The National Agricultural Statistics Service November Crop Production report lowered our yield estimate for Arkansas cotton to 1,124 pounds of lint per acre down from last month’s estimate of 1,218 pounds of lint per acre. The November estimate is just short of last year’s record yield of 1,145 pounds of lint per acre, from 330,000 harvested acres.
We have experienced a fall with almost unequalled consecutive days of harvest. Approximately 90 percent of our 205,000 harvested acres in 2015 were harvested with little or no rainfall from first open boll to being in the module. Rainfall has slowed the pace of the last 10 percent of harvested acres. However, as a result of the long awaited rainfall, we have established excellent stands of cover crops in most areas of the state and have experienced good rates of growth with above-average temperatures in early November.
A large portion of the crop has been classed. Arkansas cotton classed at the Dumas classing office indicates leaf and staple to be slightly better than last year’s crop. More than 90 percent of our crop has received a color grade of 31 or better. Micronaire is our biggest issue for 2015. Approximately 60 percent of the crop exceeds a micronaire value of 5.0 with more than 25 percent being 5.3 or greater.
Contact your local county Extension agent for updates on this season’s testing programs and to get the date and location of upcoming county production meetings.
Good management of a crop can be waylaid by untimely weather conditions during the season or at harvest. What looked like an average or less year for cotton turned out to be good overall. Early wet weather delayed planting followed by dry conditions for the first two months of cotton growth, followed by wet conditions during September. Good weather during October, in general, led to some very good cotton yields being reported. Even though there were areas of the state that were in drought or excess rainfall in others, some non-irrigated fields averaged 1,700 pounds of lint per acre. Yields like this make growing cotton exciting even with current prices.
Many of our growers are planting cover crops as they become more conscious of soil health and the impact it is having on future yields. Soil testing in the fall for nematodes and fertility helps growers make better decisions for the coming year. Consider good rotation for the coming crop year as years of research show that higher yields can be achieved with fewer pest problems and costs associated with that. Likewise, working with neighbors who have cattle or trading fields with them to have a perennial grass or winter grazing prior to cotton makes higher yields with fewer fertilizer inputs and less irrigation demand as root systems following winter grazing have been shown to be larger and deeper, leading to higher yields. We encourage our growers to try one field or split a field that has been in winter grazing as compared to what they have been doing. This has led many of our growers to work with nearby cattle producers as they have seen higher cotton yields after winter grazing.
At the end of October and early November, parts of Louisiana received upwards of 15-20 inches of rain. Most of the cotton acres were harvested prior to these rains. Louisiana will harvest about 110,000 acres of cotton this year, which will be the lowest on record. Yield estimates for the state are projected to be around 950-1,000 pounds of lint per acre.
Three row-crop irrigation conferences have been scheduled throughout the state of Louisiana during the upcoming winter months. Each conference will be one and a half days and will cover best management practices related to sustainable irrigation. Selected topics will include irrigation initiation and termination, irrigation scheduling tools, water quality, pumping plant efficiency, irrigation technologies, irrigation economics, water policy and Natural Resource Conservation Service irrigation assistance programs. Location and dates for the three conferences are: Red River Research Station, Bossier City, Dec. 8-9, 2015; Scott Research Center, Winnsboro, Jan. 21-22, 2016; and Paragon Casino Resort, Marksville, Feb. 16-17, 2016. If you are interested in attending, register on-line at: http://lsuagcenterwater.eventbrite.com.
Harvest season in Mississippi was rolling along as smoothly as could be until the end of October. Growers had harvested nearly 85 percent of the crop prior to Halloween as well as completed a substantial amount of fall tillage. However, inclement weather set in during the last week of October and has persisted throughout the second week of November. Yields have been better than expected in some cases and worse in others, but as a whole, Mississippi will likely produce another very good crop in 2015.
Although many things can change before planters start rolling in 2016, early indications are that cotton acreage will increase in Mississippi in 2016. For those who are considering growing cotton next year, start your homework now. Use the winter months to fine-tune variety selection decisions as well as address any potential fertility or soil issues that may limit productivity in 2016. More importantly, take some time this fall to enjoy your favorite recreational activity and recharge your batteries after a challenging 2015 growing season.
To classify this growing season as difficult might be an understatement. While we are on a pace to have an excellent yield, we are now having a tough time in getting the cotton out of the field.
For example, for the last three reporting periods, the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report show that the harvest at 70, 72 and 76 percent. While this is 5 points ahead of last year, it is 5 points behind the five-year average. Even with sandy soils, it is difficult to get the lint dried out and for the equipment to hold up in the wet fields. Much of the cotton that is left in the fields looks good, and it is late. Some of this is late- May planted cotton.
With good harvest conditions, it won’t take long to finish up this crop. During the off-season, producers will be taking soil samples, applying lime, attending production meetings and making decisions for next year’s crop.
Although this year’s crop was the smallest since the 1980s, I anticipate that next year will be smaller. Not only do we compete for acreage with soybeans and corn, grain sorghum took up more acreage this year. We also had a small acreage of peanuts. It will be interesting to see how the prices and our acreage numbers shake out as we go forward.
As I write this on Nov. 2, harvest continues in North Carolina. We’ve had intermittent delays in harvesting the 2015 crop due to several rainy spells. Yields have been variable, depending on rainfall both throughout the summer and recently. The two weeks of continuous rain several weeks ago resulted in seed sprouting and hardlocked bolls, which may have caused some yield and quality losses in many areas. With that said, there are areas with high-yielding cotton, despite the challenges we faced in 2015.
As we look forward to the 2016 season, there are several decisions to make. During December, growers and consultants will likely be wrapping up soil sampling and fall tillage or cover crop planting. Naturally, variety performance will be on growers’ minds. I’m proud to say that the NC On-Farm Cotton Variety Testing Program was a huge success in 2015, due to the effort from the NC Cotton Producers Association, NC Department of Agriculture, and our NCSU county agents and cooperating growers. The results of this program, as well as OVT, will be presented at upcoming statewide and county meetings throughout the winter months. As variety selection is one of the most important decisions impacting profitability, growers should observe as many locations of data as possible from both onfarm trials and OVT. See cotton.ces.ncsu.edu for variety trial results and upcoming meeting dates.
Although the crop was planted late, excellent September and October temperatures resulted in high quality as noted in the Oklahoma bales classed thus far. Color grades have been 11 or 21 for more than 85 percent of the crop. Staple has been very good with an average of about 36 32nds. About 43 percent of the crop classed has been a 37 or longer staple, with a uniformity of nearly 81 percent. More than 96 percent of the bales have had micronaire values in the 3.5 to 4.9 range, with an average of 4.1. More than 91 percent of the bales have exhibited 30 g/tex higher strength, and the average has been more than 31. Leaf grades have averaged 2, with about 75 percent classed as a 1 or 2. Bark contamination has averaged 3.4 percent. Yields have been variable across both dryland and irrigated practices, but generally speaking many fields have produced average to above average yields.
Growers are continuing to watch the forecasts, as recent rainfall has stopped or slowed harvesting operations in some areas. El Niño effects are showing up in our weather patterns, and producers are concerned. They want to get this crop harvested and ginned as soon as possible. The first glance at performance of the new XtendFlex varieties has been educational for many producers. Palmer amaranth control was a struggle for many growers in 2015, and residual herbicide programs paid big dividends. Producers are anxiously awaiting approval of a dicamba product that can be used on varieties that contain the XtendFlex trait.
Variety test harvesting is underway, and we look forward to getting this information disseminated as soon as possible. One thing producers should keep in mind concerning results from 2015 is the fact that we had a substantially warmer-than-normal September and October. As we move into the winter months, soil sampling for residual fertility will be important.
The majority of West Tennessee has wrapped up cotton harvest. Most of our area was blessed with a long, dry harvest period at the beginning and through the middle of October. As October came to a close, rains began to interrupt picking, and this trend has held through today, Nov. 11. Still, with the limited number of acres left in West Tennessee, we will likely have all harvested well before Thanksgiving. Overall, Tennessee yields this year have been exceptional.
Most of the talk recently has focused on variety performance. Although some have expressed disappointment, most reports have been positive with their respective varieties. I would caution against trusting too much in turn-row or adjacent field comparisons; it is almost impossible to isolate variety as the single factor that influenced realized yields in these scenarios. Instead, rely more closely on unbiased tests. These trials are designed to remove field bias and highlight variety differences and are much less likely to be influenced by any single environmental parameter. Trial results will be posted within the month at UTCrops.com. Keep an eye on news.utcrops.com or follow me on Twitter (@TysonRaper) for updates and other news.
For South and East Texas, the rainfall the past couple of months has been welcomed by most and has replenished much of the soil profile. Higher leaf grades were expected due to a wet and prolonged harvest season and maybe some reduced strength due to drought-stressed cotton during boll fill. However, fiber quality has been on par to slightly better than average for cotton classed at Corpus Christi. In the Rolling Plains, the rain was poorly timed for cotton harvest but good timing for wheat establishment for those folks in a cotton/wheat rotation.
Cotton harvest across the Rolling Plains has been slow due to intermittent rainfall in October and November. The Northern Rolling Plains dryland crop yields have been above average, while irrigated yields are about average. Despite harvest delays due to wet weather, fiber quality from the Abilene Classing Office has remained good. Regarding 2016, the crop distribution remains unknown and will be decided based on commodity prices and input costs, including fertilizer, seed and weed management. This winter is a great time to collect soil samples to determine soil nutrient levels.
We made it through the latest round of precipitation without great amounts of moisture and long delays. There were a few days when some were unable to harvest, but for the most part cotton harvesters were back in the fields rather quickly.
Based on the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service classing office reports, quality remains fairly good. However, color grades went from 11 and 21 to 31 for the week ending Nov. 5. Leaf grades, staple, micronaire, strength and uniformity averages were holding pretty close to where they were prior to the weather events. Yields have been reported at or above what individual producers anticipated from their 2015 cotton crop. If weather continues to be favorable in terms of precipitation, Texas High Plains producers will be able to start fall and winter preparations for the following season.