The seed…Where is it?

• By Steve M. Brown •

thrips seed treatment
Photo courtesy Auburn

A question I’ve received involves seed delivery and timeliness of that delivery. 2021 has provided a strange start. We’ve never experienced such a delay in getting planting seed to the farm.

It was mildly frustrating and somewhat concerning, but all is well now, we hope. Had mid-April been fair and warm with only an occasional shower, growers would have been “chomping at the bit,” and “fit to be tied.”

Weather patterns largely discouraged planting until the last week of April, which lessened the real effects of shipping delays. Collectively, we avoided trouble by not really being able to get into the field early.

I’ve spoken with a couple of cotton seed industry folks about the reasons for lateness of delivery. Answers given for the late arrival of seed involve seed processing quantities, a Texas ice storm and trucking issues. A LARGE majority of cotton (planting) seed is produced and processed in Texas. Events there affect what happens all across the Cotton Belt.

The 2020 seed production crop required extra sorting to meet quality specs. In other words, a larger-than-normal volume of seed was evaluated to ultimately bag and ship what we’ll plant for the 2021 crop. That required extra time.

In February, a significant winter storm in West Texas shut down seed processing for 10 days or so amidst a time of peak 24/7 activity. That represented a substantial quantity of bags and boxes that would have, could have been shipped to warehouses in the Southeast. An additional answer offered is that the shipping industry is facing numerous challenges related to COVID-19.

As an aside but somewhat related issue, the virus has had an effect on manufacturing, and is in part to blame for the shortages of many crop protection products.

Shipping delays may have saved us from “practice planting;” that is, jumping out too early and having to replant. Conditions were not favorable until about April 25. That weekend, we turned a page from very marginal to very good conditions for planting. Now, approaching mid-May, we’re getting nervous about wet weather delays, at least in parts of Central and South Alabama, especially so with rain forecast for this week.

Dr. Steve M. Brown is Extension cotton agronomist at Auburn University. He may be reached at

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