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Tips for a healthy cotton stand

• By Matt Foster •

checking seeding rate

Having optimum temperatures in the days following planting is critical to obtaining a good stand.

With cotton planting just around the corner, a couple key factors should be taken into consideration. Early planting is a key component of successful cotton production; however, if planted too early, yield potential can be reduced.

Growing up, I often heard farmers say, “The day you plant cotton is the most important day for the crop.” Cotton seedlings are very sensitive to adverse conditions; therefore, it is important to consider factors such as soil temperature and heat units (DD60s) before deciding to plant.

Soil temperature is the main factor influencing seedling growth rate. Cool soils (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause chilling injury to germinating plants. Chilling injury can reduce vigor and increase the likelihood of seedling disease issues. Good germination and emergence can be expected once the soil temperature at a 4-inch depth is 65 F or greater at 8 a.m. for at least three consecutive days with a good five-day forecast following planting.

In Louisiana, cotton is generally planted in mid-April to mid-May but planting decisions should be based on soil temperature and not the calendar.

Once soil temperature is optimal, it is important to calculate the number of DD60s for the next five days to determine if conditions are optimal for planting. Emergence generally occurs after the accumulation of 50 to 80 DD60s after planting.

If the five-day forecast after planting predicts the accumulation of less than 26 DD60s, planting should be postponed. Also, the low temperature for the next five days should remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Basing planting decisions on soil temperature and the five-day forecast for DD60s can help ensure a healthy cotton stand.

Dr. Matt Foster is Louisiana State University AgCenter cotton specialist. He may be reached at MFoster@agcenter.lsu.edu