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Study Variety Performance, Management Requirements And Soil Data When Making 2020 Cropping Choices

• By Bob Hutmacher,
University of California •

California cotton

Gather information about California cotton yield and fiber quality results before choosing varieties for the 2020 season — photo by Vicky Boyd

High production costs and lower-than-desired commodity prices mean that good choices are even more important in planning for your 2020 crop.

In California, over 80% of our statewide acreage typically is Pima cotton. The balance of Upland cotton is planted mostly for seed production or in Southern California or Sacramento Valley area.

Some preplant decisions revolve around variety and seed treatment choices, and the need for herbicides or other weed management strategies. Soil amendments/fertilizers/manure applications to build or at least maintain adequate soil structure and fertility are also important.

Variety Trial Results

Basic seed cotton yield results from the University of California and San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board trials will be available by early January (earlier if possible) from your University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser or UC cotton website: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu. Lint yield estimates, turnouts and basic fiber quality tables will follow later in January as samples are processed and will be posted on the same site.

All of our remaining UC variety trials for Upland cotton are now done just at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Fresno County. But our Pima variety trials still have both research center and multiple farm locations.

For the Pima varieties, look at variety performance across the multiple sites in these trials to give you a more complete picture. And always request seed company variety trial data when available, particularly for questions regarding fiber quality.

Pima Considerations

This past year, some growers asked if there were shorter-season Pima varieties available. My answer is that most commercial Pima varieties recently sold in California were developed as full-season varieties, more indeterminate in growth habit.

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For these varieties, peak yields can require a growing season as much as two to three weeks longer than many earlier maturing mid- and full-season Upland varieties we have tested.

Perhaps if seed companies knew growers had an interest in earlier-to-harvest varieties, they could make them available. But common knowledge often suggests that significant earliness can result in lower yield potential.

Recommendations for promoting earliness with current Pima varieties typically are to use irrigation and water stress management in combination with plant growth regulators to move toward an earlier cutout and harvest, if desired.

Review Soil Analysis Data

In trying to narrow your 2020 cotton field choices, it is helpful to assess which ones had the most serious growth and yield problems. Use that knowledge to help decide where cotton might fit in your rotations.

If you collected information previously on soil salinity problem areas in your fields, the relatively high saline and sodic soil tolerance of cotton is a good thing compared with more salt-sensitive vegetable crops. But you still should review soil analysis data to make decisions on leaching or amendment needs at least targeted at the field’s most affected saline areas.