COOLER, WET WEATHER DELAYS PLANTING
Last year by April 15, Missouri producers had four percent of their cotton planted, which was 24 days ahead of schedule. This year, there were no cotton plantings reported by this date, according to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report. Last year, the March 1-April 15 average temperatures were running at 62.6 degrees. In 2013, for the same dates, our average was 47.9.
Although we have reached the 70s and 80s during the day, we still have night temperatures in the 30s and 40s. At this time, we have adequate moisture for planting. The Drought Monitor is forecasting above-average temperatures through June and an equal chance of above, below or average rainfall.
In our area, corn planting has been delayed, and rice planting is slightly behind schedule. With the higher cotton prices and lower corn and soybean prices, it is uncertain how much of our cotton acreage will increase. Several producers have indicated that they will plant more cotton.
We are again facing the glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed. So, producers will need to carefully scout their fields for emerging weeds. It is critical to hit these plants hard when they are one to two inches tall. When these weeds can grow an inch each day, there is not much time to spray. Again, it will be important to keep the plants from going to seed. By reducing the seed bank, it is possible to keep these problem weeds under control.
PRODUCERS SHOULD SET HIGHER GOALS
Top yields of cotton and other summer crops are made if planted by early May in most years. Farmers do as much preparation as they can to get the right amount of fertilizer, good weed control, and having adequate moisture available for the seed when it is put in the ground. Even with the best planning, there are still challenges to getting everything planted timely and the crop off to a good start.
When we consider that cotton has a yield potential of 4,000 pounds per acre of lint, and our state average yields are less than one-fourth of that, we have a lot of room for improvement in management and understanding how to make the crop. With better genetics and a better understanding of what is required for producing the crop, we will move toward that yield goal over the next decade.
Many producers are doing an outstanding job of managing their crops, and we hope to see an improvement on the record yields that were made in 2012.
COST/BENEFIT OF SEED TREATMENTS QUESTIONED
Temperatures have warmed up nicely over the past weeks, soil moisture is excellent and planters have been rolling. Corn in some areas has had some stand issues due to poor weather and bird predation, and some of those acres have been claimed back by cotton. When evaluating stands for cotton, shoot for two to three plants per foot on 30- to 40-inch row spacing.
A number of producers have voiced concern over the cost/benefit of various seed treatments: insecticide, nematicides and fungicides. The simple matter is to avoid buying seed treatments that you don’t need. If you anticipate good early season growing conditions, base fungicide will usually suffice. Seedling disease is usually most severe under cool, damp conditions. If nematodes are not an issue in your field, you shouldn’t need a nematicide seed treatment, although the nematicide in Aeris does offer some protection from western flower thrips. Speaking of thrips, do not depend entirely upon your seed treatments for adequate protection. The length of protection achieved will vary from seven to 18 days post emergence, depending on the seed treatment used and the species of thrips encountered.
Regardless, scout your cotton beginning at the first true leaf. Don’t wait for the evidence of damage to trigger a foliar spray. Use a Solo cup, beat the plant on the inside of the cup and then look closely for immature thrips (wingless). There may be adults present that aren’t feeding, but the presence of immature thrips indicates the seed treatment is losing efficacy. At this point, a foliar spray may be warranted. Once the cotton has four true leaves, it should be safe from thrips injury.
HIGH PLAINS NEEDS MORE RAIN
The Texas High Plains has ordered rain for the 2013 growing season, but it is currently on back order. Producers in the area are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. If anything has been proven in the last two years, it is the resilience and faith of our producers in the face of adversity and less-than-optimal conditions.
Cotton acres continue to fluctuate and have not settled at this point. Estimates are such that we could see anywhere from 3.7 to 4 million acres of the estimated 5.5 million acres of upland cotton plantings for the state planted in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle. Producers are busy working the soil, and, in some parts of the region, have begun to pre-water in preparation for the upcoming planting season.
Also, isolated reports of available soil moisture four to eight inches below the surface to depths of up to 24 inches have been received from local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension County Agents and producers in some areas. The freezing temperatures observed on April 9-10 cooled the soil significantly, but with a warm forecast, soil temperatures should rebound quickly. With warm soil and hopefully two to three inches of precipitation, cotton planters should be rolling across the Texas High Plains by early May.
LIMITED MOISTURE AFFECTS PLANTING
As of April 19, the dryland cotton in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and Coastal Bend of Texas were planted but only a small percentage emerged due to very limited soil moisture and very limited rainfall. This region of the state is categorized as “exceptional” drought, the worst drought category. In the RGV, planted irrigated acres were down substantially this year. Irrigation water has been very limited, and this remains the case.
Winter and early spring were dry in much of the Upper Coast and had producers nervous about planting moisture near the end of March. Much of the Upper Gulf Coast did receive some good precipitation at the end of March, but this resulted in replanting for many producers and good planting moisture for others. As a whole, the Upper Gulf Coast is about two weeks behind normal on cotton establishment and development.
By the middle of April, about 80 to 90 percent of the cotton in the Blacklands will be planted and generally into good soil moisture conditions. Most of the cotton production areas within the Rolling Plains remain in an “exceptional” or “extreme” drought. Some scattered showers have provided temporary relief for specific areas, but these rains came with some cold weather that wreaked havoc on the wheat crop.
WEATHER PROBLEMS CREATE CHALLENGES
Challenges just keep coming for agricultural producers in western Oklahoma. Late freezes have unfortunately damaged considerable wheat acreage in Oklahoma, especially the southwestern part of the state. Producers will be making decisions over the next few weeks concerning how to handle the damaged wheat acres. Lint prices are relatively good at this time.
Many producers tend to overlook seed income, and gin-run cottonseed has recently been of high enough value to cover ginning costs, plus return some money back to the producer. This can provide producers who have failed wheat acres an opportunity to rotate to cotton. A cotton rotation would enable producers to diversify wheat weed and disease management programs. Also, the overall crop rotation benefit could be observed.
Cotton varieties with Roundup Ready Flex and GlyTol traits allow full season over-the-top glyphosate applications. Varieties with the LibertyLink trait also have full-season tolerance to Liberty herbicide, and some new GlyTol/LibertyLink stacked varieties are available. These technologies can be extremely beneficial in terms of broad-spectrum weed control. Additional residual herbicides should also be included in a cotton weed management program.
If planting other crops in 2014, producers should carefully note any potentially limiting crop rotation restrictions per the respective herbicide label. If producers opt to graze out or cut and bale existing wheat forage, they can prepare these fields for planting cotton.
Extension information on cotton production in Oklahoma is available at cotton.okstate.edu and ntokcotton.org.
A CHALLENGING SPRING FOR PRODUCERS
Weather conditions this spring have been challenging to producers in Mississippi and beyond. At the time of this writing, we are awaiting another one to two inches of predicted rainfall this evening and a greater than 50 percent chance of additional rainfall early next week. Corn planting is more than 30 percent behind the five-year average for this time of year, and virtually no soybeans have been planted. By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, the insurance date for corn will have passed, and it will be interesting to see if this has an effect on cotton acreage.
Once a break in the weather occurs, fieldwork will occur at a rapid pace. Although everyone is behind and has a list of tasks a mile long to complete, please remember to exercise caution around farm equipment. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to result in serious injuries and/or fatalities. Take a few extra minutes to complete a given task in a proper manner but also in a safe manner. Doing so will reduce the risk of injury and help ensure your safety throughout the growing season.
TIMING BURNDOWN BEFORE PLANTING
The northern half of Alabama has been fighting glyphosate-resistant horseweed (marestail) for several years. Many farmers have been adding some form of dicamba herbicide in their burndown applications to control this weed prior to planting. In 2012, I received many complaints and saw fields where horseweeds were stunted but not killed with this application.
We have been looking at this problem in greenhouse and field studies since last season. One of the big things I am seeing this year is that the horseweed plants are much smaller compared to this time last year. The very warm weather in February and March 2012 produced many horseweed plants six inches or taller.
I definitely think size of the horseweeds last season was a big factor in our control problem. The smaller horseweeds this season should be much easier to control with dicamba, and I have seen no horseweed control problems at this time. Even with the winter weeds, we must pay more attention to their size and less attention to the calendar during burndown.
COOL WEATHER DELAYS PLANTING
Southwest Georgia experienced a mild cool spell during the latter part of April, after which cotton planting began. Very little cotton was planted in April this year, as corn planting was largely pushed later in the spring due to frequent rainfall. Soil moisture in late April remained sufficient and even excessive in places.
All in all, many producers went into the planting period with adequate surface moisture and replenished subsoil moisture. It will be important as always for producers to monitor early season growth and plant stands. Timely applications for thrips and careful monitoring of seedling vigor will hopefully get this year’s crop off to a good start.