When in doubt, don’t replant

• By Steve M. Brown •

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

Replanting Cotton

Ugh! Replanting brings:

• The FRUSTRATION of re-doing a job that’s already been done.

• Added EXPENSE for seed, labor, equipment, fuel, etc.

• DELAYS in stand establishment and the overall crop calendar…and the sinking suspicion that yield potential is lost even before the crop is started.

• Dealing with diminishing moisture and rising temperatures and the UNCERTAINTIES of success the second (or third) time around.

Many are the causes that compel replanting. Sometimes the decision to replant is easy. The existing stand is so sparse, has so many 3-foot skips and/or is so unhealthy, that it is clear: we need to start over. Obvious and severe injury from pests, herbicides or physical forces can make the decision for us.

But there are occasions in which stand counts and plant health are borderline. You walk, look, walk, look and still scratch your head and are unsure. Most often, if in doubt about a situation, the best agronomic decision is to NOT replant.

Cotton has such a tremendous capacity to compensate and make yield even with marginal stands. I’ve walked many fields for replant decisions and have seen time and again that WHEN in DOUBT DON’T renders the best outcome.

I’m prone to think differently this year. Cotton planted in April and into the first week of May has seen harsh conditions – temperatures into the 40s and cold, hard rains. Chilling injury is possible on germinating, emerging cotton exposed to 50o or less, conditions we’ve seen in much of Alabama.

Seedlings not hindered by thrips or other visible causes may nevertheless be affected by these early stresses and ultimately be less productive. It’s a hard call, but if I see young cotton that isn’t growing well and I know it was planted in that harsh window, I’m inclined to think replanting may be the best option.

Again, this is a departure from the norm, but clearly 2021 has been unusual from the start. Admittedly, fleeting moisture poses a challenge for late replants, but we may be better off with a restart even though we’d be reluctant to do so.

Dr. Steve M. Brown is an Alabama Cooperative Extension specialist. He may be reached at Steve Brown.

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