Thursday, May 30, 2024

2021 Planting Progress

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

We are having a normal planting season as many areas are too dry and others have wet places in the fields that farmers have to plant around. Non-irrigated growers often plant cotton before peanuts until it gets too dry in the top couple of inches. Then they switch to peanut planting until rain allows for better topsoil moisture for planting cotton again.

We have had some issues with establishing stands due to cold temperatures where standard seed treatments were not used and seedling diseases led to replanting. Other challenges include deep planting slowing emergence in cool, dry soil. Consequently, stands were reduced.

Cotton planted in early June with warm temperatures often germinates fast and can establish quickly if irrigated or if soil moisture is adequate. Seed treatments can save cotton stands if stress occurs during germination (cold soils, dry, too deep planting, etc.).

Many seed treatments include materials that help control thrips and assist early cotton growth.

Most of Florida’s cotton is minimum-till. In a lot of cases, the cover crop is winter weeds or sparse plantings of cover crops that do not provide a high amount of residue to conserve moisture. But they still help conserve soil moisture from not tilling the ground.

Some growers use starter fertilizer and run a strip-till rig with a subsoiler. They may plant back in the same row to take advantage of in-row fertilizer or subsoil slot for the second year of cotton before rotating back to peanuts.

However, our data in a three-year trial shows that yields may be reduced by as much as 30% by going back over the old cotton row versus row middles plantings. Nematode levels are often several times and as much as 100 times higher in the old row versus row middles.

Many growers use planter guidance, and yields can be increased by planting in last year’s row middles compared to using the old row without costing them more. This can be an easy way to test it yourself and pick up extra yield with less need for nematicides.

Growers are more optimistic about cotton this year than in the past three to four years due to prices. We hope everyone has a good year with no major storms to deal with. Most of our cotton will be planted by the first 10 days of June. It still has high yield potential even when planted up to the third week of June.

camp hand
Camp Hand,

In Georgia, the general feeling going into the week of May 17 is that cotton planting is behind. We have many growers who like to get some cotton in before they start planting peanuts. That was difficult to do this year after cold snaps and large amounts of rain that resulted in many fields having to be reworked prior to planting.

Once everyone got caught up, it was the first week of May. Some of the cotton took a back seat to peanuts, as planting date can be an extremely important weapon in the battle against tomato spotted wilt virus for peanuts.

Luckily for us in Georgia, we are not confined by as tight a planting window as some of my other friends across the Cotton Belt. With prices going the direction they have been, some folks may have that last change of heart and plant cotton.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report for the week ending May 16 showed we are 8% behind the five-year average for acres planted to cotton to this point.

In my opinion, that’s pretty good considering the obstacles our farmers have faced thus far with heavy rainfall and cool temperatures. In the words of a grower I recently met, “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

If you have questions, please reach out to your local University of Georgia county Extension agent. They, along with myself and the other specialists, are here to help!

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten,
North Carolina

Most growers were able to get a fair amount of the cotton crop planted in late April and early May before we hit a cold spell in mid-May. As I write this on May 17, our planting conditions look good through the remainder of the cotton planting period. Many growers may end up with an early planted crop and a later-planted crop.

That may be beneficial as spreading planting dates helps mitigate weather-related risks like drought and hurricanes. It also helps spread out the optimum window for side-dressing nitrogen and making some herbicide and potential growth regulator applications.

The challenge is to treat fields with these inputs when they are most effective and not treat the entire crop as one crop. Pay attention to weed emergence and size for herbicide applications and crop growth stage for timing side-dressed nitrogen.

We are most likely to get an economic benefit from growth regulators in situations where we can take advantage of the earliness they often bring. Keep this in mind when you are on the fence about using them. Earliness is most advantageous on the cotton you will pick first, as it may get machines in the field a week earlier. Or they may help the late-planted crop that is more likely to run out of time and heat.

With a mixed crop, apply growth regulators based on growth stage and plant size. If you send someone out to spray a high rate based on one field, it may be damaging to a later-planted field with less mature and smaller plants.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

For all practical purposes, the first two weeks of May provided no reasonable opportunities to plant cotton; cold, wet conditions prevented planting in the window we typically associate with our highest yields. As of May 12, Tennessee had less than 1% of our planned acreage planted. By May 14, conditions improved and most were running hard.

Planting continued through the weekend. Even though the forecast suggests scattered showers overnight May 17 and into May 18, the 10-day forecast looks very promising.

Regardless of how you slice this one, we are behind. Although our yield potential is still good, we must manage for earliness. Maintaining pest populations below thresholds and properly managing plant growth will be important as we move into June and July. Also consider slightly reducing nitrogen rates.

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

I don’t like being late, but LATE we are. Rainy weather. Cold weather. Where’s Al Gore when we really need him? And more rainy weather.

On April 25, it was as if a switch flipped. We went from uncomfortably cool conditions to just right and enjoyed a few days for planting only to be interrupted with more rainfall and a cool night or two. So more than the normal percentage of our Alabama crop is or will be planted in the latter portion of the typical planting window .… and later. How should we think about managing a late-planted crop?

• Be conservative with nitrogen. You don’t want a rank canopy nor cotton that’s dark green until frost. The goal is to fruit, mature and finish quickly. Consider reducing total N by 20% to 25%.

• If possible, sustain active growth with irrigation. Minimize plant stress throughout the growing cycle.

• Be more aggressive with plant growth regulators. Limit vegetative growth. Encourage early fruit set. For tall, vigorous varieties, make applications closer to match head square than first bloom. But use caution and common sense. There are a few varieties and/or fields that might be stopped with strong rates.

• Increase insect scouting vigilance and management. Don’t let plant bugs, stink bugs and escaped worms take fruit. To avoid plant stress, you might also treat aphids quicker if the fungus is not curbing them. But be careful that you don’t create problems with spider mites, etc.

We can make a near-maximum crop in four weeks of bloom IF weather cooperates. A compressed, condensed season may require greater management intensity. But with 85-cent cotton, it could prove very profitable.

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

As I write this on May 14, most Mississippi cotton growers haven’t planted or have just a few acres in the ground. Recent rains and cool weather have made it almost impossible to plant, which has created unrest in many farmers.

There was a small two- to three-day planting window at the end of April followed by another window in northwest Mississippi from May 7- 9, and that’s it! The weather following the second planting window is the most concerning since we had 2 to 3 inches of rain followed by three nights at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this point in 2020, most of the Mississippi cotton crop was already planted, with the majority seeded within the optimal window of May 1-10. However, taking an optimistic view of the future weather forecast suggests better conditions beginning this weekend (May 14-18), which could drastically alter the planted acres landscape. Currently, farmers need only about four to five full planting days to cover their cotton acres.

Considering the calendar date, it is important to manage this crop intensely to avoid maturity delays. Growers on the eastern side of the state, planting into green cover crops often encounter “rolly polly” and thrips, which if left untreated can cause delays in maturity. Usually, a pyrethroid is applied at planting to mitigate these pests. Insects pose a threat to young cotton across the state and should be managed closely to avoid setbacks.

Nitrogen management is another concern. Timely nitrogen applications are paramount with later-planted cotton to avoid maturity delays.

My advice is to stay optimistic about the weather and take advantage of every planting window from this point forward. Good luck!

matt foster
Matt Foster,

Cotton planting in Louisiana continues to be slow due to weekly heavy rains throughout the state. As I write this on May 17, about 45% of the crop is in the ground. Normally, about 70% of the crop would be planted by this date. Early planted cotton was replanted in some areas of the state due to cool temperatures and excessive moisture.

Producers made headway over the weekend, but most planting operations will cease this week as more rainfall is predicted. I was fortunate to get a few cotton trials planted over the weekend in Tensas Parish.

In Louisiana, cotton is generally planted in mid-April to mid-May. Unfortunately, it looks like a significant amount of our crop will get in the ground the latter part of May and early June. Research has shown that cotton planted in late May to early June can see up to a 25% reduction in lint yield. If unfavorable planting conditions continue, some producers may plant their intended cotton acres to soybeans.

Since most of the 2021 Louisiana cotton crop will likely be late, growers need to fine-tune their management practices for insect control, nitrogen fertilization and plant growth regulator applications to avoid a delayed harvest. Thrips damage and excess nitrogen can delay maturity.

Late-planted cotton often grows more vigorously compared to an early planted crop, so a timelier PGR approach may be needed. Most growers and consultants have told me, “You picked a good year to start as a cotton specialist.” I definitely won’t forget this planting season anytime soon.

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

The National Agricultural Statistics Service recently updated our 2020 crop summary. Our final lint yield of 1,179 pounds per harvested acre is second to our record of 1,185 pounds set in 2019. Arkansas ranked third in total production and tied for second in lint yield per acre for the 2020 season.

This is the third year in a row wet weather has significantly slowed cotton planting. Planting progress in the past two seasons was slow with about half of our intended acres in the ground by mid-May. Fortunately, the past two seasons represent our two best years on record regarding yield per acre.

Unfortunately, planting progress in 2021 has trailed progress of the past two seasons. Our old rule of thumb that up to a 2% loss of yield potential may be experienced for every day planting occurs after May 20 is an important consideration for late-season planting decisions.

The Crop Progress report by USDA-NASS estimated planting at 45% on May 17 as this article is being prepared. A solid week of rain is forecast for the week of May 17. The USDA-NASS March Prospective Plantings report indicated we would be down 7% from last year, or about 35,000 acres. With current weather issues thrown in and continued grain price increases, we could be looking at a 20% to 25% reduction in cotton acres from last year.

History shows we have the potential to make a good crop with some late-planted cotton. However, timely management translates to even greater returns in a short season. The first 40 days in the life of a cotton plant set the foundation for yield and fiber quality potential for the season. Pest management issues are generally the greatest concerns for the young crop. However, as we move into the next few weeks in June, other factors, including fertility and soil moisture stress become more critical.

Research demonstrates the importance of avoiding stress once squaring begins. Irrigation water management is our next big challenge. There are many programs, tools and practices available that producers can use to help improve irrigation water use efficiency. Everyone who uses plastic tubing should be using Delta Plastics’ Pipe Planner, a computerized hole selection tool.

We want to go into squaring with the plant developing a new node every 2.5 to three days. This puts us on track to having nine to 10 nodes above white flower at first flower. Contact your local county Extension agent for more information.

seth byrd
Seth Byrd,

Although most of Oklahoma’s cotton region was dry to extremely dry entering May, showers moved through the state in the middle of the month, bringing relief to some areas. As I write this May 17, the Panhandle and parts of the southwest corner of the state have received significant rain over the past three days.

However, less than 0.25 inch has been received in much of west central Oklahoma, including areas as far southwest as Harmon and Greer counties. This represents a large area of cotton acreage, particularly dryland production. Additional precipitation will be needed in the days ahead to achieve adequate planting conditions.

Although some cotton has been planted, as of mid-May the vast majority of the 2021 crop is still in the bag or box. Temperatures warmed during the second week of May, which improved planting conditions. For cotton planted during the first half of May, slow growing conditions will likely make scouting for early season pests even more critical.

Optimizing early season development will be key to grow out of sensitive growth stages. Be aware of what was included on your seed treatment and activity windows for any other early season crop protection products that were applied so a game plan can be developed before issues arise.

If you switched variety plant maturity in late May and early June, be sure to take the maturity difference into account when considering other inputs, such as plant growth regulators. Even with a later planting date, an earlier maturing variety will likely not require as much growth regulation as a later maturing one.

If making a switch to address maturity concerns, be sure to refer to available data close to your location and under similar management to your own practices. Keep in mind we found ourselves in a similar situation last year. Although the current system is forecast to last several more days than the system that bought significant rainfall to our region in mid-May of 2020, most cotton in Oklahoma was planted in the last week of May and first week of June last year.

In some cases, variety selection was adjusted to account for the later planting date. However, due to weather patterns over the course of the season, we saw good performance across a broad range of maturities. Regardless of planting date and variety maturity adjustments, season-long weather and how we address it through management decisions will ultimately determine our success.

Bob Hutmacher
Bob Hutmacher,

As we approach late May in the San Joaquin Valley, we again face a difficult water year with limited irrigation water due to low rainfall and a reduced snowpack. Little chance of additional rain or snow exists this time of year, so water supply restrictions, at least from irrigation districts, will be in effect for many SJV farms that have cotton rotations.

Based in part on predictions of a low irrigation water supply, 2021 cotton planted acreage is already down substantially from recent years. Most of the cotton was planted between late March and mid- to late April. There is a wide range of plant populations in different areas of the valley. Stand variability could be related to seedling vigor issues. But increased disease pressure from Rhizoctonia and Fusarium have played a role in reduced stands in some fields, along with drying winds and loss of surface soils moisture.

Since planting started, it has been drier and warmer than average and windier. Otherwise, it’s mostly conducive to decent growth rates. Cool overnight low temperatures occurred in some areas in mid-April, but not low enough to cause significant chilling injury. We currently have many fields in OK to good shape. As of mid-May, I have seen only a few fields being set up for a first irrigation, and for many fields that may be planned for late May or even the first week(s) of June.

Moving toward first in-season irrigations, sort through strategies for how to deal with limited irrigation water, including:

• Look ahead to decide how you’d like to manage the crop — (ie. full-season or earlier-maturing based on planting date, growth progress, water limits?)

• Consider being more aggressive in limiting early square and fruit loss to improve chances of an early set crop where you don’t have to manage for a late top crop.

• Determine if you can limit total water applications by practices such as alternate row irrigation mid- or late season or

• Evaluate the top crop when the time comes and eliminate a final irrigation if it doesn’t warrant the water.

With limited rain and early warm weather, the good news is early lygus sources may be less of a problem this year. However, the SJV’s highly diversified agriculture means we have multiple sources of both pests and beneficials, so cotton growers still need to watch for developing insect and mite pest problems.

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

After a dry start to the 2021 growing season, much- needed rainfall has brought some relief to several areas of the state. As I write this on May 17, the drought monitor map indicates that recent rainfall has eased up the drought conditions in parts of the Upper Gulf Coast and the Blacklands.

In the Coastal Bend growing region, areas near the coast have received rainfall, but conditions get continuously drier farther inland. Any recent rainfall in the Lower Rio Grande Valley may have come too late for non-irrigated cotton acres.

Much of the state is projected to receive rainfall in the next week with some areas forecast to receive several inches of precipitation. About 35% of the statewide cotton acreage has been planted as of the third week of May, and 2% of the acres are at or near squaring. Any additional moisture in the soil profile will be welcomed ahead of planting in the Rolling Plains region.

Overall, planting conditions in April were nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Extended periods of cool nighttime temperatures in the Blacklands and Upper Gulf Coast resulted in delayed emergence in some cases. In addition to cool temperatures, soil crusting issues for some farmers compounded problems with plant stand establishment.

Just as things began to look up, early thrips pressure in certain areas have kept growers on their toes. It has been a tough start for young cotton plants in many areas of Texas. But as we look ahead, keep in mind that has tons of information relevant to early, mid- and late-season cotton management.

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda,
Texas A&M

The drought situation in West Texas has been bad since last year. Needless to say, that did not have our growers very excited about the coming season. But just like I had been told when I first moved here, things can change, and that usually happens quickly. Although planting started in early May, things had been slow due to limited available moisture and a few cold fronts pushing through.

The past three weeks or so, however, brought much-needed rainfall to our region. Not everyone received a lot of rain, but as of mid-May as I write this, some folks have just enough moisture to get a dryland crop up. We also have more rain chances in the forecast. In my assessment, we don’t have much cotton in just yet, but soil temperatures are good, and soil moisture (although far from perfect) is not as limiting as it was a month ago. Weather permitting, we can cover a lot of ground here quickly.

By the time you receive this issue, we will be close to our insurance deadlines (or past them for the northern counties). Please keep variety maturity class in mind. If planting mid-full season lines, consider earlier-maturing varieties if planting extends into June.

While that can cause you to “miss out” on taking full advantage of the season, it also helps mitigate some of the risks associated with
an early freeze and its negative impacts on fiber quality.

As always, stay safe and feel free to reach out if we can be of any assistance. Wishing you all out there a good 2021 cotton season!

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