The northern half of Alabama had another good cotton-growing season with yields above two bales per acre on many farms. Overall, yields the last three to four years have been the best and most consistent I have seen during my 30-plus year career. Timely late season rains have played a big factor, but I think cotton variety selection has also played a big role.
Farmers are planting more mid-season cotton varieties to take advantage of a longer fruiting period. A mixture of some early season and mid-season cotton varieties seems to be working well for most north Alabama producers.I continue to recommend that producers plant cotton varieties that have performed well in their area trials. Planting one or two new cotton varieties on a limited basis each year is a good way to evaluate how that variety performs on your farm.
As the 2014 season comes to a close, USDA estimates Arkansas cotton producers will average 1,137 pounds of lint from 330,000 planted acres. While this yield estimate will set a record, planted acres remain low. Many things are cyclical in nature, and Arkansas cotton production is no exception. Beginning in the mid-1970s, planted cotton acres fell from an average of just over a million acres to a low of 320,000 acres in 1983.
Planted acres increased the following year and continued that trend, leveling off around the million-acre mark again in 1991 and held steady through 2006. Since 2006, we have experienced a continuous drop similar to that seen in the late 1970s. We likely will fall below the low mark set in 1983 for our upcoming season. It is also likely that in the next 10 years we will experience a similar trend in that our acres will increase. The loss of infrastructure can negatively affect the ability of a commodity to return to previous levels. Continued improvements in ginning, harvest and production technology will help facilitate the comeback of cotton just as we have seen in the past.
At our current position in this cycle, it is important to focus on maintaining or improving cotton’s market share with other natural and man-made fibers and strive to continue to improve efficiency of production to maintain profitability.
Many producers had a very good season in 2014. Yields and grades were encouraging with the new cotton varieties. Weather conditions were variable within short distances, but cotton is a forgiving crop as compared to corn and soybeans and did well in most areas. Our farmers are concerned with the price for the upcoming season. There are not a lot of other options that are viable that fit into current rotations since the price of most commodities is down. Our producers have learned practices that minimize inputs and yet maintain yields. That concept will be put to the test in the coming year.
As I write this on Dec. 2, harvest of the few remaining cotton acres is winding down quickly. Some heavy rains during the week of Thanksgiving delayed harvest of these last few acres, but, as a whole, harvest is still noticeably ahead of schedule. Yields are variable, but statewide yields are generally better than expected, given the stress this crop went through during bloom.
Producers in Georgia will soon be making variety decisions for the 2015 season. The results of the UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program will be available to producers during the winter county meetings, as well as the 2015 Georgia Cotton Commission’s 8th Annual Meeting and UGA Cotton Production Workshop, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. Registration information, agenda and other details can be found at www.ugacotton.com and
On another note, this will be my last article as the UGA Extension cotton agronomist. I have accepted the Extension Associate Professor position for cotton at N.C. State University, beginning on Jan. 5. This position was made possible through a strong show of support from the N.C. Cotton Producers Association, with additional support from the N.C. Dept of Agriculture and N.C. State University. Fortunately, I’ll be afforded the opportunity to work closely with the state Extension cotton specialist and my mentor, Dr. Keith Edmisten, and other cotton faculty at NCSU.
The primary focus of this position will be working closely with producers to start and implement a robust on-farm variety testing program, along with other on-farm research. Although I am very excited to be returning to my home state for a new career in Extension cotton agronomics, it is with a heavy heart that I leave the friends I’ve made in Georgia.
Over the past five years, I’ve been very blessed to work with some of the best people in the cotton industry. Since day one, I’ve had nothing but pleasurable interaction and strong support from the Georgia Cotton Commission, the UGA Cotton Team and especially my Georgia counterpart Dr. Jared Whitaker, county agents, consultants, industry folks and cotton producers alike. As I depart UGA, I’d like to thank my Georgia friends for their support and friendship, and I wish all of them the very best in the future.
For the second year in a row, Louisiana cotton yields were very good. Average lint yields for the state will finish around 1,150 pounds per acre. Going into the 2015 season, concerns are growing that acres will decrease due to the low market price that is being projected for next year’s cotton crop. In 2015, cotton acres could decrease by 25 to 35 percent.
Post-harvest weed control and tillage were completed. A significant amount of phosphorus and potassium was applied to next year’s cotton fields. Nitrogen will be applied following cotton emergence in the spring. In general, soil moisture conditions are very good throughout the state, setting us up for ample soil moisture going into the spring planting season.
Variety selection is a key component in the planning process for the upcoming year, and now is an excellent time to review past years’ results. Review as many public and private company tests in your area as possible before making a variety decision. In 2014, the LSU AgCenter conducted 12 cotton variety trials throughout the state. If you are a Louisiana cotton producer or consultant, make sure you get a copy of the final results before you make your variety selections for next year.
In January, our winter production meetings will be conducted throughout the state. These meetings are an excellent way to stay informed on the latest research findings and new technologies. Hope to see all of you there.
Just like that, we are into a new year; however, uncertainty still exists with respect to cropping plans for 2015. There is a lot of variation in plans for cotton acres, depending on who you talk to. It is generally agreed that acres will be reduced in 2015, but the extent to which this will happen is unclear. One of the things that has kept cotton in the conversation is the tremendous yields over the past two seasons. When determining varieties to plant, examine as much reliable data as possible. Pay close attention to the soil textures in which trials were conducted. Using data that matches your situation will help in variety decisions.
The 2014 Missouri cotton crop has been harvested. It looks as if our yields will be above 1,000 pounds per acre. For the past two years, weather conditions have prevented us from reaching this level. I am guessing that cotton acreage will be down again in 2015. With low prices and increased input costs, there will not be the incentive to plant cotton. The main competitors will be soybeans and corn. However, rice has continued to be a good crop for Southeast Missouri.
It will be interesting to see how many producers use the Xtend system next year. It will also be interesting to see if producers can use it safely. It is my understanding that a Section 18 for Brake herbicide is being sought. If available, these programs will offer new tools for our producers. Palmer pigweed will still be our top pest again in 2015. Progress has been made, but it has also been expensive.
Cotton harvest is still incomplete in the state as of this writing on Dec. 11. Unusual foggy conditions have dominated the weather pattern for the past week, resulting in a standstill for essentially all cotton harvesting operations. Fiber quality continues to hold up for most producers. Research trial harvesting has been completed, and ginning has begun. The Red River Crops Conference, sponsored by Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is set for Jan. 27-28. We hope to see a big crowd there.
The wet, relatively cool 2014 season has come to an end, and it is now time to start thinking about the 2015 crop – in particular, variety selection. To sum up the results from the 2014 Tennessee Cotton Variety Testing Program, the yield benefits of planting earlier maturing varieties in our state’s environment can be substantial. One surprise from the 2014 program was the wide range of technology traits located in the top five performers from the large-plot variety program: WideStrike, WideStrike3, Bollgard II, Roundup Ready Flex and GlyTol traits were all represented. As we look forward to the 2015 season and to the new technology traits looming on the horizon (many of which will be introduced in varieties similar to those we are currently evaluating), it is very good to know that producers have several excellent varieties across numerous platforms from which to select.
For more details on variety results, please pick up a copy of the 2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Guide at your local county Extension office or online. Additionally, attend one of our county meetings over the next few months and our Cotton Focus meeting to hear the latest research findings from across the Mid-South and Southeast. I also hope to see many of you at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences this month in San Antonio, Texas.
As of Dec. 11, cotton harvesting was continuing in the Rolling Plains of Texas with about 75 percent completed. Yields range from non-harvestable to three-plus bales, depending on the amount and timeliness of the precipitation or irrigation capacity. In dryland and irrigated fields, the September rains created a lot of top growth in cotton fields, which caused some major challenges in chemically defoliating the cotton.
Also, the abrupt mid-November freeze stuck most leaves on the cotton plants. In both cases, the higher than normal leaf grades are being reported by the Abilene classing office. Also, more than 15 percent of the cotton ginned thus far exceeds 5.0 micronaire, which is non-typical for the Rolling Plains.
Cotton harvest on the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions continues, but at a slower pace than observed in the previous week. Cloudy conditions and heavy morning dew have slowed harvest progress in both areas. Producers were harvesting cotton as fast as possible to try to beat the next precipitation, which was forecasted for the weekend (Dec. 13-14). Most producers are focused on the higher yielding irrigated cotton at this time with several acres of dryland cotton yet to be harvested.
According to the latest quality report from the USDA-AMS cotton classing offices in Lubbock and Lamesa, 1.65 million bales had been classed as of Dec. 8. Color grades are holding at 21, and leaf grades are mostly 2. Micronaire values continue to surprise with values of 4.34 and 4.06 from Lamesa and Lubbock, respectively. Staple averages are 35.1 (Lamesa) and 35.6 (Lubbock), while strength values are just above 30 grams per tex, and uniformity percentages are 80.5 at both classing offices. The percentage of bales with bark continues to be relatively high with 18.5 percent for Lamesa and 20.5 percent for Lubbock.
If the weather improves, and no significant amounts of precipitation are received, I am optimistic that most of the cotton in both areas will be out of the field prior to Christmas. Here’s hoping that 2015 brings us good weather, better prices and lots of luck.
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