2018 Season Draws To A Close

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this on Sept. 5, the cotton crop in North Carolina is variable but generally good in many parts of the state. Yield potential among fields varies significantly and within a close proximity, depending on planting date, severity of drought stress during late June and early July, and rainfall that occurred during the latter half of the bloom period.

Like always, we worry about weather in September and October and the potential for tropical storms or even prolonged wet and cloudy conditions. Ultimately, we need a warm and dry September and October to capture this yield potential.

Defoliation will likely be underway by the time this article is read, but there are a few helpful tips that may apply to many situations. First, there were many rumors in early September that thidiazuron (TDZ) could be noticeably short this year. This product is used in a three-way mixture to address regrowth, which is common in the Southeast. TDZ+diuron can achieve good defoliation and control regrowth, and October generally brings cooler weather where these products are more appropriate anyway.

Additionally, we have a noticeable amount of late-planted cotton in 2018, which could result in a scenario where growers are trying to open bolls during periods of cooler-than-normal weather. We generally recommend that they use the highest rate of ethephon in a standard tankmix or switch to Finish/Terminate or even CottonQuik/FirstPick if very cool or cold temperatures occur when some harvestable bolls have yet to open.

Lastly, growers should consider nozzle type and application volume when applying harvest aids. Large-droplet nozzles often result in effective defoliation of the top one-third to one-half of the plant. However, they struggle to reach lower leaves effectively, especially when using moderate or low application volumes with a ground rig.

Additionally, we recommend that harvest aids be applied using a medium droplet nozzle at 15 but preferably 20 gallons of water per acre to minimize the need for a second application. If a large droplet nozzle is used, growers should apply harvest aids using 20 gallons of water per acre. guy_collins@ncsu.edu

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

The 2018 season is extended for many growers as cotton was typically planted before May 10 and after the middle of June. This is due to an early dry spell and a wet period from mid-May through the normal planting season.

In general, cotton has looked good all year with many fields planted late, which will make defoliation take place in two stages as well. Early planted cotton has been defoliated with growers undecided when to defoliate later-planted cotton with so many tropical depressions and hurricanes occurring this fall.

It is generally recommended not to wait for the very top bolls to mature before defoliating. Many of the larger bolls that matured earlier and have been open for some time can fall out or weather and reduce yield and quality much more than younger, smaller bolls can contribute to yield.

In some cases, cooler-than-normal weather will slow the defoliation process and higher rates of materials will be required. Better weather is usually on tap for October. Be ready to harvest when conditions become favorable to maintain yield and quality. wright@ufl.edu

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

Cotton harvest began in early September but was quickly stalled by Tropical Storm Gordon. Rainfall across the state from Gordon varied widely; however, many farmers were apprehensive regarding potential damage from wind and rainfall. Once more leaves were removed, much of the crop was better than anticipated. As a whole, the Mississippi crop appears to be in good shape.

Harvest will be in full swing by the first week of October, weather permitting. Current yield estimates have been lowered from the August estimate of 1,211 pounds per acre to 1,132 pounds per acre. The 2018 harvested crop is the culmination of five months of time and effort as well as an enormous financial investment.

Given added production costs from glyphosate-resistant weeds as well as insecticide applications for tarnished plant bugs and bollworms, every possible pound must be captured this year to maintain and improve profit margins.

As the crop is coming out of the field, take stock of when and how financial resources were allocated this season. Although some costs cannot be avoided, be mindful of all production practices and subsequent financial investments. Make an effort to determine if crop management decisions resulted in a positive return on investment.

Too many times we think a given input paid for itself but aren’t completely sure. Maximizing return on investment is as likely as or more important than maximizing yield. dmd76@pss.msstate.edu

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

Most of Tennessee experienced an early crop. A tremendous amount of cotton was defoliated within the first three weeks of September, and I suspect a substantial amount will be picked before you read these comments.

Our current forecast appears to be quite favorable for defoliating and opening our crop, but I suspect a few late-planted fields will still require a second shot of defoliant after Oct. 1. Our cleanup — or second application — relies heavily on Folex or Aim/Display/ET to remove remaining leaves. If mature, lower leaves remain on the plant, and Folex is probably the best option. If juvenile growth or immature leaves remain, Aim/Display/ET plus an adjuvant will be a better choice. Product rates and adjuvants vary based on temperatures.

Here are a few quick comments on variety selection. I’m certain many of you have already been asked to book seed early. I would encourage you to hold off until you have an opportunity to look at 2018 data. Many of the varieties that will be sold in 2019 are new. Taking a look at data collected from unbiased trials will be extremely valuable for next season — both for variety performance and placement.

I’ll be posting results from our variety trials as soon as they become available, so keep an eye out on news.utcrops.com. To everyone, I hope you have a safe and productive harvest. traper@utk.edu

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

As I write this in mid-September, the cotton crop in Missouri is variable, especially in dryland fields. It is good overall with the yield potential still relatively higher than normal at this point compared to most years. Ultimately, we will need a warm and dry September and October to capture this yield potential.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon brought rainfall to our area, and hopefully the predictions for the next two weeks of warm and dry weather hold true. The crop is ahead of average with 66 percent of bolls rated as open by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Missouri Crop Progress and Condition report. Last year the crop was only 40 percent open at this time and the five-year average is only 26 percent. This earliness should help us meet the current yield estimate of 1,200 pounds per acre.

Some of the first-planted cotton in the Bootheel has been defoliated, but considerable acreage remains to be treated. Something to keep an eye on is the limited availability of thidiazuron this year. Low rates in the 2-ounces-per-acre range can be used if there is a lack of juvenile tissue, whereas rates in the 3-ounces-per-acre range would be needed in fields with high regrowth potential. This product also needs 24 hours to become rainfast, so keep that in mind to avoid wasting an application. meeksc@missouri.edu

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

Despite cooler and cloudy conditions across the state for much of the first half of September, the cotton crop in Oklahoma was still somewhat ahead of schedule as of mid-September. Harvest aid applications began in the middle of the month, and there will likely be some cotton harvested before this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you.

Much of the state is highly optimistic as we enter harvest. The crop in the southwest area, which endured severe drought and heat for much of the first half of the season, seems to have turned around. Hopes are that what remains may be better than earlier predictions.

In other parts of the state, such as the northern portion of cotton from I-40 to the Kansas border, the dryland crop looks favorable overall, while in the Panhandle both irrigated and dryland cotton have enjoyed fairly favorable conditions, and harvest operations will be ramping up soon.

Harvest is always a good time to identify potential issues that may need to be addressed for the following season. This is particularly true if weeds are present or if there were disease issues in the field. seth.byrd@okstate.edu

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Most everyone is still cautiously optimistic with regard to the crop in mid-September. We have perhaps gotten spoiled to some degree with the dry falls for the past few years. This fall appears to be more average so far. Slowing boll rot and finishing out the bolls in the top crop is our major concern at this time.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service September Crop Production report projects Arkansas producers to harvest 1.15 million bales, up 50,000 bales from the August forecast and 76,000 bales above last year.

Yield is expected to average 1,150 pounds per harvested acre, up 38 pounds from August but down 27 pounds from 2017. Planted acreage was revised to 485,000 acres, up 5,000 acres from June 2018. Harvested acreage was also changed from 475,000 to 480,000 acres.

Our crop is ahead of schedule this season. Mid-September NASS projections reported the crop was 72 percent open compared to 47 percent at this time last year and 52 percent over the past five years. We began to see some harvest activity the second week of September. No firm yield or quality information was available at the time these comments were prepared.

There are still a great number of challenges we must be prepared to address as this crop season comes to an end. We all look forward to seeing how this season wraps up as we make plans for 2019. brobertson@uaex.edu

Galon Morgan, Texas
Galon Morgan,

Finally, some widespread moisture has occurred across most of Texas. Unfortunately, it was too late for the cotton crop in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. However, the moisture is still welcome to refill an empty soil profile.

The rainfall was poorly timed for the Upper Gulf Coast, where 30 to 40 percent of the crop remained in the field. Prior to the rain starting about Sept. 1, the cotton fiber quality was outstanding for the UGC region, and growers were excited about harvesting the first crop in three years without dealing with sprouting and flooding.

For the cotton classed so far at Corpus Christi, the fiber quality has been good, with the exception of mic. To date, about 35 percent of the cotton has had a mic of 5 or more.

The Blacklands concluded most of its harvest early this year due to early maturation and low yields caused by drought conditions. Most of the yields in the Blacklands ranged from 300 to 750 pounds per acre with the majority at or below the 1-bale mark. Irrigated cotton in the Blacklands is suffering from the poorly timed rain the first two weeks of September. Seed sprouting and decreased fiber quality are a difficult pill to swallow for the third year in a row.

The Rolling Plains has also received some good rains, although highly scattered. With most of the dryland cotton being abandoned earlier in the season, these rains will be priceless for those farmers in a cotton:wheat rotation and will help the irrigated cotton fill out the top bolls as well.

Despite the limited quantities of thidiazuron available this year, lots of questions have been asked. But at the end of the day, I have not observed any major failures in cotton defoliation in South and East Texas. Also, in South and East Texas, we are expecting another increase in cotton acres in 2019, and growers are already planning accordingly. gdmorgan@tamu.edu

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

A lot of effort and resources have gone into the 2018 crop and as we come to the close of the season, the most important part awaits… harvest. Preserving all the work you have done is important and can be accomplished by efficiently preparing the crop for a clean harvest.

Defoliation and harvest preparation can be a challenge as it is affected by many factors, including crop maturity status, harvest aid material selection, and timing. Due to the complexity of harvest prep, it is difficult to thoroughly discuss in this venue.

However, many publications have been written describing the defoliation process, harvest preparation, appropriate materials and application timings. They can be found of University of Arizona website (https://cals.arizona.edu/crops/cotton/cropmgt/cropmgt.html).

Prevention of Plastic ContaminationSuffice it to say, achieving an effective and efficient defoliation and boll opening will go a long way in preserving the hard work that has been expended over the course of the growing season.

Another important part of preserving crop quality is to maintain contamination-free cotton from the field through the gin.

Plastic and poly module wraps and covers, plastic grocery bags, poly ropes and twine are all examples of contaminants that can enter into our production systems, resulting in contaminated cotton arriving to the end user.

Recently, the National Cotton Council produced some educational materials along with a video discussing the importance of keeping our cotton contamination free. Although the video focuses on round module wraps as a source of contamination, any contamination from any source is important to exclude in an effort to preserve the quality of our crop.

To view the video, go to www.youtube.com and search for “Prevention of Plastic Contamination.” rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

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