Gearing up for planning season
By Carroll Smith
Once the harvest machinery has been parked, most farmers and consultants like to enjoy a little downtime and recreational activities. But before long, it’s time to start thinking about the next season in order to be properly prepared.
Most consultants schedule sessions with their farmer clients during the winter to begin this process since there is a lot of information to disseminate. The hot topic for everyone is how to protect and grow the bottom line in light of low commodity prices. In California, water availability still drives many of the decisions that cotton farmers have to make.
For example, California pest control adviser Larry Gallian, whose consulting career spans more than half a century, says “rain-snow-rain-snow-rain” is the plan that California cotton producers are interested in at this time. Gallian says competing crops, the price of cotton and trees being planted daily on agricultural land are some of the factors that are affecting cotton acreage and production decisions out West.
In other areas of the Cotton Belt, seasoned cotton consultants Bob Glodt, Bob Griffin and Mark Nemec agreed to share some of their top-of-the-list winter planning topics with Cotton Farming magazine. Following is what they have to say:
This year, prices for all commodities that we grow have been low, especially cotton prices. My growers are very good managers and do a superb job in assessing and managing their crops for the most potential profit.
For example, almost all my growers ask me to soil sample each and every field they farm. Fertilizer is applied on a prescription basis to achieve a specific yield goal. Even though we soil sample, I believe we can do a better job managing nitrogen for all of our crops.
The 2015 crop year was much wetter than normal; I know that we had significant leaching and denitrification issues that negatively impacted yields this year. Over the years, I have seen a trend for cotton yields to become flat, even in years where we have adequate moisture to make an above-average crop. So timing of nitrogen to include split applications is an area where yield improvement is possible without extra expense.
There will be new weed control options for cotton this year, assuming the Environmental Protection Agency grants approval for Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant cotton by planting time. Dow AgroSciences has developed cotton that is tolerant to special formulations of 2,4-D. Dow has already received USDA deregulation for their 2,4-D-tolerant cotton. There will be a learning curve, especially with understanding the potential for physical drift of these products and the need for thorough sprayer cleaning. “Low drift” nozzles that provide a coarse spray are imperative and required when using the hormone-type herbicides.
It is important to remember that we have pre-emerge chemicals available today that are very effective in controlling resistant pigweed. For those who intend to plant cotton, weed control strategies will need special consideration.
Griffin Ag Consulting
The No. 1 discussion this winter will inevitably be how to remain profitable next year. Commodity prices are discouraging across the board, and producers are going to be trying to cut
corners if possible. My advice is to eliminate fat but not cut back on essentials such as fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides. Snake oils have no place in this coming growing season.
The No. 2 consideration will be variety selection. There was a tremendous yield variation across varieties this year, so, for next year, we must choose the ones that are the most consistent in our area.
MJN Consulting Services LLC
One of the top considerations during our planning sessions this winter will be variety selection. There are a lot of excellent varieties poised to be released or available on the market now with good yield potential as well as good grades. Our goal for this winter is to find varieties with good yield potential and quality that will work best in our area.
Weed control strategies also must be addressed. Now that we have glyphosate-resistant water hemp moving into our area, weed control planning will be critical to find the most effective, yet least costly, option.
In having to deal with low commodity prices and high input costs, planning for the 2016 season is going to be challenging.