2016 Harvest Gets Underway


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

A great deal of uncertainty still exists regarding the 2016 crop. We look forward to seeing how the modules stack up. During the first week of August, almost everyone in the field felt we had the potential for a record crop. It went from great to good with the extended cloudy and wet conditions that persisted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 22. These conditions resulted in significant carbon stress, an increase in disease pressure and hard-locking of bolls that were opening during this period.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service September Crop Production report projects Arkansas producers will harvest 1,088 pounds lint per acre, up 36 pounds from last month, but down 4 pounds from 2015. Most of those in the field believe the current status of the 2016 crop is the same or slightly better than the 2015 crop.

Our crop is ahead of schedule this season. Mid-September NASS projections reported the crop was 70 percent open compared to 53 percent at this time last year, and 63 percent over the past five years. We saw some harvest activity the second week of September. No firm yield or quality information was available at the time these comments were prepared. Harvest-aid applications became more widespread in response to the maturing crop as we entered mid-September. Heat unit accumulation beyond cutout coupled with boll slicing were the primary tools driving the decision-making process. Particular attention to timing of harvest aids was used for varieties that push the limits on high micronaire.

There are still reasons to be optimistic about this crop. We look forward to seeing how 2016 wraps up as we make plans for the 2017 season.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

Many cotton fields are ahead of schedule for defoliation this year due to record high temperatures and heat unit accumulation. Adequate rain in most cotton producing areas allowed the crop to grow and mature with higher-than-normal heat units without being stressed. Cotton yields may be slightly above average with some extremely high yielding fields in Florida this year. Peanut harvest will still take precedent over cotton in most areas of the Southeast.

If the crop is 60 percent open or more, it should be defoliated and picked within two weeks of application. Harvest aids require higher rates and often two applications under cooler conditions often encountered in late October and beyond. Most cotton should be picked in October this year due to its early maturity. The number of acres that can be harvested decreases rapidly into November due to short days, cooler temperatures and a higher chance of rain. Cotton quality decreases rapidly and can fall out with high wind and rain if not harvested in a timely manner. Timeliness in defoliation and picking is just as important for cotton as any other crop in final yield and quality.

October is also a good time to soil sample for nutrient needs and nematode levels immediately after harvest so that plans can be made for what crops to grow and if lime or nematicides will be needed for the next crop. For those producers who grow cotton after cotton and use no-till or conservation tillage, research has shown that yields can be increased 25 to 33 percent by moving to row middles the next year to minimize nematode impacts. Going back over the old row with cotton is not advisable even if it were ripped under the row or if additional fertilizer were applied in the row. Many growers have auto-steer and can plant row middles the following year.

Cover crops may be aerially seeded prior to defoliation or can be planted conventionally immediately after cotton harvest and stalk mowing. Grazing cattle on these fields has been shown to retain nutrients in the root zone for the following crops with the potential for higher yields with reduced levels of applied fertilizer due to livestock recycling nutrients.


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

Harvest operations got underway during the second week of September after a two- to three-week delay due to heavy amounts of rainfall. Rainfall in excess of 10-15 inches was received during the latter part of August and the first week of September during boll opening. After these rains, lint yield projections went south very quickly. Prior to the rainfall, yields were estimated in excess of 1,000 pounds lint per acre for the state. Yield projections at this time are about 650-750 pounds lint per acre.
Wet conditions have caused a significant amount of seed sprouting in bolls that were open and an extensive amount of boll rot throughout the state. Target spot has caused plants to prematurely defoliate in some fields by as much as 60 to 70 percent. Also, the rain has caused leaf growth in many fields, which makes defoliation more challenging. Prior to all these late-season issues, the 2016 crop had experienced high numbers of plant bugs and bollworms.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

Cotton harvest in Mississippi began during the first week of September and kicked into high gear during the latter part of the month. Early yields have been somewhat off due to excessive rainfall and heavy disease pressure. However, many – including myself – are still optimistic that we are sitting on an above-average cotton crop.

As one growing season draws to a close, another immediately begins. Land preparation, fertilizer and lime application, and variety selection are just a few of the tasks to be completed.
Questions will undoubtedly be asked this fall and next spring regarding inherent varietal resistance to target spot. A large portion of the 2016 Mississippi crop was defoliated to some degree due to a heavy infestation of target spot. However, varieties and weather change every year. I am not sure if anyone can predict the effect that target spot may have next year given that no one can predict the weather that far in advance.
Select a variety that you think will provide top-end yields and whatever traits you may desire. You can never go wrong by putting the right variety in the right situation.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

Missouri cotton producers have certainly had an interesting year. Planting was much earlier than it has been the past several years. We had a lot of rainfall this year, in spite of the Drought Monitor forecast being drier than normal. We had a lot of night temperatures of 75 degrees or higher. Currently, the Crop Progress and Condition Report shows that we have 17 percent cotton open compared with 18 percent a year ago and 24 percent for the five-year average. The condition is now rated at 5 percent very poor, 14 percent poor, 49 percent fair, 27 percent good and 5 percent excellent. At this time last year, we had 1 percent very poor, 10 percent poor, 50 percent fair, 35 percent good and 4 percent excellent.

The August Cotton and Wool Outlook has the Missouri yield projected at 1,124 pounds per acre. When I saw this, I was somewhat surprised. This projection was before the adverse weather conditions. We had about a 10-day rainy period that has damaged the crop. Some fields had significant flooding, rank plants, rotten bolls and target spot. We have had target spot before, but this year it caused significant boll loss. So I expect the yield projections to drop.
The dicamba issue did not go away quietly. Lawsuits are pending, and the state legislature had a special hearing to address the issue for next year. The proposed legislation likely will increase the fines for using a non-labeled product and place more restrictions on farmers.


Randy Boman OK
Randy Boman e-mail

The September U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Report noted that Oklahoma’s plantings were 305,000 acres, with harvested acres estimated at 285,000. State average yield was estimated at 960 pounds per acre. If realized, this level of production would shatter last year’s record per-acre yield of 874 pounds. The crop has made good to excellent progress in the past several weeks. Irrigated cotton was either somewhat early or on time with respect to cutout during the last half of August. Irrigation in most areas was adequate to meet crop demands. Soil moisture was short in early August in certain areas, but later rainfall has been excellent in many counties. It appears we certainly have a “home run potential” dryland and irrigated crop in many places.

The main concern for the state’s production is the impact of bacterial blight on susceptible varieties in mostly irrigated cotton in Jackson and Tillman counties. This disease – first noted in mid-July – produced significant defoliation in many fields. In severely affected fields, a large number of plants were defoliated in the bottom one-third to one-half of the canopy. In some fields, the disease was observed on bolls by late July. Boll lesions triggered considerable boll rot in many fields. Based on visual observations, leaf loss has likely affected boll size in the lower portion of the plant, while boll rot has directly reduced yield. Bacterial blight-infected bolls may affect fiber quality, particularly color and micronaire, but that remains to be seen. Producers with bacterial blight concerns should carefully consider resistant varieties for 2017.


Guy Collins e-mail
Guy Collins

By the time this article is read, harvest will likely be underway in many areas in North Carolina. As I write this on Sept. 6, growers are evaluating the effects of Tropical Storm Hermine and what effect that may have on yield and late-season development. The effects of this storm appear to be variable, depending on rainfall.
Although defoliation has not yet begun, yields are expected to be acceptable, but variable as they always are. Dry, hot weather during late August limited some upper boll development, and challenges with bollworm this year may have limited yield potential in places. Growers are encouraged to customize defoliation practices to each individual field and prevailing temperatures for the acres remaining to be defoliated in early/mid-October. Growers should keep in mind that it becomes increasingly challenging to open bolls beyond mid-October based on average temperatures, which should influence rates of boll opening materials.
Although our cotton was planted later than normal, the 2016 crop has caught up to some degree. For fields planted on the latter end of our recommended window or beyond, it will be important to observe when the potential for an October frost is likely to occur and take any necessary defoliation action to open as many bolls as possible. I sincerely hope that harvest weather is more cooperative this year than what we observed in 2015.


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

Harvest-aid applications really picked up the beginning of this week (Sept. 12) and will likely peak within the next 10 days. This puts most of our crop 14 days ahead of where we were last year. With that in mind, many within Tennessee will likely be picking by the time you read these comments.
Take into account two tasks as you move into harvest. First, properly calibrate yield monitors and protect this valuable data. As we move into the coming years, carefully collected yield data and records have the potential to pay dividends. Second, remove any plastic trash from the field before harvest. I’ve personally walked several of my trials adjacent to residences and retail outlets in order to remove plastic bags – a major issue in some production areas. Contamination levels of U.S. cotton are low, but it only takes a few contaminated bales to affect demand. This effort may not positively affect your bottom line during 2016 but will result in U.S. cotton continuing to be sought after on the world market.


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

Cotton in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend of Texas is more or less completed with great yields overall. Grades have been good, especially length, from the Rio Grande and Coastal Bend. In the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands, the crop has fought a tough fight all year. Due to excessive periods of continuous rain in mid-August, significant sprouting occurred in both of these regions, and scattered showers have further slowed harvest.

In a typical year, the Upper Gulf Coast would be close to 75 percent harvested by mid-September, but this year we are less than 10 percent harvested. Quality is off, seed value is down, and additional money is being spent on harvest-aids and ginning costs. The situation in the Blacklands is similar but only slightly better. Fortunately, the standard harvest-aid products – thidiazuron in combination with Ginstar or Folex – have continued to work well.
Late August rains were a welcomed sight in the Texas Rolling Plains. Although not helpful in adding any more fruit, the moisture will is favorable for boll fill and improved quality. It also is beneficial to producers in a cotton/wheat rotation.
Cooler temperatures that followed the rain slowed cotton developmental progress, but the value of the moisture more than outweighs the detriments. With additional rainfall, reports of more bacterial blight in the Northern Rolling Plains and Alternaria leaf spot in the Southern Rolling Plains have been coming in.


Seth Byrd TX
Seth Byrd e-mail

Several systems that moved through during late August and early September bought rainfall to most of the High Plains. Totals for this period ranged from less than an inch to more than 6 inches, highly variable as one looks across the region.

Although this rainfall could have been more beneficial had it been received a month earlier, these showers will still have a positive effect on the most of the crop and help finish the boll set in late August on upper nodes and second or third fruiting positions. As of Sept.12, most of the region received the rain needed to finish the crop and allow for the early end of irrigation applications in many fields.

Harvest had yet to begin as of early September. A few early planted or dryland fields may have been stripped towards month’s end. Depending on rainfall, defoliation should have begun on a large amount of the acres in the region near the end of September or early October, with harvest beginning in full force in mid- to late October.
The most recent USDA-NASS yield projections for the region range from 540 to 746 pounds per acre, slightly down compared to August numbers in two regions that comprise most of the cotton acreage in the High Plains. However, projected overall production in bales is still up compared to 2015, likely due to increased acreage.

With good boll retention and rain finally falling at the end of the bloom period, a warm and dry stretch over the rest of September and into October would lead to optimal conditions for boll maturity and could leave the crop in a favorable place by harvest.


Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame e-mail

As I write this, we have had another dry August in Virginia. Cotton has been opening for three weeks in some areas of the state. Reports from producers indicated that defoliation would kick off for some areas about Sept. 23, and I am sure as you read this defoliation/harvest is well under way. This is early for defoliation compared to recent years; however, there is still some optimism about the crop in Virginia. Although the 2016 crop was planted in mid-May, it seems we have made up some ground given the heat unit accumulation this year.
Dry weather in August and good fruit load created potassium deficiencies across the state, especially on the sandier fields. By the time the deficiencies occurred, we were already in the third to fourth weeks of bloom. Correcting the deficiencies was problematic due to the stage of growth and cutout occurring in the state. The weather forecast for defoliation moving forward looks promising as no tropical systems seem to be on the horizon, although Mother Nature could throw us a curve ball. We will wait to see what lint yields will be. However, I am optimistic that yield will be above 2015 and hope we break the 1,000 pounds lint per acre average for the state.

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