Countdown to Planting Season


Bob Hutmacher
Bob Hutmacher e-mail

Heading into the 2018 growing season, the biggest “maybe” out there again is irrigation water supplies and lack of rain and snow to date. Water supply issues are not yet a “done deal” for 2018. We are still hoping for some rain and snow and better decisions and release of workable amounts of water for California farmers out of existing storage.

Uncertain irrigation water supply situations will likely again result in a range of strategies for pre-plant and early season irrigations, and these will affect irrigation scheduling and strategies for the rest of the growing season. This “set-up” to the growing season could again make decisions on which fields to plant or fallow, timing of pre-plant irrigations, and first post-planting irrigation more difficult.

Yield data summaries from University of California variety trials (Pima, Upland-Acala larger scale and Upland Advanced Strains trials) are available in the variety data section of the University of California cotton website: Since Fusarium race 4 can also be an issue in some fields, tables showing relative varietal resistance under Fusarium race 4 disease pressure are also available on the same website.

Irrigation water availability issues may make it valuable to try out a range of cotton varieties that differ in required or desired growing season length. All cotton varieties can be managed to shorten up the growing season by reductions or delays in irrigation, more aggressive PGR applications and other management efforts. But varieties and types of cotton (non-Acala Upland, Acala, Pima) differ in how much you can shorten up the growing season, yield reductions and potential for impacts on quality. Although we know about relative salinity tolerance of cotton compared with some other agronomic crops, there aren’t many recent evaluations that look at relative salt tolerance and production under saline conditions. Some of these comparisons might warrant strip tests or other on-farm variety comparisons as you plan your planting season.


Randy Norton AZ
Randy Norton e-mail

Planting season is upon us in the western deserts of Arizona and will begin across the central deserts and towards eastern Arizona soon. Variety selection decisions have been made, and planting seed is already in the barn. It is important to know about new technologies available in many varieties for 2018 that give us additional options for weed control in our production systems.

Dicamba tolerance is now fully registered with both tolerant cotton varieties and the proper chemical formulations (XtendiMax from Monsanto and Engenia from BASF) to use with them. Cotton varieties tolerant to Enlist Duo herbicide from Dow are also available. Enlist Duo is currently registered for use in all Arizona counties except Yuma, La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal and Pima.

Use of either of these new technologies will have a potential fit in certain areas of the state where emerging populations of glyphosate-resistant weed species — specifically pigweed — have been documented. If you choose to use this new technology, it is critical that you read and follow the label and supplemental labels for the herbicide products to ensure applying them in a manner consistent with effective use.

Parameters such as wind speed, nozzle type and pressure, boom height, sprayer speed, water conditioners, tankmix partners, etc., are all specified in the labels and must be followed carefully to get the most out of these new technologies. Another critical factor to consider when using these herbicides is tank cleanout. Triple rinse procedures are required when using any of the new phenoxy herbicide formulations.
Monsanto, BASF and Dow have developed websites to provide the latest information available for these products and can be found at: and for the dicamba products and at for the 2,4-D product.
If you have additional questions, contact your specific company (Monsanto, Dow or BASF) representative or the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office in your area.


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

Cotton burndown programs will be put in motion soon. Those who planted a cereal rye cover crop likely did so with the objective of improving soil health and helping with pigweed control. They generally want to delay termination of the rye as long as possible.

However, burndown programs should be timed ahead of the planter to address issues related to the “green bridge,” which can facilitate pest movement from a dying cover crop to an emerging crop. Remember that many early season cotton pests overwinter in broadleaf weeds. High levels of broadleaf plants or weeds in your cover crop increase the potential for green bridge issues.

Burning down tall cereal rye four weeks ahead of the planter makes planting more difficult as the rye tends to lodge and twist up. Cutting through lodged residue can be difficult. Starting burndown two weeks ahead of the planter is generally enough time to terminate rye, which typically will still be standing. However, this can be a green bridge problem if difficult to control weeds are also present in the rye.

Some prefer to terminate cereal rye in front of or just behind the planter. This can be risky, especially if broadleaf weeds are present. Regardless of herbicide programs prior to planting, Gramoxone and a pyrethroid behind the planter should be part of your pest management program.

Our immediate goal for the 2018 crop is to start with a good stand of healthy cotton. This requires fields to be weed-free at planting. A timely and effective burndown program is the first step toward achieving this goal. Contact your county Extension agent for more information.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

Many farmers came through the 2017 season concerned about 2018. Yields in Florida were about 150 pounds per ace below the average for the past few years. Some of this was due to whiteflies, some perhaps due to the early tropical storm and delayed management, and some from hurricane Irma in September. We had cloudy days for much of the fruiting period.

As you prepare for 2018, look at variety trials across the region to get the very best variety for your area as that can make a 200-plus pound-per-acre difference in yield. Good rotations have shown to pay year after year, whereas many other treatments may not.
Killing cover crops three weeks ahead of planting will reduce soil insects that may attack young seedlings. Cover crops are a good idea as they enhance soil microbial populations that benefit nutrient recycling and increased organic matter while reducing wind and water erosion.

Better prices are creating excitement for cotton and an increase in acreage, which will help peanut rotations for the Southeast in coming years.


Keith Edmisten e-mail
Keith Edmisten

We encourage growers who have not made variety decisions to use the Cotton Variety Performance Calculator ( Although it is tempting to base decisions on the test located nearest your farm, the best predictor of what will perform best in 2018 is basing decisions on multiple locations, and multiple years where possible. Using multiple locations helps you determine which varieties will perform best in the various environments you are likely to face this year.

Yields were generally high in 2017 in both official variety trials (OVTs) and large-plot trials. Using multiyear data when possible for variety comparisons gives you an idea how varieties might perform in a year with more stress than we encountered in 2017.

It is rare to not have some cool weather at some point during our optimum planting window. Knowing the cool germination results for each lot of seed you will use helps you in the decision-making process during marginal conditions. It is a good idea to find this out as soon as you receive your seed rather than wait until the hectic planting time. Planting in marginal conditions is more likely to be successful if you are planting shallow with larger seeded varieties with high cool germination values.


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

Cotton planting is just around the corner in Louisiana, and now is a good time to review a few key practices to help everyone get off to a great start in 2018. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar. If a field is planted too early, your cotton crop may suffer a stand loss and cold temperature stress, which reduce yield potential.

Germination can begin when mean daily temperature is 60 degrees F at seeding depths, but growth will be slow. A soil temperature of 65 degrees F at a depth of 4 inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast following planting is best. Also, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be above 50 degrees F for the following five days. During the critical germination period, soil temperatures below 50 degrees F can cause chilling injury to germinating cotton.

Emergence generally occurs after accumulation of 50-80 DD60s, or heat units, after planting. Planting should be delayed if the five-day forecast predicts the accumulation of less than 25 heat units after planting. The minimum plant population in the final plant stand should be no less than two healthy plants per foot.

Creating a pest-free seedbed is critical to avoid problems from cutworms and spider mites. 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 these pests to survive. It is equally important to eliminate weedy host plants on field borders to reduce insect pest problems that might move into adjacent cotton fields later on.

The 2018 Louisiana Weed Management and Insect Management Guides are available at Once you have reached the website, go to crops>cotton>weeds or crops>cotton>insects.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

Unbelievably, the time is drawing closer to put cotton planters in the field. The National Cotton Council recently released its 2018 planting intentions report. Based on data provided, the NCC reports that Mississippi cotton farmers intend to plant 5.5 percent fewer acres in 2018 compared to 2017. However, word on the street is acreage will remain level or potentially increase to some degree this year. In addition, the recent inclusion of cottonseed as a Title 1 commodity has the potential to drive some acres toward cotton.

As the growing season is rapidly approaching, there are a number of things folks are considering. Nearly all variety selection and (directly or indirectly) seed treatment choices have been made. Given that most know what they are going to plant, another hot topic is finalizing weed control programs. Most folks have a preferred weed control system they are comfortable with based on experience.
However, I am not sure anyone is completely comfortable with dicamba as part of that program after all of the issues last year. Although this product, as well as 2,4-D, brings an additional mode of action to help control problematic broadleaves, including pigweed, many underestimated how telling these products can be when they move off-target.

Given all of the negative attention dicamba received last year, 2018 will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for in-season use of this product. While 2,4-D did not receive the attention in 2017 that dicamba did (due in large part to very limited acreage planted to Enlist cotton), excessive off-target movement of 2,4-D in 2018 could put this product in the same precarious position as dicamba is today.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

The cotton harvest and ginning season is officially over. The Dec. 14, 2017 Cotton and Wool Outlook has Missouri’s projected yield at 1,172 pounds per acre.

One of our greatest concerns this season is to reduce complaints of off-target synthetic auxins. To do this, we have new 24(c) labels with an application cut-off of June 1 in the Bootheel counties. The Missouri Department of Agriculture requires certified applicators to complete online or in-person training before buying or using dicamba.

University of Missouri Extension is the sole authorized training source. Only certified applicators may purchase or apply dicamba. Visit to learn more about the state’s requirements. The cost is $30 for either training. For more information, please go to

There will be a Missouri Pesticide Collection Event at the Fisher Delta Research Center on Saturday, March 10, 8 a.m.-noon. For questions, call 573-751-0616 or visit


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

Seed size can provide insight into the amount of energy stored within the seed and subsequently seedling vigor. While seedling vigor is important across the Cotton Belt, it is particularly important for those along the northern edge who often plant in variable, adverse conditions.

Many of the commercially available varieties that performed well during 2017 in the Tennessee variety trials vary significantly with respect to seed size. Seed counts from varieties entered in the Tennessee program can be found at

I won’t go into variety specifics here, but I encourage you to know the seed size of your variety and use this information — along with cold-germ percentages — to guide variety placement, seeding rate and planting date.


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

Cotton planting in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend is slower this season due to cooler- than-normal temperatures in January and February. Additionally, adequate soil moisture is not available for stand establishment in the LRGV and parts of the Upper Gulf Coast region.

Most of the fertilized has been applied in the Upper Gulf Coast. The region also has good soil moisture and is expected to have a double-digit increase in cotton acreage. The Blacklands of Texas and Rolling Plains are classified in a moderate to extreme drought at this point. Long-term weather predictions are for above-normal temperatures through planting season and below-normal precipitation in the western part of the state.

For now, the cooler-than-normal temperatures have stretched into February, and growers in the southern and eastern portion of the state need to pay attention to soil temperatures and realize that our planting dates may be pushed back. Warm soil temperatures (greater than 60 degrees F) increase the rate of emergence and cotton seedling vigor.

When pushing for early planting, fungicide seed treatments provide more value, and it is more important to pay attention to the cool:warm vigor ratings of each variety and seed lot. With dry conditions affecting much of South and East Texas, there will likely be some value in reducing early season input costs, such as planning for split applications of nitrogen fertilizer, crediting soil residual nitrogen and reducing seeding rates.

Cotton has a tremendous ability to compensate for lower stands; however, seed quality becomes much more important. If you have questions on an adequate stand, please feel free to contact me to discuss because it varies by region and irrigated versus dryland.


Seth Byrd TX
Seth Byrd e-mail

I hope by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you there has been some relief from the drought that has been gripping the High Plains since last fall. Looking ahead to the 2018 season, spring tillage and residual herbicide applications will likely ramp up in March. Although weed pressure over the winter has been reduced as a result of arid conditions, tillage and/or residuals will still be key to get off to a clean start.

Efficient fertilizer use is another critical component to getting off to a good start and ensuring a productive finish. Fertility programs or schedules should consist of two key parts. First, base rates on yield goals that take into account the residual nutrient levels determined though soil sampling. Second, schedule applications around cotton growth stages and corresponding nutrient requirements so that nutrients are efficiently applied and used, and negative impacts on crop maturity are avoided.

With cotton acreage in the Texas High Plains likely increasing again in 2018, some rain to get the season started would be welcome.

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