By Tommy Horton
For as long as I can remember, cotton producers across this country have never been afraid of innovation and technology. That’s what gives this industry such a respected global reputation. You can always count on U.S. producers to be out front when it comes to a new production practice. Recently, I saw this kind of innovation in the Mississippi Delta. Because our home base here in Memphis gives us easy access to the region, I’ve had the good fortune to walk the turnrows with many Delta farmers through the years.
As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 8 and 9, my recent visit with producer Justin Cariker revealed what many in the region didn’t think was possible – an early planted crop delivering a first bloom on June 3. And even though it isn’t anything unusual for producers to plant early to take advantage of warm conditions, this was still a memorable event.
Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds says he can’t recall an earlier cotton bloom in the state. Just as we proclaim that this has never happened, someone may step forward and dispute the claim. However, for the moment, everyone is calling it the earliest bloom in Mississippi in recent memory.
Why is this so important? For one thing, it shows that producers can take advantage of favorable weather conditions and manage for earliness in a way that can sometimes deliver a crop in August. This isn’t the first time Cariker has planted a small part of his acreage in late March or early April. Occasionally, it has turned out well, and sometimes it hasn’t. That’s the risky part of planting early. A cold snap can ruin everything.
In Cariker’s case, he listened to his farm manager Tommy Walker and consultant Tim Sanders and considered all factors. The previous winter months were unusually warm, and it was an equally warm spring. If ever there was a time to test some early planted cotton, this was the year.
The stars must have been lined up perfectly for Cariker because the cotton emerged just five days after it was planted on March 25. Despite the fact that this was dryland acreage, the cotton continued to develop rapidly. Timely rains have hit at the right time, and now it’s conceivable that this cotton can be defoliated and harvested in August.
Will early planted cotton always turn out this way? Obviously, it won’t. But with better performing varieties and warmer crop seasons, the chances for success are a lot better today.
As for Cariker’s plans for 2013? Not surprisingly, he’ll increase his early cotton acreage. Who knows? He might try to produce a cotton bloom in May and really shock his neighbors.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Or send e-mail to: email@example.com.