CROP TRYING TO CATCH UP
According to the Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending July 14, cotton squaring was 62 percent complete, 16 days behind last year and 11 days behind normal. Cotton setting bolls was 19 percent complete, one day ahead of last year but four days behind normal. Cotton condition was five percent poor, 31 percent fair, 60 percent good and four percent excellent.
While the Drought Monitor shows that we have adequate moisture, we are very close to abnormally dry conditions in the cotton growing area. According to USDA reports, Missouri has about 270,000 acres compared with 350,000 last year.
After the slow start, we are beginning to catch up. Irrigation will be important to us again this season. It’s easy to see the differences outside of the center pivot circles. Spraying for plant bugs has increased in the past several weeks, with some spider mite activity being reported.
We now have hoeing crews taking out the weeds missed by the earlier herbicide applications. While most fields do look fairly clean, we still have a few problems with the resistant weeds.
TIMELY RAINS HAVE HELPED COTTON
The Louisiana cotton crop has been struggling through a hot, dry spell, but recent rains in some parts of the state brought some much needed relief. The crop is generally between 12 and 18 nodes, with most varieties holding six to eight nodes above white flower. I have seen a few late planted fields that were dry and short in stature with blooms moving toward the top of the crop, but for the most part, producers are pleased with this year’s overall progress and potential.
The hot and dry weather promoted spider mite infestations that are widespread and moderate to severe. I visited one farm where the mites left nothing but the plant stalk in different patches of the field. The dry weather has kept plant bug numbers pretty low compared to most years, but aphids are a bigger problem than last year. Many producers have put out their layby applications and are focusing their management efforts on arthropods and growth regulation.
So far, the crop looks good from a fertility perspective but just starting to get early symptoms of potassium deficiency in leaves as bolls begin to fill. Weed control efforts have paid off as many producers saw the wisdom in including residual herbicides in their programs. Many farm fields (not just in cotton) have Palmer amaranth that producers know for certain was treated with glyphosate early enough and at rates high enough that it should have killed them but failed to do so.
LSU AgCenter weed scientist Dr. Daniel Stephenson described 2012 as “The Year of the Pigweed” for Louisiana. Producers need to be more vigilant to stop glyphosate resistance at its current “borders.” Some fields are already under intensive irrigation management, but a good proportion has been able to get through on precipitation. We are still optimistic about this year’s crop.
WET CONDITIONS DELAY FRUITING
Every season has different challenges, and this year is no different with dry areas in some places and wet areas in others, causing delays in plant-ing or delayed weed control. Fruit set is normally finishing during August, but some fields are just beginning to bloom where plantings were delayed. Wet conditions throughout July delayed herbicide and growth regulator applications, resulting in more weed control applications past the best timing for good control.
However, producers are resourceful and are working hard to catch up to make a good crop. Florida acreage of cotton is up 16 percent over last year, and there is still a good chance to make excellent yields.
Cotton planted after July 1 almost always looks good, but often an early frost can result in the crop not opening. Florida had a record yield in 2012, and there are hopes for a repeat this year.
DROUGHT CAUSES DIFFICULT PROBLEMS
The June 2013 USDA-NASS report indicated that Oklahoma cotton acreage is about 150,000 acres, which is down more than 50 percent compared to 2012’s plantings. In 2012, 330,000 acres were planted, which was down about 20 percent from 2011’s 415,000 planted acres. Continuing D3 (extreme) to D4 (exceptional) category drought has resulted in difficult production issues for producers in “cotton country” in the far southwestern corner of the state.
The drought and alternate crop price competition situation have resulted in a serious financial impact to the Oklahoma cotton industry. Considerable acreage was planted somewhat later than normal as producers waited for rainfall. Because of some spotty and timely rainfall events in some areas, substantial cotton acreage was established. However, with the extremely high temperatures and winds during the last 10 days of June, much of the emerged cotton encountered considerable stress.
The good news is that in mid-July a low pressure system brought below-normal temperatures for several days, as well as some badly needed rainfall. Most producers initiated irrigation in early July where groundwater was available. What this means for crop watchers is that the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District is in dire straits. A large percentage of irrigated cotton in other areas is off to a somewhat late start, and most dryland has emerged. Insect pressure has generally been low, but grasshoppers have been an issue in some fields. This year’s crop continues to make great progress in areas where adequate moisture has been available, and the mid-July rainfall and cooler temperatures provided some needed relief.
HEAVY RAIN SATURATES MANY AREAS
As of mid-July, most areas of Georgia’s Cotton Belt were saturated due to frequent, plentiful and, in many places, excessive rains. As I write this on July 12, most of the crop looks good, although the lack of suitable working days was frustrating for some producers during early July. The earlier planted crop was within the first few weeks of bloom with a high number of fruiting sites developing on the plant, although growth was excessively vigorous, requiring quick action with regard to PGRs.
Later planted cotton was at various stages of squaring during that time, with some fields showing signs of nutrient deficiency due to leaching or delayed side-dressing. Standing water in lower parts of many fields was a common sight across Georgia during early July. Hopefully, the weather for the remainder of the season will be cooperative.
RAIN FINALLY ARRIVES IN THE STATE
Some much needed rain occurred in most of the cotton production regions of the Rolling Plains, East and South Texas. The cotton in the Rio Grande Valley is quickly approaching harvest with defoliation applications already being made to the dryland crop. The irrigated cotton is approaching 50 percent open boll.
Most of the dryland cotton in the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands is at cutout, with the irrigated cotton not far behind. However, rains on 7/14-7/16 may trigger some new growth and will definitely help fill out the current bolls. Cotton in the Rolling Plains is about two-plus weeks behind normal for mid-July, but the crop generally looks good with adequate stands and uniform growth.
Early June and mid-July rains have provided the best looking crop since 2010 in the Rolling Plains. We will need more rain in the near future to keep the crop going.
DOG DAYS OF AUGUST ARE HERE
The 2013 Mississippi cotton crop is moving along as expected given the late start. Generally speaking, we are two to four weeks behind “normal.” Blooms began to show up in many fields during the second week of July, and many more arrived in the week to 10 days following. Plant bugs have made their yearly infiltration into the cotton crop, and many producers have made multiple applications at the time of this writing. In addition, spider mites have been problematic for several producers. June and a good portion of July were very dry in several areas of the state, which exacerbated the problem withs pider mites.
As we roll into August, it is important to keep earliness in mind. Although many agronomic decisions have already been made, insect control is one area that is likely ongoing. It is imperative in a late year to manage insect pests properly. Letting insects get out of control can lead to fruit loss which can, in turn, cause delayed maturity and/or lost yield. Given the lateness with which we started, we cannot afford to further delay this crop.
WATER ALLOTMENTS REMAIN BIG PROBLEM
New Mexico cotton is doing well. Many fields are already in bloom, and the early planted cotton crops are already forming bolls. There has been no incidence of any major pests or diseases. Availability of irrigation water remains the major challenge facing producers.
Due to the recurrent drought over the past years, water allotment to farmers by the irrigation districts remains very low. Farmers had to pump water from deep wells to supplement their irrigation, and this adds significantly to cotton production costs. Some farmers had to cut down their acreage due to irrigation water constraints. Many parts of the state have been receiving rainfall, but the amount so far is still below expectations. From observations, the cotton yield this year will be close to the average expected for the state.
CROP PROGRESS VARIES ACROSS TEXAS
The May 2 freeze, resulting in later than usual planting, crop damage from June hail and wind events, and the continued severe to exceptional drought conditions in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle make it difficult, if not impossible, to generalize the current cotton crop conditions. Some of the irrigated crops that either avoided significant hail/wind damage or were planted into a cover crop are at early bloom. This is slightly behind as we typically begin blooming in early July.
As for the remainder of the crop, growth stages vary greatly across the region under irrigated production systems and range from pinhead to candling square stage. The condition of the remaining dryland cotton crop also varies greatly across the region as a result of the sporadic and scattered rainfall events observed to date. Those locations that received rain and got a stand established are struggling and in need of additional moisture to continue, or in some cases, resume growth and development.
Unfortunately, in most cases, these dryland cotton crops exhibit skippy stands and are well behind developmentally. The fate of many of the remaining dryland acres is yet to be determined. At the time of this writing, July 15, much of the region received some rainfall from a system that moved across during the night. According to the Texas Tech Mesonet website, rainfall amounts range from a trace to just over one inch as you move from north to south across the region.
With more rain forecast for the next few days, irrigated producers could benefit, depending on amounts and intensity. Adversely extended periods of cool, cloudy conditions could result in square shed; however, breaks in the clouds minimize the potential. To date, percent square set under irrigated production systems has been exceptional across most of the region. This is attributed to the light early season insect pressure.