2016 Cotton Crop Progress


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

Our cotton crop is much improved going into July compared to its status the first of June. The July 11 National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition Report for Arkansas reported cotton flowering or setting bolls ahead of the five-year average. Forty-eight percent of the cotton is in good condition, 25 percent excellent and 19 percent fair.

Another measure of crop condition is nodes above white flower (NAWF). The NAWF value at first flower gives a good indication of the horsepower of the plant or its ability to supply the needs of a fruit load. In Arkansas, we target 9 to 10 NAWF at first flower and define cutout as NAWF=5.

We saw a lot of variability in NAWF in our April planted fields. Fields ranged anywhere from 6 to 7 NAWF at first flower to fields that were still running in excess of 8 NAWF going into the second week of flower. The dominant factor for this range is related to available soil moisture. Fields with NAWF values of 6 or 7 at first flower still have the potential to meet our yield goals. However, timing of inputs is very critical to meet plant demands to avoid an earlier than desired cut-out.
We saw about as much horsepower going into flowering on our early May planted cotton as I have seen in Arkansas. Our most vigorous fields generally average 9 to 10 NAWF at first flower. We have seen many fields with 12 to 14 NAWF at first flower.

A concern of many is high fruit retention. Most fields we are monitoring have 95 percent or higher square retention. The combination of high demand and high retention could be disastrous if a significant stress presents itself. More often than not in this situation, the plant sheds too much fruit for our liking.
It is important to know how much horsepower and the potential demand that exists in your fields to be able to satisfy plant demands to reach your yield goals. Our yield potential is still great at this time. As we go into August, we must continue to manage this crop in a timely fashion to maintain yield potential. We must also keep expenses in check and hope that Mother Nature does not throw us any curveballs.


Randy Norton AZ
Randy Norton e-mail

Most of the Arizona cotton crop is now in the midst of peak bloom with some of the crop entering the back side of the bloom cycle and heading toward cut-out. The last few weeks of June and first few weeks of July had significant temperatures resulting in several days of level two (L2) heat stress in the low desert regions of the state. Research has shown that L2 heat stress may result in significant fruit shed, particularly if the crop is progressing toward mid- to peak bloom.

Additional information on real-time heat stress monitoring along with likely crop response to L1 and L2 heat stress can be found at the University of Arizona Meteorological Network website – cals.arizona.edu/azmet. The documents found here describe how L1 and L2 heat stress are calculated and how these levels affect crop development.

A good portion of the Arizona crop was heading into mid- and peak bloom as the heat stress occurred. This type of heat stress results in poor pollination and shedding of 1- to 3-day-old bolls. If poorly pollinated bolls remain on the plant, they will often appear misshapen due to locks not being “filled-out” properly or the lack of proper seed development. This fruit loss not only will impact yield but can also increase the tendency of the crop to develop excessive vegetative growth, resulting in a crop that is difficult to manage through crop termination and defoliation. The use of plant growth regulators can be effective to help manage excessive vegetative growth that frequently results from heat-stress-induced boll shed. Publications on plant growth regulator use rates and timings can be found on the University of Arizona crops website: http://cals.arizona.edu/crops.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

This has been an average year so far with short-term droughts and heavy rainfall in certain locations. Thrips pressure was heavy at the beginning of the season, but management progressed on schedule. August is critical for cotton that did not set a heavy boll load earlier in the season. Setting bolls much later than early September results in bolls that often are not mature when the first frost occurs.

Insect scouting, especially for stinkbugs, is critical as they build up over the summer and can damage cotton that is fruiting in August. Likewise, target spot and other foliage diseases can be a problem with frequent rain showers and high humidity. Timely fungicide applications may help keep the plant healthy for late boll development. With current prices, it is important to attain high yields to be profitable.


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

The Louisiana cotton crop looks very promising as the latter part of July approaches. The 2016 crop has experienced above-average temperatures throughout the growing season and is progressing quickly. Soil moisture conditions have been good throughout most of the state until the middle of July. Rainfall is now needed, and producers with irrigation are starting to turn on wells.

Square retention was good as we approached first bloom. Plant bug numbers began to increase in fields when cotton began to bloom, but have remained at manageable levels. So far, bollworm pressure has been low but is expected to increase as July progresses. Fields that were planted in April are nearing or quickly approaching cut-out. Currently, mepiquat chloride applications are being applied to manage height control. We should start seeing some open bolls during the last week of July or the first week of August.

Growers and consultants are focusing on plant bug and bollworm control for the remainder of the season. Timely rains are needed during the latter part of July and the first two weeks of August to finish out the 2016 crop. Louisiana farmers are currently cautiously optimistic about their cotton yields as the season moves toward completion.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

The 2016 cotton crop in Mississippi is in pretty good shape as a whole. While we have certainly had our share of issues (too much moisture, not enough moisture, thrips, pigweeds, etc.), the crop has finally started to take shape in many areas. In addition, plant bugs have been relatively light across most of the state as of this writing. I have never been good at estimating yields in August and will wait for pickers to run prior to making any final judgments. However, our crop is respectable, and retention is outstanding in many cases.
By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, we will likely have two to three more weeks for white flowers to appear, be pollinated and form into bolls with a strong likelihood of making it into the picker basket.

We also will be one to two weeks away from terminating furrow irrigation. Mississippi State University scientists recommend terminating furrow irrigation at first cracked boll. The understory of a cotton crop can become very warm and moist after furrow irrigating. Furthermore, there are many disease organisms that can cause hardlock and/or boll rot. Combining a warm, moist environment with cotton bolls that are beginning to crack open and the presence of disease organisms heightens the potential to hardlock and/or rot part of your crop. If you choose to irrigate after first cracked boll, understand that there may be consequences to doing so.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

Missouri cotton acres increased from 185,000 to 300,000 this year. According to the July 11 Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report, 76 percent of Missouri cotton is squaring. The five-year average is 63 percent. Seven percent is setting bolls. The state’s cotton crop condition is rated 5 percent very poor; 12 percent poor; 46 percent fair; 33 percent good and 4 percent excellent.

One of our greatest concerns right now is the heat and lack of rainfall. Our Extension state climatologist is describing this as a flash drought. We had adequate moisture when planting concluded, but high temperatures have taken a toll on soil moisture. According to the Drought Monitor, we have adequate moisture but are rapidly facing an abnormally dry situation. One of my concerns has been high nighttime temperatures in the 75- to 78-degree range, which doesn’t give the crop an opportunity to recover as it normally would.
On a sad note, there has been a lot of dicamba being used in the Roundup Ready Plus Xtend system this season.
While this is clearly off-label, complaints to the Missouri Department of Agriculture are adding up. While much of the impact may be cosmetic, producers who use it are violating federal pesticide laws. Scientists at Michigan State University have documented that non-target terrestrial plant injury was 75-400 percent higher for dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively, than for glyphosate. Stay tuned.


John Idowu
John Idowu

The cotton crop is doing well here in New Mexico. The temperature is high with a number of days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The cotton is progressing with many fields at the blooming stage. There has been no report of any pest outbreaks. The water situation is also not bad, although we are still expecting precipitation from the monsoon. Generally, cotton is progressing very well after the initial setback of lower-than-normal temperatures during the early part of the season.


Guy Collins e-mail
Guy Collins

As I write this on July 5, the cotton crop in North Carolina is looking noticeably better than it once did. Planting season was as challenging and frustrating as our past harvest season due to adverse weather. However, warmer temperatures and timely rains in June have resulted in much better growth than was observed early on. Excessive rain, in areas such as the Blacklands, resulted in severe water logging and stunting.
However, most of the state’s cotton is making great progress at this time. Our crop is delayed by a couple weeks in many areas, but weather during the remainder of the summer could change that.

We are only half way through this season, so July and August (followed by a favorable fall) will have a strong influence on how well the 2016 crop performs. Plant bugs have been active in areas, but thorough scouting, timely sprays and rotating chemistries can do a lot to combat these insect pests. At this point, our growers are focused on ensuring that no further crop delays occur. Therefore, it is essential that our inputs are timely throughout the remainder of the season. Favorable rains and temperatures surely wouldn’t hurt, either.


Randy Boman OK
Randy Boman e-mail

As of this mid-July writing, the Oklahoma cotton crop has progressed well in most areas but is highly variable with respect to planting date. After good to excellent mid-May rainfall occurred in many areas, much of the crop was planted fairly rapidly. Planting of some dryland fields, especially in much of Tillman County, was pushed later into June, with some growers getting caught by locally high rainfall. With good to excellent rainfall in many counties, we are set up for great yield potential for our dryland acres.

Late June and early July brought thunderstorms with winds approaching 70 mph in places. These storm systems resulted in cotton “ragging up” in some locations. Small, unprotected cotton (without cover) was damaged in high-wind affected areas. Most cotton protected by ground cover was in good to excellent condition, with large leaves and high growth rate.

Minimal thrips pressure was noted earlier, but cotton fleahopper populations are worth watching during the squaring phase. Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth is a major concern of many growers, and most have made valiant attempts to use timely control practices. Most farms where timely residual herbicide applications were made have observed good weed control. Forecasts indicate that summer has finally arrived with a vengeance, and multiple days of triple-digit forecasts for southwestern Oklahoma have been reported.
The June 30 USDA-NASS report indicated 300,000 cotton acres planted in the state, but many observers believe the actual number is smaller. Some areas received several inches of rainfall during the first half of July. Although we have a great start, once again we need rainfall in July and August to have a “bell ringer” dryland crop.


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

On July 11, I would conservatively rank Tennessee’s cotton crop anywhere from good to excellent. Although some acres struggled with a blackberry winter, many were able to capitalize on a warm late April and several other optimal windows before and after the cold snap. June was hotter than normal and relatively dry, but neither of those climactic trends is necessarily bad for cotton early on. I’ve had many veteran producers within the state refer to this as a “cotton” year with several making the comment that this is the best start they’ve ever had.
Plant bug applications have been increasing as these pests move out of corn into cotton. However, as of July 4, it has been a fairly light insect year. Mepiquat applications have ramped up in response to rapid growth due to recent rains. Fruit retention, as a whole, has been very good, and Tennessee’s crop has tremendous potential.
By the time you read this, the effective flowering period for 2016 will be nearing its end. Keep a couple of things in mind while attempting to realize this year’s potential. First, tag a few flowers on the last effective flowering date and remember that fruit above those tags will likely not be harvested. Second, insecticide applications for many pests can be terminated 350-450 heat units after cut-out. Finally, water use (and requirements) decline after peak flower, but water deficit stress at this period can still reduce yields. If possible, maintain adequate soil moisture through first cracked boll.


Gaylon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

Harvest has begun in the earliest planted cotton fields in the Rio Grande Valley with ginning expected to begin during the middle of July. Harvest throughout the RGV will in full swing between the third and fourth week of July. Folks are optimistic about the yield and quality for both the dryland and irrigated crops.
The Coastal Bend will not lag far behind the RGV as plans for harvest aids are being made. Expectations for the Coastal Bend crop are more erratic. Some fields look good while others got a slow start due to excessive moisture. Other fields missed multiple mid-season rains.

Much of the Upper Gulf Coast set a decent crop once the plants starting holding fruit. However, some areas stayed too wet for too long, leading to poor fruit set and crop development. The early planted Blackland’s cotton crop looks decent and even the late-planted irrigated cotton looks good. However, the late-planted dryland cotton will need timely rains to make a competitive yield.
The Northern Rolling Plains has pockets of good cotton but is highly variable in its development and yield potential. The Southern Rolling Plains is in a similar situation, but is in better shape overall. However, some of the timely rains also brought significant hail damage in certain areas. Overall, the Rolling Plains is looking better than it has looked in some time.


Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame e-mail

Cotton is late due to May conditions this year, but given warm temperatures and precipitation, it has taken off during the past two weeks. From June 23 through July 7, I was traveling in China with colleagues. As I was leaving, cotton was anywhere from 2 true leaves to 5-6 nodes, depending on planting date and location. When I returned, the crop had jumped, and most fields had multiple squares and were pushing bloom. It was a pleasant surprise to see the growth rate and status of the Virginia crop.

Some areas of the state have received excess rainfall while others have had just enough. Moving into August, Virginia is still a couple weeks behind our “normal” crop progress. If Mother Nature continues to provide warm temperatures and rainfall, we may be able to make up some ground.

As we move into August bloom period, insect scouting and control become the most pressing concern with stink bugs being the No. 1 pest. Producers also need to scout their fields for nutrient deficiencies or sample to determine if their nitrogen management practices are adequate. In Virginia, research results show that petiole nitrate-N concentrations need to be between 6,000-10,000 ppm during the first week of bloom to achieve maximum yields. This year, we may want to be closer to 6,000 to ensure timely cut-out and defoliation given the later planting dates in 2016.


Seth Byrd TX
Seth Byrd e-mail

As of July 11, the cotton crop across the High Plains had begun squaring, with some of the earlier planted fields getting close to flowering. Fields that were replanted due to cool weather early in the season, pounding rains or hail were still a few days or weeks away from putting squares on. The vast majority of the crop was planted into good moisture or received rain from mid-May through early June. These favorable conditions got the crop off to a great start. It is now reaching the squaring stage without much stress.

However, late June and early July saw temperatures soar into the 100s with rain being spotty at best, resulting in the start of irrigation across the region. Several isolated storms have come through bringing more damaging winds than beneficial rains – a stark contrast to the wet and cool conditions we experienced just two months earlier as the season began.

We largely avoided serious issues with early season thrips. In northern areas where some fields were affected, timely insecticide applications resulted in instances of only minor injury. While there have been some reports of fleahoppers in the southern counties of the High Plains, it appears this region has escaped widespread infestations or losses due to insects up to this point.

Cotton acres should be flowering by late July to early August. Some significant rains during this period could be beneficial and provide stress relief as we enter the peak water demand period. If not, it’s likely that irrigation will continue where water is available, while dryland fields may suffer from the hot, dry conditions.

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