Be Prepared For Potential Challenges

FLORIDADavid Wright

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

The plans for the 2022 cotton season are well underway. Many good Bollgard 3 varieties are available with many other technologies to help growers against nematodes, weeds and insects. Choosing the best varieties can increase profit by $50-200 per acre. 

Growers are finding fertilizer prices up as much as double since last year and cheaper nitrogen sources are still being shopped around. 

Since two-thirds of our cotton is grown without irrigation, the current La Niña weather phase is of concern. Those who use cover crops should consider an earlier kill to keep drying the soil prior to planting. 

Weather is important throughout the season but harvest may be the most important time. The past two years in parts of the Panhandle had wet conditions, resulting in boll rot and hard lock. Recent years had cotton yields of nearly 900 lbs. per acre with good harvest conditions. In 2021, our state yield averaged about 700 lbs. per acre of lint due to wet conditions at harvest. 

Late-planted cotton did better the past two years since it was not open in late August when early planted cotton started opening under wet conditions. It is difficult to guess what the weather will be like at harvest and where hurricanes will land.


camp hand
Camp Hand,

It is hard to believe it is already time to start thinking about planting for the 2022 growing season. For my friends in Georgia, I hope we have turned the page on 2021 and are preparing for 2022. 

The No. 1 thing at the forefront of everyone’s minds is input costs. Although many are looking for ways to cut some costs, one thing we don’t need to do is overlook the small stuff. For example, take time before you get to the field to make sure your planter is operating correctly, and everything is tuned up. With margins being razor thin this season, the last thing we need to do is have something go wrong right out the gate with stand establishment.

Make sure to control the things you can. One great resource for tuning up your planter is the Row Crop Planter Checklist from our precision ag specialists here at the University of Georgia — Drs. Wes Porter and Simer Virk. The checklist can be found here: If we can’t get a good stand and get the crop off to a good start, then all the money spent on fertilizer won’t do much good. 

Another issue many are thinking about relative to input costs is increased price of chemicals because of shortages. In cotton, this would mainly be glyphosate and glufosinate. It’s never a good idea to cut residual herbicides out of a weed management program. But with the anticipated shortages this year, now isn’t the time to rely solely on post-emergence herbicides for weed control. 

The good news is, as I write this Feb. 10, cotton prices are good. According to our UGA economists Dr. Yangxuan Liu and Amanda Smith, we can still make money planting cotton in Georgia.

For those who have had us in your county this winter for production meetings, we have thoroughly enjoyed being back on the road and seeing everyone in person. If we haven’t been to your county yet, we look forward to seeing you over the next two weeks! As always, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. 


Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this on Feb. 3, attendance at our winter cotton county production meetings — thus far — has been noticeably high. This is indicative of heightened interest in cotton for 2022, as well as pandemic fatigue that prohibited us from meeting in-person last year. Regardless, it has been nice to renew our winter meetings with excellent attendance, especially coming out of 2021 with one of the best cotton years (in general) that we’ve had in recent history.

March is a great time to evaluate tillage practices to determine if any changes are necessary. Particularly on sandier textured soils, we often observe the effect of a hardpan formation in fields that have been in long-term no-till. In many/most cases, we often see a shallow-rooted and/or a J-rooted crop resulting from a shallow hardpan that exists well above the E-horizon or clay layer. 

In most cases, the potential problems associated with a shallow-rooted crop often go unnoticed due to a lack of a comparison “check” in the same field. A shallow-rooted crop can still result in high yields but is heavily reliant on very timely rains throughout the season. Any interruption in rainfall — especially when temperatures are high — will commonly result in premature wilting due to reduced root access to subsoil moisture, as well as drought tolerance, poor nutrient uptake and reduced yields. 

Therefore, in sandier-textured soils — if such a hardpan exists — growers may want to consider running a strip-till rig to “reset the clock”, so to speak, to allow for better root development, improved drought tolerance and uptake of nutrients and improved yields when droughty situations occur.

ALABAMASteve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

This season comes with challenges of high input costs, product shortages, market volatility and political uncertainties. At least we have strong prices … currently. Obvious questions: Are there places to cut input costs? How can we wisely reduce risks? 

Here are a few thoughts, some obvious and cliché-like, others requiring careful assessment of individual operations and fields. 

We must PRODUCE. We need strong yields to cover costs. And we need to secure a good price. On this date, Dec ’22 futures opened at $106.11. Contracting a portion of expected bales at this price ranges seems prudent. What happens if Russia invades Ukraine? Good yields with good prices keep us profitable.

Proper TIMING maximizes the efficacy and value of each and every input. Think about the results from timely applications for thrips or Palmer amaranth versus those delayed a few days. Same costs, vastly different outcomes.

Research encourages a consideration of REDUCED SEEDING RATES. A 2019 global review of cotton seeding rate experiments determined that a final plant population of just over 14,000 plants per acre is sufficient for normal yields. Arkansas researchers recently described their work with variable seeding rates and concluded that a threshold of slightly more than 1 plant per foot was adequate for maximum yields.

This is not to suggest you plant less than 2 seeds per foot, but if your rates exceed 33,000 per acre, you might consider a reduction of a couple of thousand seed per acre. Typical establishment rates (seeding rate versus actual stand) are often between 70% and 90 percent. Many growers could save a few dollars on seed.

FERTILIZE WISELY, JUDICIOUSLY. Soil scientists preach the 4 R’s: Right product (source), Right rate, Right placement, Right timing. Nitrogen is of particular concern, given its cost and importance in growth and productivity. Excessive N rates not only waste money, but also create problems with foliar diseases, hard lock, boll rot, crop maturity and defoliation.

On-going research continues to support an N rate of 90 lbs. Making the most of applied N also involves considerations about application procedures and additives to minimize volatilization and/or leaching.

MISSISSIPPIBrian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

With planting season a few short months away, it is time to consider a few last-minute items to get primed for planting. 

January and February have been a little different this year than most with more time spent contemplating burndown applications due to supply shortages of certain herbicides. 

Implementing a solid fertility management plan is essential due to increases in fertilizer costs. Soil tests are important under these circumstances to make informed application decisions. It’s wise to consider reduced rates of phosphorus and potassium fertilizers as long as soil test values are medium to medium-high. Some growers may choose not to apply fertilizer at all depending on the cash flow needed to float their budget. In terms of fertility, crop removal is constant so it will play into the equation at some point. There are resources available to help with cotton fertility decisions and BMP. Visit www.mississip to find a wealth of information.

Equipment parts like buster sweeps, disc pans and bearings are a bit harder to come by than in years past. Anticipate the necessary parts to keep the daily field activities running smoothly, and have these supplies handy. Given the short planting windows we have had lately, it would be unfortunate to miss out due to a supply shortage.

Variety selection has become an increasingly difficult task affecting cotton producers. More varieties are becoming available with new technologies at an alarming rate. Many of these varieties have somewhat limiting data regarding yield and fiber quality characteristics. In Mississippi, there is a trend towards adopting three-gene Bt cotton. 

For more information on Mississippi cotton variety performance data, visit


Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

High fertilizer costs have been a hot topic over the past several months. 

There are several obvious steps to help capitalize on every cent spent— relying on soil tests, properly managing soil pH and properly timing each application with the proper rate, the best source and the best placement — just to name a few. 

One practice you may not be considering but should be is using is an in-season dry fertilizer application as a carrier for residual herbicides you might not otherwise be able to apply over the top in cotton. Dr. Larry Steckel has been evaluating the practice with Zidua and found excellent results; when applied at labeled rates to dry foliage, no injury was observed. 

Timing can line up well with nitrogen, sulfur and/or potassium applications. 

This may alter your standard fertilizer application timings, but it is a worthwhile practice to incorporate a valuable product in the system.


matt foster
Matt Foster,

Cotton acreage in Louisiana is expected to increase substantially this year. Now is a great time to review a few key recommendations to ensure the 2022 season gets off to a great start. 

In Louisiana, cotton is generally planted in mid-April to mid-May, but planting decisions should be based on soil temperature, not the calendar. Early planting is a key component of successful cotton production; however, if planted too early, yield potential can be reduced. Before deciding to plant, it is important to consider factors such as soil temperature and heat units (DD60s). 

Soil temperature is the main factor influencing seedling growth rate. Cool soils (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause chilling injury to germinating plants. Chilling injury can reduce vigor and increase the likelihood of seedling disease issues. Good germination and emergence can be expected once the soil temperature at a four-inch depth is 65 degrees Fahrenheit or greater at 8 a.m. for at least three consecutive days, with a good five-day forecast following planting. 

Once soil temperature is optimal, it is important to calculate the number of DD60s for the next five days to determine if conditions are optimal for planting. Emergence generally occurs after the accumulation of 50 to 80 DD60s after planting. If the five-day forecast after planting predicts the accumulation of less than 26 DD60s, planting should be postponed. Also, the low temperature for the next five days should remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Creating a weed-free seedbed is essential in avoiding problems from certain insect pests. Pre-plant, burndown herbicide applications should be made at least four weeks prior to planting to ensure no green vegetation is in the field for insect pests to survive on. It is also important to control weedy host plants on field borders to reduce the chance of insect pests moving into adjacent cotton fields later in the season. With some herbicides in short supply this year, it will be imperative to make every application count. 

The Louisiana Weed Management and Insect Management Guides are available at Best of luck during the upcoming season.

ARKANSASBill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Planting intentions for 2022 are still up in the air as everyone is following the markets for grain and cotton. Current and predicted weather patterns will also play into the equation. 

The most recent planting intention survey released by the National Cotton Council mid-February indicated cotton plantings in Arkansas at 555,000 acres, up 15.7% from last year. One of the major limitations of significant acreage expansion in Arkansas is our picker capacity. Our current picker capacity is stretched thin.

Regardless of what we plant, we must be smart to get the most out of our inputs. We need to watch our costs but provide necessary inputs to protect yield potential. 

Variety selection for yield and quality is an important first step in establishing our yield potential. Matching nutrient applications to the crop requirements, utilizing all IPM tools to manage pests and using tools like the Pipe Planner irrigation program can represent real savings in cost, preserve yield potential and help improve our efficiency and conserve natural resources. 

Burndown programs will hopefully be put in motion soon. Those who planted a cover crop likely did so with the objective of improving soil health and helping with pigweed control. A thin or skippy stand of cover crops will often open the door for weeds and other problems. Early termination of broadleaf weeds in February or March in our grass-based covers is recommended if they are present. Termination of straight cereal rye cover crops ahead of cotton should be considered in early April to avoid potential issues. Diverse blends of cover crops are more suited for those who want to plant cotton in green standing cover.

Our immediate goal for the 2022 crop is to start with a good stand of healthy, fast-growing cotton plants. Contact your local county Extension agent for more information.


seth byrd
Seth Byrd,

There are likely more uncertainties as we enter the 2022 season than we’ve had in several years. While prices continue to be strong, concerns over fertilizer and pesticide availability are on the forefront of everyone’s mind. And while there are numerous things one must consider, I’ve attempted to narrow it down to my top three for 2022 (in no particular order):

8 As always, variety selection will be key. Whether cutting back on fertilizer to mitigate increased costs, crop protection due to lack of supply — or both — plant a variety that is known for vigorous growth to increase its competitiveness with weeds and minimize the amount of time it’s in susceptible windows for insect damage. It may also be of benefit to spend more time focusing on selecting varieties that have tolerance to pathogens prevalent in your production environment.

8 By this point, the issues surrounding the supply (or lack) of crop protection products is widely known. The latest news, at least as of mid-February, is there will be an even shorter than anticipated supply of glyphosate. Beyond the typical recommendations of checking generics and purchasing chemical early, it may also be beneficial to dig back into some of the older recommendations from years past, specifically for herbicides. There are several products labeled for cotton that have fallen out of popularity with new traits and formulations. Assuming these are in supply and still on label, these “older” products will increase your flexibility and can still provide optimal weed control when used appropriately.

8 Budget for soil tests if you haven’t already. I’ve heard from many producers who are ramping up their soil testing programs this year. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the more accurately we can determine nutrient requirements and residual supply, the more efficient we can be with investing in fertility this year, and the more profitable we can be with strong prices.

While there are countless other factors that should be considered this and every other year, these three seem to be the ones that are constantly popping up in recent conversations. 

On a local note, a decent rain or two in Oklahoma over the next few weeks would ease a lot of concerns.

TEXASBen McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As I write this on Feb. 14, producers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are currently making any final adjustments prior to getting the 2022 cotton crop in the ground. Historically, this growing region usually begins planting cotton in late February, and growers in the Coastal Bend will be close to planting if they haven’t already started by the time this is published in March. 

It’s been a somewhat wild intermission between harvesting of the 2021 crop and preparing for the 2022 cotton crop. Product availabilities and input cost increases continue to remain on everyone’s mind going into the next year. These issues —like the weather— are out of our hands, and I anticipate growers will have to make some adjustments to their normal production practices. When speaking at winter extension meetings, I often say that it’s imperative to be a master at controlling the things you can control in your growing operation. This begins with developing a sound management plan prior to planting. That will play an instrumental part in maximizing the efficiency of available input resources.

Insect and disease pressure can vary considerably from year to year, but we generally have a good idea of commonly-occurring or troublesome weed species that we manage in the same production fields every year. I encourage producers to take full advantage of available residual herbicide products as a component to an early-season weed management program. Several of these products have been around for many years and continue to provide consistent weed control, especially on some of our glyphosate-resistant weed populations. By reducing early-season weed pressure 70% to 90% with pre-emergence residual products, we are reducing the pressure we are putting on our post-emergence products applied later in the year. 

Overlaying residual herbicides can often stretch weed control even further. It can potentially minimize the reliance of commonly applied post-emergence products or save us an extra herbicide application later in the year. With looming glyphosate product shortages, residual products may help us fill in some of the gaps in our weed management programs for 2022. It is essential to thoroughly read the herbicide label prior to applying to make sure that we are covering all requirements for maximum product activity. This includes — but is not limited to — appropriate rainfall or irrigation amounts for product activation, soil characteristics, and application rates and timings. 

ARIZONARandy Norton

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

Since the summer of 2012, when glyphosate-resistant pigweed was first detected in the state of Arizona — in the west valley of Phoenix — we have seen a steady increase in the number of fields across the state that contain populations of herbicide-resistant pigweed. This is the case not only in cotton fields, but in crops such as alfalfa, corn and other summer crops. 

Complicating the management of these resistant populations is the fact that during monsoons and rainy times, we can get an explosion of Palmer amaranth pigweed in non-crop areas across the state. A recent survey conducted by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, along with the Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council, has found that there are still less than 10% of cotton production fields across the state that have unmanaged populations of pigweed. This means the majority of our growers are doing an excellent job of managing weeds in their production systems. However, it is still incumbent upon all of us to be vigilant to ensure these populations do not spread. 

One of the most important things that a grower can do from a herbicide management perspective is to utilize multiple modes of action in their herbicide program. Utilizing pre-emergence herbicides and herbicides with soil residual characteristics will go a long way in reducing weed pressure. This gives post-emergence herbicides a much better chance of being successful in managing problem weeds. 

We have a new member of our UArizona Extension team that started January of this year. Dr. Jose Diaz is our new Extension Weed Specialist with UArizona. You will begin to see him out and about attending meetings and presenting on topics related to weed management. We welcome him wholeheartedly to the team and look forward to his expertise being shared with all of us in the agricultural industry moving forward.

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