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Ark. Consultants Cope With Drought

By Tommy Horton
Editor

Nobody ever said it was easy being a crop consultant in eastern Arkansas – mainly because the weather has been downright volatile during the last two years.

In 2011, cotton producers in the region were dealing with the Mississippi River and its tributaries flooding to record levels. Then, along came the 2012 crop season, and a serious drought affected the area. In short, it has been a challenge growing crops in this part of the state.

Despite the drought this past year, veteran consultants Dale Wells and Les Goodson were pleased with how cotton performed, but they did learn some important lessons along the way.

“For cotton, the season was better than what we expected,”says Wells. “The dryland acreage took it on the chin, and only did well in a few areas. There just wasn’t much in the dryland corners of the center pivots. But the irrigated cotton did pretty well, and our best acreage did about 1,500 pounds per acre.”

Irrigation Scheduling
Wells has consulted for more years than he’d like to admit, and says he encountered a few problems in 2012. He is concerned that current plant bug threshold levels may need to be adjusted. He and Goodson plan to study that situation during the winter months. Wells also wants to study how residual herbicide applications can potentially affect cotton root development during the season.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “Residual herbicides do a great job against resistant weeds, but, in some of our furrow-irrigated fields, the cotton roots just didn’t grow off.”

As for how Arkansas cotton producers are dealing with weed resistance, Wells says the problem hasn’t gone away, but it is manageable. He believes the residual herbicide program works effectively in a Roundup Ready or Liberty Link system.

Goodson echoes Wells’ feelings and is also convinced that his eastern Arkansas producers can deal with droughts because irrigated acres have such a plentiful water source.

“We’re blessed here in Northeast Arkansas to have such an abundant water supply,” he says. “The vast majority of our acres are irrigated and most of that is by center pivots, which help activate residual herbicides.”

High Performing Varieties
Wells and Goodson scout a lot of cotton acres, and the varieties include DP 0912, ST 5458 and ST 5445. In the University of Arkansas Official Variety Trials, three varieties have done well over a three-year period – NG 1511 (1,458 pounds) AM 1550 (1,292 pounds) and AM UA48 (1,111 pounds). PHY 499 WRF and PHY 375 WRF also were consistent.

The veteran consultants realize that cotton acres will decrease in 2013 because of higher corn and soybean prices. But they also believe cotton will eventually bounce back.

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.