DROUGHT CONTINUES IN MISSOURI
Southeast Missouri is blessed with groundwater resources. Irrigation really helped us duringseveral severe droughts within the past five years. The Drought Monitor had our growing area classified as exceptional drought during much of the growing season. I was amazed that some of our non-irrigated ground had really good yields.
These fields had a few timely rains during the early growing season and a few later on. As I write this, we are classified as abnormally dry. The climatologists have stated that we are in a weak El Niño phase with uncertain forecasts for this growing season. The biggest worry is that the subsoil is very dry, so we can’t expect much during the growing season.
In November, we learned that even without recharge, our Bootheel aquifers could supply our current water needs for the next 62 years. That’s a lot of water, but irrigation has certainly helped Missouri producers with excellent yield potential.
With our increase in wheat acres and projected increases in corn and soybeans, it looks like that we will have considerably less acreage than the 330,000 acres planted last season. That is subject to change before planting, so we can hope for more acreage.
One pitfall following drought years is that we really have to be careful with herbicide carryover. Producers will need to sample their fields and plant broadleaf plants to see if injury occurs. It is better knowing about a problem before planting entire fields and seeing the crop injury.
PRICES WILL AFFECT CROP MIXES
Producers are deciding on their crop mixes for the coming year and keeping an eye on commodity prices. The Southeast region has been hit by both low peanut and cotton prices with the prospects for peanuts being low for the next couple of years. Therefore, producers will reduce peanut acreage drastically and may substitute soybeans for peanuts.
Cotton acreage in Florida will not drop as much as in some areas due to lack of infrastructure for grain crops. There will be more corn acres, but there are not enough combines, drying capacity or grain storage for a big increase in acreage.
Cotton prices have rebounded a bit and will help keep it in the mix. As with peanuts and corn, many new cotton varieties are higher yielding, producing higher quality as compared to 10 years ago.
Producers still have a chance to keep good rotations going with cotton, corn and soybeans even if peanut acreage drops significantly. The Southeast is projected to be drier than normal until the first of May and will impact management and planting dates of crops.
PLANNING AHEAD FOR A SUCCESSFUL SEASON
Cotton producers here in Louisiana are busy digging out of the mud, finalizing variety choices and making fertility plans. We received a good bit of precipitation in late December and January, with some areas receiving more than 10 inches of rain. This brought any field operation to a standstill, but, as things dry out, it won’t be long before we are busy prepping for the 2013 crop.
Producers are also going over soil test results and making plans for fertilizer applications. With natural gas prices being down, we are hoping fertilizer prices drop or at least hold steady.
Most forecasts suggest cheaper fertilizer costs in 2013, and a reprieve from high nitrogen prices would be greatly welcomed. We are also making final decisions on variety selection.
Fortunately, we have a number of high-performing varieties from which to choose – some that have been around a few years and some brand new considerations. Information for these can be found in the 2013 Cotton Variety Performance Trials, at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Lastly, weed management seems like a never ending battle. Weed control for us actually began in the fall with some producers applying a fall burndown with preemerge. Some weeds, such as henbit, are much more easily managed with fall burndowns rather than trying to fight mature plants in the spring. Concern over increasing glyphosate-resistant weed populations has many farmers looking more closely at glyphosate alternatives, which is a positive approach to managing resistant weeds before they get out of hand.
VARIETY SELECTION UNDERWAY
Cotton producers in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle are currently considering varieties for planting and booking seed for the 2013 growing 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 and the uncertainty of the generic replacement “Meymik,” producers with significant root-knot nematode infestations should consider 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 (Stoneville 4288B2F and Stoneville 5458B2RF). One has Roundup Ready Flex and WideStrike stacked technologies (PhytoGen 367 WRF) and one has Roundup Ready Flex technology only (Deltapine 174 RF).
Also, producers with known Verticillium wilt issues should certainly consider varieties with known tolerance to the pathogen. Drs. Terry Wheeler and Jason Woodward have made available on the Lubbock AgriLife Web site numerous publications concerning variety performance under disease pressure (http://lubbock.tamu.edu).
DROUGHT AFFECTED NEW MEXICO YIELDS
Cotton yields were satisfactory for many farmers in New Mexico during the past season despite the struggle with persistent drought. The average yield for upland cotton was about 970 pounds per acre, and about 50,000 acres of cotton was planted in the state during 2012.
With the ongoing drought, farmers are already making decisions on which crops to grow in 2013 with the limited irrigation water that they may receive. Although cotton uses less irrigation water than many of the forage crops grown in New Mexico, the uncertainty in lint prices and the currently strong hay prices might lead to a reduction in cotton acreage in 2013.
Hay crops are the most important crops grown in New Mexico, and there is currently a shortage of hay for many dairies within the state and beyond. The high demand for forages led to high hay prices within the past year, and this demand is still holding steady.
Many cotton producers are likely to devote a substantial part of their land to hay crops in 2013. It is uncertain how much cotton acreage will be reduced in 2013, but a conservative estimate puts the reduction at about 10 to 20 percent.
TIMELY RAINS HELPED GEORGIA CROP
The 2012 season will be remembered as one of the better years for most Georgia cotton producers. Frequent rains blessed most of our primary cotton areas across the state, resulting in record statewide yields. There seems to be a renewed optimism for Georgia cotton as many producers are now making decisions for the 2013 crop.
One of the most important decisions a cotton producer can make is selecting a variety for a particular farm or field. Variety decisions should be made based on replicated, robust and multi-year cotton variety performance data, with the most likely yield limiting factor in mind, which could include water limitations, nematodes, weed control or other factors. It is also important to evaluate stability of modern varieties, which is the best predictor for how well a variety is likely to perform across a broad range of soils, rainfall patterns, degree of irrigation, planting dates, harvest dates, management practices, etc.
During 2012, The UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program demonstrated that improper variety selection could cost producers an average of $100 to more than $300 per acre, which is significantly larger than most other single agronomic inputs. This program also highlighted several varieties that perform consistently well across the board, indicating a high degree of stability.
THE TIME HAS ARRIVED
Most producers have formulated a game plan for their particular operations as we continue to move toward the cropping season. The general feeling is that most game plans will include less cotton than was planted last year. However, cotton should at least be kept in your thought process. Cotton handles drought better than many other crops, and if challenging weather conditions arise in 2013, keeping some cotton in the mix may prove to be a good strategy.
In the coming weeks, sprayers will once again return to fields throughout the state making burndown herbicide applications. An effective burndown program will provide the foundation for successful weed control for the rest of the growing season. Given the fact that Mississippi is home to several glyphosate-resistant weed species, weed control programs that utilize multiple modes of action are strongly encouraged in order to achieve effective season-long control of problematic species.
These programs should also be flexible, particularly when relying on residual herbicides. As everyone knows, effective weed control from a residual herbicide is dependent on activating rainfall or irrigation. In the event that rainfall does not occur in a timely manner or irrigation is not available, a contingency plan should be in place to control weed escapes.
Challenges will arise during this cropping season just like any other; however, having a flexible game plan in place will make tackling these challenges a little easier.
Producers have to absorb a lot of information before planting season begins. I look forward to seeing everyone at various meetings across the state during the next couple of months.
RAIN, SNOWFALL NEEDED BEFORE PLANTING
Winter rain and snowfall accumulations started out looking good in November and December and then slowed down to begin 2013. There is still plenty of time in February and March to get some precipitation to improve our projected irrigation water supplies for 2013, so we end up with workable amounts of water for California farmers.
Uncertain irrigation water supply situations may again result in a range of strategies for pre-plant and early season irrigations, postpone or alter some crop choice decisions and impact irrigation strategies for the growing season. A drier beginning to the growing season could again make decisions regarding which fields to plant or fallow, timing of pre-plant irrigations and first post-planting irrigation more difficult.
Cropping patterns continue to change in what has traditionally been cotton acreage, with additions of trees and vines, and continuing year-to-year contraction and expansion of alfalfa, safflower, cotton and small grains acreage. With this in mind, it may be useful to develop some new ideas about where cotton could fit into your production plans and allocated acreage. Irrigation water availability issues may make it valuable to try out a range of cotton varieties that differ in required or desired growing season length.
WINTER MEANS HOMEWORK
As we look forward to another crop production year in 2013, it is time to consider various options and informational needs. Drought in our area is forcing producers to consider hard economic decisions concerning which species might be best. Winter months are also prime time to do homework. A lot of our producers are making or need to make a lot of decisions and implement those over the next few months.
Because of the drought and failure of the last two summer crops in many areas, deep sampling for residual nitrate-nitrogen can be important. There is no doubt that in many fields that have been fertilized over the last couple of years, there should be a considerable amount of residual fertility that should be evaluated using soil testing. Finding this residual fertility – with confidence I might add – can certainly be one way to reduce some input expense.
If planning no-till production, winter weed control issues are important. Horseweed or marestail is a great challenge in many areas. The time to work on control of this weed is now, while it is in the rosette stage – before it bolts into its upright growth. What do we need to be looking at and budgeting for concerning preplant and in-season weed control? Irrigation system tuneup and evaluation will certainly be critical. Over the last two years we have had great challenges with water.
Successful irrigation requires pumping assessment – do I have the sustained gallons/minute/acre to make a good crop in 2013? Are my pivots performing to provide the highest efficiency delivery of the water I can pump? Do I possibly have salinity issues that may be a challenge in certain fields in 2013? Variety performance is also critical. Over the last two years, we have discovered that some of the newer genetics can perform pretty well in some tough environments. These and other topics will be covered in our winter production meetings. Information can also be found at http://ntokcotton.org or http://cotton.okstate.edu.
PLANNING FOR A DRY YEAR
In south and central Texas, most of the cotton production regions received some much needed precipitation the first week of January. The Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend are only about a month from the typical cotton planting dates. However, neither of these regions received sufficient rainfall to overcome the moisture deficiency that has been accumulating over the past two years.
The moisture situation is similar for many cotton production regions in Texas. Looking at the drought monitor from Jan. 8, most of the major cotton production regions in Texas are currently classified as extreme or excessive drought, with the exception of the Upper Gulf Coast. We can only hope the long-term weather forecasts are incorrect, with precipitation predicted below normal and temperatures predicted above normal for the Rolling Plains and High Plains. In south Texas, predictions are for normal precipitation but above-normal temperatures.
Considering the weather predictions and depletion of irrigation water in some regions, many producers are giving very serious thought to all soil moisture conservation measures, specifically no-till and strip-tillage systems. Previous research in the Rolling Plains and south Texas has demonstrated comparable yields in no-tillage and strip-tillage systems compared to conventional tillage. In most situations, the reduced tillage systems resulted in higher economic returns per acre due to lower input costs.
COTTON ACRES WILL DROP IN 2013
Arkansas cotton acres will drop to an all-time low in 2013. Historically, Arkansas has ranked third in the United States in total bales produced behind Texas and Georgia. This trend will most likely end in 2013 due to reduced acres. According to early predictions, cotton acres could fall to 350,000, a potential 40 percent reduction from 2012.
Some of these acres have already been planted in wheat, but most will be rotated to corn or soybean crops. Producers that stick with cotton in 2013 will need to be diligent with management practices to minimize costs as much as possible while maintaining high yields. Costs can be managed best by sticking to the basics. Fertility can be effectively managed by a soil test. Apply nutrients needed in deficient fields, but in areas or fields that have very high levels of P, K, S, etc., costs can be reduced by reducing fertilizer applied.
Nitrogen is needed every year, but in many cases we are applying more nitrogen than we actually need. According to a recent Beltwide study, 80 to 90 units of N maximized cotton yields. Planting date for the Mid-South region is important in maintaining earliness and avoiding late-season pests.
Data from Arkansas pinpoint the week prior to bloom as the most critical time to initiate irrigation. If moisture stress occurs during first bloom, increased small boll shed is imminent once irrigation is started. Producing profitable cotton in 2013 can be achieved by paying more attention to timeliness and reducing costs where applicable. Good luck.