Cautiously Optimistic


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

The National Agricultural Statistics Service August Crop Production report projects Arkansas producers will harvest 1,052 pounds lint per acre. The August estimate last year projected a record-high yield of 1,226 pounds lint per acre, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 of 1,182 pounds lint per acre. Boll numbers were good in August last year. But as most remember, the occurrence of parrot-beaked or misshaped bolls was common, and seed numbers per boll was lower than expected. We ended the 2015 season with a yield of 1,092 pounds lint per acre. The current crop’s boll size and seed numbers per boll look good at this point.

The Cotton Varieties Planted U.S. 2016 Crop report to be released mid-September will give us the first official look at the new mix of varieties planted. And we do have a new mix of varieties planted in Arkansas this season. I estimate that more than half of the Arkansas cotton acres are planted to B2XF varieties with DP 1518 B2XF and NG 3406 B2XF leading the charge. As a group, the B2XF varieties are solid-yielding with good fiber packages.

We use results from the Arkansas Official Variety Trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland to make variety selection decisions. It may be beneficial for us to knock the dust off this publication to review characteristics for our new varieties, such as leaf pubescence and fiber quality scores. Take DPL 1518 B2XF for example. Out of 32 varieties, it ranked No. 2 for yield, No. 8 for quality score and No. 2 for leaf pubescence in Bourland’s program. Great yield and fiber but about as hairy as there was in the program. It is important that we refresh our memories regarding the strengths and weaknesses of our new mix of varieties to manage them to avoid quality discounts at the end of what could be a very good season.


Randy Norton AZ
Randy Norton e-mail

With the crop winding down in the majority of the state, it is time to begin making decisions about crop termination and preparations for harvest. As most of the crop is approaching or at cut-out, irrigation termination decisions will need to be made. Keep in mind that approximately 600 heat units (HU) are required for a fresh bloom to develop into a harvestable boll. During this time of 600 HU, adequate soil moisture is needed to ensure proper fiber development.

In mid- to late September, 600 HU equates to about three weeks. So, for example, a fresh bloom set on Sept. 10 will need good soil moisture through the end of September. Depending on weather conditions, an irrigation on Sept. 20 would likely complete the development of that boll and be the final irrigation. Once the crop has received the final irrigation, it’s time to begin making defoliation/harvest prep applications.
Observing crop conditions and knowing what you have in the field and the progression of that crop toward maturation is critical in making a properly timed defoliation decision. Proper defoliation timing can mean the difference between one application of a defoliant and multiple applications. Once the final irrigation has been applied, watch the crop and attempt to time your defoliant application at approximately 60 percent open boll or when you have 3-5 nodes of unopened harvestable bolls above the uppermost, first-position cracked boll. This technique has proven effective in Arizona cotton production systems.

Be timely with your defoliation application and then be ready to harvest the crop once adequate defoliation has been achieved. From my perspective, I think the crop looks good across the state and hope for an above-average yield for all our Arizona growers. For more information on irrigation termination and defoliation timing, go to


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

September is the time of year when growers are counting the days to peanut harvest and watching cotton to see which crop will be ready to harvest first. Many of the new cotton varieties fruit and cut out early, making cotton ready to harvest a week or so before varieties from a few years back.
Timely rains in many areas resulted in a heavy boll set from the first few weeks of bloom. It seems that much of the cotton in our area is not as tall as in some years even with irrigation. Other areas had ample rainfall, and aggressive plant growth regulator applications helped shorten the cotton while boll set proceeded quickly. Good plant bug and stinkbug control also contributed to earliness.

Many fields in Florida have good fruit set. An average to better-than-average yield may be expected if weather cooperates at harvest and growers have harvesters in the field as soon as the cotton opens after defoliation. It will be important to have pickers ready when the cotton opens as weather, such as occurred in the Carolinas last year, can occur any time in Florida as well. With more upfront crop costs and low prices, it is important to preserve yield and quality by being ready to harvest as the crop matures. High yields of high-quality cotton can ensure a profit even when prices are at today’s level.


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

Yield potential for the 2016 cotton crop continues to look very favorable when we compare it to the 2015 crop, which finished at 871 pounds lint per acre. Current estimates for the 2016 crop are north of 1,000 pounds lint per acre. This year’s cotton crop received much-needed rainfall during the latter part of July and early August. Bollworm pressure was extremely heavy in July and August throughout the state. Defoliation will begin in the latter part of August, and harvest will start in the earlier planted fields during the last week of August.

In preparing the 2016 crop for harvest, we should review the basic defoliation timing principles. A balancing act always exists between yield and fiber quality when defoliating cotton. There are several accepted methods to time defoliation, and all methods have strengths and weaknesses. The following is a review of some of the more common defoliation-timing techniques. Three methods or options for timing cotton defoliation are 60 percent open boll, four nodes above cracked boll, or 1,050 heat units beyond cut-out (NAWF=4).

Most importantly, whatever method is employed, growers should include inspecting the uppermost harvestable boll prior to defoliation by cutting a cross-section of the selected bolls. A boll is considered mature if it is difficult to slice with a knife, and seeds have begun to form a tan/brown or black seed coat. Once a dark seed coat has formed, defoliation will not adversely affect the yield of those bolls.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

The wild ride of 2016 continues as we roll into September. Cotton prices are above 70 cents per pound, we had greater than 90 percent retention in many fields headed into August, and then the first three weeks of August turned off cloudy and wet in many areas. Heavy fruit shed was observed during the first two weeks of August, which undoubtedly affected potential yields. However, given the high level of retention in this crop prior to shedding, above-average to excellent yield potential still exists in a large portion of the crop.

Timing of harvest-aid applications should be at the forefront of your mind as we progress through September. We typically recommend applying a harvest aid when cotton is 60 percent open and the uppermost fruit are mature. However, with all of the variable emergence observed this year, 60 percent open boll may occur in one area of a given field but not another. Take time to check the entire field for percent open boll if you experienced variable emergence this spring. Doing so may somewhat delay a harvest-aid application but may ultimately put more money in your pocket.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

Missouri cotton is slowly moving toward the end of the season. As I write this, we are approaching our last effective bloom date. I am somewhat concerned that we are behind in setting bolls. According to the Crop Progress and Condition Report, we only have 42 percent setting bolls compared with 56 percent last year and the five-year average of 71 percent.

The condition of this crop is rated 2 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 46 percent fair, 39 percent good and 5 percent excellent. This is very similar to last year’s ratings.
One observation this year is that we have had warmer night temperatures. We typically have a few nights during the season with temperatures above 75 degrees, but this year, the duration has been much longer. Research studies have shown that the high night temperatures will increase respiration resulting in decreases in seed set, boll size, seed per boll and fibers per boll. It will be interesting to see how our final yields turn out. One surprise this season is that we have had adequate rainfall in spite of forecasts of hotter and drier conditions. In fact, the state of Missouri had its ninth wettest July.

A dicamba forum was helped at the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville. Speakers discussed the science of dicamba drift and regulatory actions. Wind speed in Southeast Missouri, temperature inversions and the use of more volatile forms of dicamba were part of the perfect storm.


Randy Boman OK
Randy Boman e-mail

With all cotton blooming and making bolls, we are now at peak water use for the crop. Dryland cotton in many areas is holding up very well. But other areas that were shorted with rainfall during July are hitting high stress at this time.

Some dryland fields came into bloom at 9-10 nodes above white flower, which indicated outstanding yield potential. This also indicated that we have sizeable plants out there. This large biomass comes with a high moisture requirement. We hope to get some badly needed precipitation across the state to keep the dryland crop moving in the right direction. Irrigated cotton in many areas is moving along very well with a good boll load at this time.

Based on nodes above white flower counts, it appears that a lot of irrigated acreage may finish up somewhat earlier than normal this year. We have seen bacterial blight pressure in fields in some counties. Cotton acreage in the state is up about 30 percent compared to 2015. If the crop progresses and gets badly needed rainfall, we hope to have another good crop in 2016.


Keith Edmisten e-mail
Keith Edmisten

Overall, the North Carolina cotton crop is still on the late side. This means we likely will be defoliating a larger portion of the crop later in the season in cooler weather. Although rainfall has not been perfectly spaced, we have had enough rain to limit the effect of residual nitrogen contributing to regrowth. The later cotton and lack of residual nitrogen should mean regrowth will not be as great of a problem as it can be in some years.

Therefore, defoliant mixtures should be based primarily around herbicidal defoliants with less need for thidiazuron, especially on the latest cotton. Defoliating later in the season also makes boll opening more challenging. We may need higher rates of boll openers than in years with an earlier crop.
The first frost in the cotton-growing areas of North Carolina can range from the middle of October to as late as mid-December. But we seldom have enough heat and sunlight intensity to make much cotton after the middle of October. Growers often are better off pulling the plug on the crop during the last decent warm period around the middle of October.


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

As we near the end of effective flowering here on Aug. 11, Tennessee’s crop appears to be very good. Although several areas missed rains, almost all of our cotton, to this point, has exceptional boll retention and an exceptional number of fruiting positions. Most fields reached node above white flower 5 over 10 days ago. We just need a little more water and our crop will be made.

Given the forecasted heat units, I suspect many of you will be making defoliation decisions before the October issue of Cotton Farming is published. Fortunately, this forecast should result in very good defoliation conditions. During warmer, clear conditions, boll openers and defoliants are more predictable. Acceptable results often can be achieved with lower-rate applications of the hormonal products. We will be conducting several defoliation strip trials within the state and making condition-based recommendations, as we get closer to defoliation. For locations and details, check out or find me on twitter @TysonRaper.


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

As of the middle of August, the Rio Grande Valley was on the back half of harvesting one of the best dryland crops the region has seen in a long time with reports of over 3 bales per acre dryland yields. There were many reports of irrigated yields exceeding 3.5 bales per acre, despite some late infestations of whiteflies in the later maturing cotton.

Harvest was in full swing in the Coastal Bend with some very impressive dryland yields ranging from 2.25-2.75 bales per acre in areas not drowned out by heavy spring rains and standing water. Harvest in the Upper Gulf Coast (UGC) was just beginning, and harvest-aid applications were well underway. The UGC is expected to have an average crop, but not too many people will be disappointed with an average crop considering the challenging year. Blackland yields will be below average due to excessive early moisture, late planting and virtually no rain in July or August.

Gaylon Morgan/Texas A&M University Agriculture & Life Sciences
Prior to defoliation, growers should include inspecting the uppermost harvestable boll by cutting a cross-section. If a dark seed coat has not formed, as shown above, the fruit is still immature and not ready to be defoliated.

The Northern Rolling Plains received some much-needed rain during the first week of August, although scattered. But for those who received the rain, it will definitely help a cotton plant maintain its boll load and add a few more fruit prior to the mid-August final harvestable boll date. The Southern Rolling Plains missed the early August rain, and the dryland crop needed a rain quickly. The irrigated crop is expected to be average or slightly better. There has been some aphid pressure, but the lack of rainfall has prevented cotton root rot from being a major problem.

With harvest season upon us, we need to work diligently to minimize contamination in our cotton from plastics, such as shopping bags, plastic wrap, etc. Minimizing contamination at the field and gin level is critical to minimizing dockage and maintaining key export markets. See NCC’s Contamination-Free Cotton Web page at for more details.


Seth Byrd TX
Seth Byrd e-mail

Spotty showers fell throughout the High Plains during late July and into early August. A widespread system dumped 1 to 2 inches across the central and northern areas on Aug. 9, finally bringing some relief to the hot, dry conditions experienced during much of July. While there are some dryland fields that bloomed at cut-out or before, a large amount of dryland cotton looks better than one would expect if only looking at the weather conditions during the squaring and early bloom periods. This is due to planting into good moisture and catching a few showers in early June, which sustained the crop through most of the dry spell. With the high temperatures and sunny days, most irrigated fields look excellent. They went into bloom with a large number of potential fruiting sites, illustrating the benefit of having access to good water under these conditions.

More rain was forecast for mid-August, so most fields in the northern half of the region hopefully got the moisture needed to finish the crop in dryland situations. Also, irrigation systems could finally take a break in many irrigated fields. Rain was still needed in many areas south of Lubbock to help fill fruit on upper nodes, with irrigated cotton still a week or two away from cut-out in many places.

Monitoring plant growth in late August and into September will be key to correctly schedule harvest-aid applications to ensure a timely harvest. The biggest factor in harvest preparation is the weather, so we’ll have to wait and see what September brings.


Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame e-mail

August marked the beginning of the insect pest management phase of cotton production in Virginia. Our two primary pests are stink bugs and corn earworm. Pockets of plant bugs have showed up here and there, and growers have treated where needed. As I write this, corn earworm pressure is looking to be moderate to high in Virginia. This is significant as pyrethroid resistance continues to be an issue in the state, leaving producers to rely on other chemistries to adequately control corn earworm.

Moving into September, the yield potential is there to average 1,000 pounds lint per acre across the state. Of course, 2015 also saw a good yield potential heading into September, only to have three weeks of rain decrease yields to 823 pounds lint per acre average. Producers in Virginia are cautiously optimistic about 2016, and most have booked some cotton when prices went over 70 cents per pound.

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