulations. So, where adequate moisture is present, the crop is progressing quickly. The irrigated cotton in the Rio Grande Valley looked good with great yield potential and some cracked bolls being observed. The dryland cotton in the RGV and Coastal Bend of Texas is quite dry with very limited precipitation and high temperatures the past 30 days.
The yield potential in these areas is highly variable depending on where scattered showers have hit this season. In these dry areas, the yield potential is probably between 0.5 and 0.75 bales per acre. In the Blacklands, the cotton was early to mid-bloom with the yield potential good in most fields. The Northern Blacklands and Upper Gulf Coast have received consistent rains this season and have a great looking crop. The Southern Blacklands has had less precipitation, but some timely rains fell across much of the area over the past two weeks. The Northern Rolling Plains has received some decent moisture the past 30 days, and most of the cotton is off to a good start. However, the Central and Southern Rolling Plains have been less fortunate with minimal moisture to establish a good stand. The Southern Rolling Plains has about 85 percent of the crop up and growing.
Producers across much of the state are starting to observe poor control of pigweed (Palmer amaranth and/or common waterhemp) with glyphosate. Some of the glyphosate-resistant populations have been confirmed, while others are suspected glyphosate-resistant populations.
When managing these pigweeds, we need to remember to alternate herbicides and/or use tankmix partners with glyphosate. Also, we need to be sure to manage the weed populations following grain harvest with alternative burndown herbicides, tankmixes or tillage. We must remember that it is much more feasible to prevent or postpone herbicide resistance than to remediate the problem.
The Louisiana cotton crop is off to a pretty good start this summer. As of this writing, most of the crop was between match head square and early bloom, with some double-cropped cotton (behind wheat) just at two-to-three nodes or so. We received a couple of inches of rain almost statewide in mid-June that really helped bring the crop along. Many producers are anxious about how to handle plant growth regulator rates and timing with our relatively new varieties, combined with a different summer compared to the constantly dry one we experienced last year.
Be that as it may, a surge in cotton growth is what one producer told me is a “good problem to have.” There is no doubt that we had our share of thrips again this year, and spider mites seem to be a constant problem, but not out of control. Many producers have started spraying for plant bugs, and we were fortunate to have received a Section 18 permit for sulfoxaflor. The efficacy data on plant bugs in trials in Louisiana and the Mid-South for this new product is encouraging.
We have not seen many fertility issues yet in cotton, but they seem to show up later in the year as boll load reaches a critical stage. The number of planted acres is down substantially in Louisiana this year as acreage dropped about 22 percent from around 289,000 acres last year to 225,000 this year. The price of cotton on the exchange was dropping pretty steadily in the period of time when producers had to make firm decisions about whether to plant cotton or soybeans.
By contrast, the price of beans was holding steady, so we had a significant shift. Hopefully, the cotton price will rebound and producers will return many of those lost acres to cotton production next year. The new Farm Bill will play a factor in producer decisions, but since it is still changing as it moves its way through Congress, no one is sure how it will turn out for cotton.
With the reduced price of growth regulators, there has been a lot of interest in using mepiquat at various times during the bloom period. Research shows that to get consistent responses to mepiquat you need to make applications in early bloom. Applications made later than that have not resulted in little if any positive measurement in terms of plant height and earliness. There is a perception that mepiquat will keep or put cotton in a reproductive mode. That is not true.
Once you reach bloom, cotton stays in a reproductive mode. It becomes a matter of having resources to fill existing fruit versus actually keeping younger fruit. The plant will continue to make the fruit. You may or may not keep it based on existing boll load and the availability of resources such as moisture.
Cotton in Mississippi is ahead of normal due to our planting window occurring about two weeks earlier than usual. The earliest blooms were located during the last few days of May and first few days of June. Although these fields are the exception rather than the rule, this illustrates the point being ahead of normal. Given the earliness of the crop so far this year, plant growth regulator applications have also begun and will continue as needed.
In addition, many producers are in position to begin irrigation as weather and crop conditions dictate. These applications will likely begin during the third to fourth week of June.
Plant bug applications began during the first week of June and, given our past history with this problematic pest, applications will likely continue throughout the growing season. Given the early start we achieved for the 2012 growing season, an earlier- than-usual harvest season is also anticipated. In order to capitalize on the potential earliness of this year’s crop, judicious management of insect, weed and other pests is encouraged. While harvest is still some time away, it is not too early to start managing for earliness.
Now that the crop is established, it becomes important to turn our attention to the “prime-time” of cotton making, which is the primary fruiting cycle from first appearance of pinhead square through cutout, which typically happens in late August to early September. Monitoring crop progress through this cycle is important, allowing us to watch for departures from normal and then promptly address potential causes for the observed deviations.
Cotton developmental stages have been well correlated to heat units accumulated after planting (HUAP). In crop monitoring, we need to be looking for a few important “milestones.” Under normal conditions, these milestones should occur in a very predictable fashion, which will be highly correlated to HU accumulations. These important phenological events include occurrence of pinhead square (700-900 HUAP), first bloom (1100-1300 HUAP), peak bloom (1900-2100 HUAP) and cutout (2500-2700 HUAP).
Each week in the University of Arizona Cotton Advisory, data is presented on four representative planting dates and their respective HUAP for the day of the Advisory. Monitoring your field for the occurrence of these phenological stages will help identify deviations from normal along with identification of the factors contributing to the deviations. These factors might include nutrient deficiencies, insect pressure, water stress, heat stress, salt stress, etc. Many of these factors may be addressed with corrective actions.
Research has indicated that a crop following normal developmental timelines has the greatest yield potential. Other important crop growth and development data to monitor are vegetative/reproductive balance and fruit load. Height-to-node ratio (HNR) and percent fruit retention (FR) measurements have proven to be useful data to monitor crop growth. This data can be used to schedule plant growth regulator (PGR) applications efficiently. Baselines for normal levels of both HNR and FR as a function of HUAP have been developed and are available along with instructions for collecting this type of data and how the data may be used on the Arizona Crop Information Site (ACIS) at cals.arizona.edu/crops.
The 2012 Oklahoma cotton crop is off to a relatively good start in many places. Although effects of the 2011 drought still linger in some areas, there is no doubt that conditions are more favorable for most producers than in 2012. Most irrigated cotton is up to a good stand, with many of these acres planted from early to late May. Some earlier planted cotton is up to the 9- to 10-leaf stage and squaring. Insect pest issues have generally been light in most areas.
Mid-May planted cotton is typically in the 7- to 8-leaf stage. Most of the remaining acreage is dryland with poor or variable moisture that seems to improve with spotty small rainfall events scattered throughout the area. This is good news from the dryland cotton perspective and has allowed many producers to get a crop established.
The bad news is that, in spite of many days of somewhat seasonal temperatures, every now and then we get hit with a “haymaker day” such as June 10 where temperatures reached 109 degrees at Altus.
Cotton that has been strip-tilled and planted into terminated small grains cover looks excellent, apart from some high wind events that occurred to slightly “rag up” an otherwise picturesque crop.
The Lugert-Altus Reservoir is about 23 percent of capacity, which is the lowest amount at the end of May since at least 1993. Even though we have had some rainfall in the watershed, there has not been enough inflow to improve the situation.
The High Plains has generally experienced above-normal high and low temperatures for the first half of June. Heat unit accumulations at Lubbock total 205 DD60s from June 1 to June 12 vs. 185 for the long-term average. Based on the data from the CottonHeatUnits.com Web site at Lubbock, we are 140 heat units above our long-term average from May 1 to June 12, or 29 percent above average.
In terms of precipitation for the year (Jan. 1 to June 12), we are currently 3.4 inches below average. However, at the time of this writing, we received 1.15 inches of rainfall at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center overnight, which will put us a bit closer to the long-term average. The system that brought this precipitation appeared on radar to be widespread and provided much needed moisture to a large portion of the region.
For the most part, the cotton stands appear to be in fair-to- good condition with a few exceptions in areas where wind damage has occurred over the past few days or where seedling disease is present. Growth stages of these crops range from emerging to very early squaring. During my travels to Crosby and Floyd Counties earlier in the week, dry planted cotton fields and our variety trials were beginning to emerge following the recent rains.
With high temperatures forecast in the 90s for the next 10 days and cotton reaching the squaring stage, crop water requirements for these fields will quickly deplete soil moisture and may reach critical levels in areas that missed out on recent rain events. Although a slight chance of rain exists in the 10-day forecast, producers need to continue to closely monitor their fields and try not to get behind on irrigation.
June was a good month for rainfall in many areas of Alabama due primarily to a low-pressure system that moved slowly across the state early in the month. While it is often easy to understand the importance of late-season rainfall, long-term crop rotation research conducted by Dr. Charles Mitchell, Extension soil specialist at Auburn University, has shown the importance of June rainfall on cotton yield trends.
Typically, the highest yields in these studies were recorded during years with adequate-to-optimum rainfall that occurred during early season vegetative development and boll initiation. Irrigation and water use management have been major topics of concern for Alabama crop producers for several years. In many cases, irrigation was primarily to supplement natural rainfall but was not enough to supply the crop’s needs completely.
Irrigation and water conservation will be highlighted at a meeting on Aug. 15 in Montgomery, Ala., to bring rural and agricultural sectors together to address this critical issue. Sponsors of the summit include the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Alabama Irrigation Initiative, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Ag Credit, Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Office of the State Climatologist. Registration began on June 1. For more information and to register, visit http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/water/conf/2012.
Cotton season in New Mexico has started on a very good note. The temperature warmed up early enough, and many producers started planting from around the middle of April. Crop establishment has been very good across the cotton-growing counties in the state. There has been no report of seed or seedling pests or diseases.
In the southwestern region, cotton production may be down by about 25 percent – mainly due to hay prices that have stayed very strong over the past several months. Some farmers in the state who were attracted to cotton last year have decided to move to hay crops this year because of better prices.
We had some helpful rains about six weeks ago in the southwestern and eastern areas. There is expectation that we’ll have more rain in July and August. We have already had some days where the temperatures were above 100 degrees, which may indicate the need for more frequent irrigations.
Generally, it appears the season has started very well and looks good for cotton production in New Mexico, provided farmers have enough water.