The June 30 U.S. Department of Agriculture planting estimates report indicated 410,000 acres of cotton in Alabama for 2021. The number for the prior two seasons was 450,000 acres, so the reduction is about 9%. Nationwide, cotton acres are estimated to be 11.7 million acres, down 3% from last year.
December 2021 cotton futures closed at 86.97 on Friday, July 2. For months, the new crop futures market has traded between 82 and 88 cents per pound. This compares to an average closing price for the 2020 crop of 64.28 cents. Hopefully, growers have booked some of their expected 2021 production.
Much of our cotton is late, but favorable rainfall and moderate temperatures have pushed the crop along, perhaps making up for some of the delays brought on by harsh conditions and late planting.
One observation is that thrips injury was more prevalent and consequential than normal, or at least than initially perceived. Stated differently, if we had opportunity to do it again, we would have, should have been more aggressive with our thrips management, spraying a lot of cotton in the one-leaf stage.
In many fields, it’s time to complete sidedress nitrogen applications and initiate plant growth regulator treatments. Knowledge / experience of field history, fertility, variety aggressiveness, and weather trends guide adjustments for both N rates and PGR management.
Near-term weather forecasts suggest moderate temperatures and above average rainfall. Both encourage strong cotton growth and nudge the crop towards above average yields. Obviously, we still have a long way to go.
A couple of general tweaks in management compared to a standard, normal program:
• With a late crop, be a little more conservative with N and more aggressive with PGRs.
• With sustained, favorable weather, be more aggressive with PGRs.
Dr. Steve M. Brown is an Alabama Cooperative Extension specialist. He may be reached at Steve Brown.