The phrase “the long, hot summer” may bring to mind the 1958 movie directed by Martin Ritt or Tennessee Williams’ play titled “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” For cotton farmers, the 2022 season is shaping up to create a new point of reference. Many areas of the Cotton Belt experienced near record-breaking temperatures in June, and July appears to be continuing that trend.
Growing up, I remember going to the farm with my dad during the hot summer days and wondering why he didn’t turn on the air conditioner in the truck. When I asked him about it, he told me we would stay cooler if we just rolled the windows down. He said when we got in and out of the truck as we stopped to check fields, it wasn’t a good idea to go from a cold cab into the heat and then back into the cold truck. As I recall, he was right. Dad also made sure we drank a lot of water during the day to stay hydrated.
In July, cotton gets thirsty, too. If you have a dryland crop, you spend a lot of time praying for rain. If you have the capability to water, you keep a close eye on your irrigation system to make sure the plant is getting the moisture it requires. Once a cotton plant reaches the bloom stage of development, it’s important to manage its nutrient and water needs to produce the coveted bolls in anticipation of an abundant harvest.
This month, Wes Porter, University of Georgia precision ag and irrigation specialist, shares some tips to avoid water deficit stress at critical cotton growth stages. Moving into July when cotton hits peak bloom, the above ground biomass is about equivalent to the below ground bio¬mass, Porter said. The root system is extracting water a lot deeper than it was earlier in the season.
“If we have not paid close attention, we are now falling behind because we are using deep moisture and drying out the entire profile,” he said. “When you deplete the deeper soil moisture, you won’t catch up with overhead, sprinkler-style irrigation alone. That’s a scary place to be midseason.”
Go to page 8 to see what Porter recommends if you happen to get to this point. He also provides some tips about advanced irrigation scheduling and weighting sensor depths if you are using a soil moisture sensing system.
In this issue of Cotton Farming, we’re also introducing a new feature that will appear from time to time — “Influencers In Their Fields” — that showcases those who are providing a voice for American agriculture through social media.
As the long, hot summer continues, don’t forget to roll down your windows, take a break from time to time, grab some water and take it all in.