2022 Cotton Crop Update

ALABAMA | Steve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

What a wild season! Wet conditions delayed initial field activities, but once planting began, we soon ran short on moisture, challenging efforts to achieve adequate stands. June included some of the hottest early summer temperatures in memory. Tough on crops, animals and people. By July 4, portions of north Alabama were parched, while the Gulf Coast was wet, wet. Mid-July brought needed rain to most areas, and, of course, excessive amounts in Southwest Alabama. 

December futures have been comparable to a ROCKET and a ROCK. Price went up and up and up and still up, peaking above $1.30, only to free-fall more than 40 cents in just a few days.

Palmer amaranth (pigweed) continues to frustrate. This year, I’ve spent enough hours pulling pigweeds to help me predict: “Will this one come up by the roots or break off?” Because he’s bigger and stronger, my graduate student has to be assigned the problem plants.

That reminds me of a story. When I was a grad student at Auburn, there were several characters in the pool of my peers. The group was traveling one day and pulled into a gas station needing fuel. An “important” Ph.D. student, whose name will not be divulged so as not to further tarnish his reputation, held fast in his seat and announced, “Ph.D. students don’t pump gas,” a declaration poorly received by his beneath-him M.S. students and hourly workers.

Weed pulling is hard work, but I’m proud to say we salvaged three large experiments by hours of sweaty exertion. The subsequent crop growth has been remarkable. Yes, John, if the job needs to be done, even old Ph.D.’s can and should pull pigweeds.

Questions sometimes arise about an extremely late crop, one planted late or one arrested by severe drought but revived by July rains. How much more should we put into the crop? One thing worth investment if there is any hope of a pickable crop is stink bug control. Don’t give up late bolls to stink bugs. Yes, control weeds, if possible. More fertilizer is usually not the answer. But late bolls need to be protected. cottonbrown@auburn.edu

ARKANSAS |Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

The Arkansas Crop Progress and Condition Report released by USDA-NASS mid-July estimates crop development similar to that observed last year but slightly behind our five-year average. Our crop condition is still holding in the heat and dry conditions, with 45% rated as good and 35% rated as excellent. 

Due to the lack of rainfall, many fields do not have the plant height we are accustomed to seeing. However, we were at or close to our goal of having nine to 10 nodes above our first position white flower at first flower on our cotton that irrigation initiation was accomplished in a timely fashion. For many, the first irrigation on cotton was two weeks earlier than last year. 

Dryland cotton is taking it on the chin. Our big salvation through mid-July was that nighttime temperatures were not excessive as we sometimes see. Mornings were still cooling down. Cotton fields that did not receive a timely start for irrigation were at or near cutout by mid-July, about two weeks earlier than we generally see.

Tracking nodes above white flower (NAWF) from first flower to cutout (NAWF=5) can offer great insight on the condition and potential of the crop. Our goal is to use this tool to aid in crop termination. General termination guidelines include: plant bug, cutout + 250 HU; bollworm, and tobacco budworm, cutout + 350 HU; stink bug, cutout + 450 HU; fall armyworm, cutout + 500-550 HU; defoliating insects’ cutout + 650 HU; harvest aid initiation cutout + 850 HU.

As we go into August, we must continue to manage this crop in a timely fashion to maintain our yield and quality potential. For more information, contact your local county Extension agent. brobertson@uada.edu

ARIZONA | Randy Norton

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

In my travels around the state in recent weeks, I have observed cotton fields at all stages of development. The western part of the state has now been terminated and is prepping for harvest. The remainder of the state is at varying stages of bloom from peak bloom to cutout.  

For the most part — as of this writing — the crop is in good condition. Fruit retention levels have remained above average for the majority of the season, and weather conditions have been conducive to producing a better-than-average crop. As we approach the final stages of the season, decisions will be made within the next several weeks related to crop termination — or the date of final irrigation on many acres across the state. This can be a difficult decision to make given all the factors that need to be considered including current fruit load, crop vigor, soil water-holding capacity and potential heat unit (HU) accumulation.  

A total of approximately 600 HU are required for a fresh bloom to mature to a harvestable boll. Sufficient soil moisture is required to maintain good plant and water relations during this period of fiber development or boll fill. A good way to determine the date of your final irrigation is to identify the last flower intended for harvest and the estimated boll maturity date based upon historical HU accumulations (data for boll maturity estimates can be found at AZMET weather site). A final irrigation date can then be estimated to ensure proper crop water status that sustains boll development through the estimated maturity date.  

Several factors that provide variation in the amount of water needed to achieve boll maturation need to be considered including soil water-holding capacity, current weather conditions (crop ET estimates) and water availability.  More detailed information regarding this topic and others related to late-season crop management can be found at the UArizona Extension website extension.arizona.edu/crops-soils. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

FLORIDA | David Wright

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

The 2022 cotton season has been more variable for growth due to the spotty rains across the panhandle of Florida. Irrigated cotton has looked good, but some irrigated fields were planted two to three weeks later than normal due to wet areas needing to dry. Late-planted cotton needs August blooms to help with yield. 

Late-season insect control is critical to finishing up with high yields. Stink bugs are present in many other crops, and cotton is especially attractive as the other crops begin drying down. Bolls develop after blooming throughout the month of August and end about the first week of September in the Deep South.

Young bolls are susceptible to damage from stink bugs for about three weeks after bloom. This means that protection is necessary into September on late-planted cotton. Cotton should have adequate water throughout the bloom period to keep from shedding squares. Many squares will shed late in the season as fruit set continues and other factors — such as environmental stress and insect pressure — increase.   

Hot and dry as well as hot and wet conditions may reduce fruit set late in the season. Boll rot and hard lock are often a problem created by fruit set during periods of high temperatures and relative humidity. Research work is continuing on reducing losses from hard lock and boll rot with use of fungicides. Models are being developed to help growers make decisions on controlling these diseases and see under what conditions they may occur. Growers should begin planning for defoliation and getting equipment ready to begin harvest as soon as the crop is mature and ready to pick in order to retain best lint quality and yield. wright@ufl.edu

GEORGIA | Camp Hand

camp hand
Camp Hand,

As I write this July 12, it seems like we have entered our typical late-summer weather pattern here in Georgia. Late afternoon showers have become the norm, and for many people, it is a welcome sight. In late June/early July, many people were more or less starting to push the panic button because we were starting to struggle. Since then, it feels like we have turned a corner. As I drive across the state, I can’t help but think we are in really good position with our crop right now. Of course, we have a long way to go, and a lot could change between here and the finish line — but right now, it looks really good. 

A couple of things to be mindful of:

Right now, retention in our crop is incredible. Of course, by the time this is published, that could change, but it seems like we are holding a lot of fruit. Keep this in mind when making PGR decisions right now, but also keep it in the back of your mind towards the end of the year. If retention stays high, maturity will sneak up on us.

Stink bugs were heavy in corn this year, and some of the first reports in cotton are high. Be on the lookout. Best thing a grower can do is walk their fields and look. 

Many field days are approaching, and we are all looking forward to seeing everyone. See below for the dates:

Southeast Research and Education Center Field Day in Midville, Georgia – Aug. 10

Southwest Research and Education Center Field Day in Plains, Georgia – Aug. 24

Cotton and Peanut Research Field Day in Tifton, Georgia – Sept. 7

J. Phil Campbell Cotton Field Day in Watkinsville, Georgia – Sept. 28

As always, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. camphand@uga.edu 

LOUISIANA | Matt Foster

matt foster
Matt Foster,

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, planted acres of cotton in Louisiana are at 170,000 acres, up 55% from 2021. As I write this July 14, approximately 95% of the cotton crop is squaring and 52% is setting bolls, which is above the five-year average of 89% and 44%, respectively. 

It has been hot and dry in most cotton-producing areas of the state. Irrigated cotton fields have been a common sight while travelling throughout the state. Since heat unit accumulation has been higher this year, most of the crop is moving along at a fast pace. Square retention was excellent as we approached first bloom. Despite hot and dry conditions, most of the cotton crop throughout the state looks good. 

For the remainder of the season, growers and consultants will focus on insect control and growth management. Insect pressure from plant bugs, aphids and spider mites has been sporadic. However, I anticipate plant bug pressure will increase in the next few weeks as the corn crop matures. Currently, applications of mepiquat chloride are being made to manage plant height. Hopefully, timely rains will occur through the remainder of July and August to finish out the crop. Louisiana growers are currently optimistic about the cotton crop as the end of the season approaches. mfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

MISSISSIPPI | Brian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

As I write this July 13, our crop is overall variable — with water being our most limiting factor. Despite a few replanted acres, most of our cotton was planted by May 15, which has been unusual for the past two or three years. June was hot and dry, which allowed the cotton to race through squaring and begin blooming a couple weeks ahead of schedule. 

During the month of June, there was very little rainfall across the state. Hot, dry conditions contributed to rapid heat unit accumulation (approximately 650 heat units), which was good for the crop.  This season, our root systems are more established than years past, allowing for more water and nutrient scavenging. However, in many areas, water availability is a limiting factor in terms of growth and development. Some of the early blooming cotton in a rain-fed environment was basically approaching cut out when it started blooming and was two NAWF within 10 days. This is a yield-limiting concern with 15-node cotton.

On the bright side, July is trending more favorable in terms of rainfall. We have experienced some scattered showers bringing much-needed moisture. Much of the nutrient deficiency symptoms we were seeing were directly related to lack of soil solution and relocation of nutrients from within the plants. In irrigated production systems, the crop looks good, and fruit retention has been high across the state. Plant bug pressure has been light up to this point, but there is still a long way to go to finish the crop. Hopefully, August will cooperate, and we will have a good crop this year! bkp4@msstate.edu

NORTH CAROLINA | Keith Edmisten

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten,
North Carolina

June was a tough month for cotton in North Carolina with dry weather and hit-or-miss (mostly miss) scattered showers leaving a majority of the crop drought stressed. Rains in early July found most of the crop in early bloom. Much of the earlier cotton was already blooming out the top soon after it began blooming. Normally, when cotton reaches four nodes above white bloom or less, we consider the crop to be cutout with little potential to set more harvestable fruit. Thankfully that is not the case this year because the cutout was due to early drought rather than boll load. If we continue to get some rain, we are set up to have a “suspended” cutout where the crop continues to set nodes and fruiting sites while staying at low nodes above white bloom.

All of this is to say, we can still end up with a pretty good crop, even though a lot of it looked pretty pitiful going into bloom. Many growers are wondering if they need to apply Pix now that rains have returned. Growers may want to hold off for a while in these fields affected by early drought to avoid the chance of reducing the number of future nodes and potential fruiting sites. We should definitely avoid high rates of Pix that might limit the crops’ ability to produce more nodes if rains do not continue.

Plant bug activity has been high in some areas. If rains do not keep coming in a timely manner, we may end up needing to make a top crop. Making a top crop can make continuing to scout for plant bugs and stink bugs necessary later in the season than usual. keith_edmisten@ncsu.edu

TEXAS | Ben McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As of mid-July, cotton in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is progressing quickly, and the majority of fields in this region are at 30% to 60% open boll. As growers wrap up harvesting grain crops in the LRGV, attention will be turned to initiating harvest-aid applications, and cotton harvest should be under way in several fields by the time you are reading this in early August.

Bolls have started cracking in the Coastal Bend and on dryland fields in the Upper Gulf Coast, but irrigated fields in the Upper Gulf Coast are at, or approaching, cutout. There are some reports of bollworm and stink bugs in some fields, but pressure from these pests is below economic threshold at this time. Initial yield expectations for the Upper Gulf Coast range from average on irrigated acres to below average on many dryland production fields. As extremely warm temperatures continue to remain in the extended forecast, cotton should finish out at a relatively quick pace in this region. 

Conditions in the Blackland Prairie region, like most of the state, have been extremely hot and dry for some time. Most of the dryland acres in this region are at or past cutout, and conditions have led to some shedding of flowers and small bolls. Bollworm pressure became prevalent earlier in July, prompting growers with two-gene Bt varieties to spray for these pests. Varieties with three-gene or Vip technology have held up quite well to bollworm pressure so far. bmcknight@tamu.edu 

TEXAS | Murilo Maeda

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda,
Texas A&M

As I write this mid-July, conditions across West Texas have seen little in the way of improvement. Hot and dry conditions have prevailed during most of the season as we entered bloom, and despite a few scattered showers across the region, most remain very dry. This has led to high abandonment as fields were failed and adjusted. 

Dryland cotton is scarce this year around here, and even irrigated fields have struggled to keep up. Looking at the forecast through the end of July, we are looking at record high temperatures and virtually no precipitation. Overall, the crop that made it this far is very variable. We have some that were planted early May that are in the second to third week of bloom, with some planted towards the beginning of July that still have some time to go. 

Isolated acres, especially northwest of Lubbock, were treated for thrips early in the season, with unusually high numbers of plant bugs (Mozena obtusa Uhler) showing up in the past few days. While there are pockets of heavier pressure, reports are coming from all over the region, so it is something else growers need to contend with this year. Despite 250,000 additional planted acres nationwide, the USDA-NASS is forecasting an almost four times higher abandonment rate in 2022 as compared to this time last year. Unfortunately, this has been attributed (mostly) to extremely unfavorable conditions in Texas, particularly in the Texas High Plains. mmaeda@ag.tamu.edu 

OKLAHOMA | Seth Byrd

seth byrd
Seth Byrd,

Last month, I stated that many parts of Oklahoma were waiting to dry out before cotton planting activities could resume. At that time, the majority of the dryland acres and many of the irrigated had yet to be planted. It turned out to be a very short wait, with many fields going from saturated to dry-planted in 10 days or less. Further, the heavy rain events forced many to replant fields that planted just prior to the first round of storms that moved through. Whether due to heavy rains, saturated conditions or the rapid drying of the upper soil profile, stand establishment has proven to be a challenge in many areas.

While most of the cotton in the state isn’t in an ideal condition, there are some good looking fields around. Many irrigated fields that were planted in early to mid-May seem to be in the best shape, and if one does enough looking, there are pockets of good-looking dryland cotton. However, the second half of June and all of July thus far have been brutal, with most daytime highs exceeding 100° and relentless winds, which has created formidable conditions for any crop progress. 

As of mid-July, there are some reports of square shed beginning in the dryland crop — even some in fields with limited irrigation — and this will likely worsen as the forecast for the remainder of the month is more of the same hot and dry conditions we’ve experienced for the previous five weeks. In irrigated fields with higher pumping capacities or better water availability, the crop does seem to be progressing, although it would still benefit from some rain events to provide additional moisture and cooler temperatures. Ideally, we use irrigation to supplement rainfall, but at this point, we could use a rain to supplement irrigation and give the pivots a break.

Overall, the crop condition in Oklahoma could be summed up as “hanging on,” with a large and significant rain event needed to provide relief in the best-case scenarios — and pull the crop back from the brink in others. seth.byrd@okstate.edu

TENNESSEE | Tyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

Scattered rainfalls have continuously disappointed West Tennessee, with most farms falling in the ‘have not’ category. In some areas, fertilizer prills can still be found on the soil surface.  

Severe drought stress has limited node development, and much of our crop entered flower with unusually low nodes above white flower counts. There is still a chance to reach black with this crop, but if rainfall does not resume in the immediate future, Tennessee’s crop will likely fall far short of what we’ve averaged over the past 10 years. 

To make things worse, we have more invested in this crop than ever before. We have a team of economists working on developing materials to help navigate these challenging times, and I expect those resources will be available in the coming weeks. If rain does resume across the area, management decisions in August, September and October are going to be quite complicated — but we will worry about that after the rain.  

For now, we are learning rain dances, hanging dead snakes from fences and clothes outside, turning the sprinklers on when a storm cloud approaches and leaving the windows down — anything and everything we can do to trigger a rain. traper@utk.edu

VIRGINIA | Hunter Frame

Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame

Overall, the Virginia cotton crop is variable due to spotty rainfall across the growing area. However, rains around the fourth of July have moved the cotton along. 

Heading into August, we are looking at PGR and insect management. Most of Virginia’s cotton is in the second to fourth week of bloom by early August, so scouting for corn earworm, plant bugs and stink bugs is in full swing. Follow your state’s Extension recommendations and scouting guidelines for these pests. 

Most all of Virginia’s cotton has received the first application of PGR, and producers are following up with a second during this time. It is critical to evaluate the internode spacing around the 4th main stem node when deciding on PGR application rates. Also keep in mind soil moisture and potential rainfall as applying PGR during dry conditions could adversely affect cotton development. whframe@vt.edu

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