Heading into winter, the question of uncertain irrigation water supplies in California’s San Joaquin Valley is again creeping into conversations due to the warm, dry fall of 2017. For many SJV growers who during the extended drought invested in improved groundwater wells and increased capacities, this mostly affects the degree to which they may have to rely on groundwater pumping to augment or replace surface water resources.
However, any tightening of surface irrigation water supplies tends to make growers reconsider the mix of annual crops they take on over and above their multi-year commitments to trees, vines or alfalfa. We hope conditions change in the coming months to allow more storms to make it into central and southern California and Sierra Nevada mountain areas.
While 2017 production experiences are still fresh in your minds, try to figure out what you think worked or didn’t work in pest control. For many or even most San Joaquin Valley growers, lygus populations and impacts on the crop were unusually high and persistent. And aphid pressure was more widespread and intense than any time in the past 20 years or so. The effect of lygus and aphids, in particular, on production costs, fruit retention and yields were very significant in 2017. Any lessons learned in terms of failures or successes should be discussed with your staff and consultants and carried forward.
Basic yield results from the University of California trials will be available by early to mid-January from your UC farm adviser or on the UC cotton web site: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu. Fiber quality tables for the included varieties will follow later in January. Since Upland/Acala variety tests are more limited in geographical distribution and number than in past years, also be sure to request variety trial data from seed company trials.
If you have fields either confirmed or suspected of having significant Fusarium race 4 inoculum as an issue, we recommend paying particular attention to the relative Fusarium race 4 susceptibility ratings of varieties shown in the variety trials section of the same website.
Although harvest is over, several gins were still operating at the time of this writing. In talking with producers, I have heard many say this is their best cotton crop ever. Missouri will have another record crop greatly surpassing the 1,117 pounds per acre of 2014.
We had phenomenal weather this season. Harvest season was dry and warm. It is not hard to defoliate cotton during warm weather. Soil sampling was easy because we are so dry. Both university and private labs are geared up to get the samples processed. If lime is needed, it can be applied this fall to begin reacting before planting.
Weed control was enhanced with having dicamba available this season. However, due to complaints, the new 24(c) labels for 2018 prohibit spraying after June 1 in the Bootheel counties. Consequently, there will be a dilemma as to which varieties to plant. In addition, mandatory training on dicamba before it can be purchased will be required. This training will be online. One meeting will be held in the southeast region at Cape Girardeau at a date to be determined. There are other alternatives to dicamba pre- and post-planting.
Our Missouri Cotton Production and Outlook Conference will be held at the Fisher Delta Research Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Registration will begin at 7:45 a.m., and the program will end at noon with lunch provided.
The 2017 growing season is coming to a close in Virginia as I write this on Dec. 12. Most of the cotton has already been picked, although a small percentage of the acres are being finished up at this time. This was a much needed bounce back year after the past two, and average lint yields for the state are expected to be 1,099 pounds lint per acre based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Overall, the year was marked by a cool, early May, followed by in-season insect pressure from bollworms and a growing plant bug problem.
Moving into 2018, growers will have multiple years of data on cotton varieties with XtendFlex and Enlist technologies to make better decisions on varieties best suited for Virginia. This multi-year data set is critical to variety selection. Virginia cotton producers should be on the lookout for the annual 2017 Virginia Official Cotton Variety Testing and On-Farm Results, which will be available in January. Seed companies are always improving performance, and preliminary results for 2017 look promising with high-yielding trials across all OVT locations.
Also, the Annual Virginia Cotton Production Meeting will be held on Feb. 6 in Franklin, Virginia, at the Paul D. Camp Workforce Development Center. I look forward to seeing everyone there.
Many producers have booked seed for this season. There are several new varieties with new technologies that are worthy of a look. Do your homework regarding new technologies and varieties to best place them on your farm.
Variety selection is perhaps the most important decision a producer makes. Once planted, no amount of worry, work or money can make up for a poor decision. Our recommendation for planting is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties that are proven on your farm. Of the remaining acres, limit new varieties to no more than 10 percent of your total acreage. The remaining 25 percent should be dedicated to those varieties in which you have limited experience. This strategy provides stability while allowing for evaluation of new varieties.
There are a number of unbiased information sources available to assist in selecting new varieties. Our primary source is the University Variety Testing program. Results from the Arkansas trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at http://arkansasvarietytesting.com/home/cotton/.
A great deal of information is collected and presented to help evaluate fiber quality, maturity, growth characteristics and other varietal traits as well as yield. County demonstrations are another good source of information and are included with the University Variety Testing program results.
Don’t restrict yourself to your home state or area. In Arkansas, it is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South. Evaluating the consistency of a variety under a wide array of conditions will be beneficial. Contact your county Extension agent for assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data and to get the dates and locations of upcoming county production meetings.
This is the time of year to figure out what crops will be grown in 2018. It’s important for farmers to study expected crop price and how rotations with cotton help yield and reduce pest pressure for the following crops. They should also determine what their main variety will be and which new ones should be tested on their operations.
Another aspect of selecting cotton varieties is knowing the turnout and grade. Most of the cotton growing states have experienced record yields over the past five years unless severe weather affected the growing season or harvest. These numbers are a testament to the new varieties being developed and yield stability over a wide range of conditions.
As cotton prices rise, we expect a slight increase in cotton acreage for the coming year and hope 2018 will be the best ever.
January is a good time to reflect and evaluate the 2017 cotton crop and plan for the 2018 season. You should have had a chance to review the on-farm variety trials in December and compare that information to how varieties performed on your farm. You can also use the official variety trial results to help with variety selection.
Both variety comparison systems have their pros and cons. The on-farm system gives you a very robust system to compare some of the current leading varieties. The OVT system allows you to compare many more varieties and give you an idea of what new varieties you might want to try on small acreages on your farm.
Selecting multiple varieties using the two systems will help manage the risk associated with depending on one variety.
You can compare varieties using both systems with the North Carolina Cotton Variety Performance Calculator found at https://trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton/. The results from multiple sites are more likely to predict performance for the coming year than one individual location.
Farmers may also want to evaluate data collected from their own farms using yield information from picker yield monitors. Producers should realize this data can be valuable in evaluating production practices but is not suitable for comparing varieties or practices such as growth regulators. Growth regulators can affect seed size, and varieties have differing seed sizes. The mechanism of cotton yield monitors skews the comparison of production practices where there are differences in seed size.
Choosing cotton varieties can be difficult, and the availability of different transgenic traits often complicates the process. It is advantageous to have as much variety information as possible to make a more informed decision. To assist in this process, the LSU AgCenter annually conducts official variety trials at the Red River Research Station at Bossier City, Dean Lee Research Station at Alexandria, Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro, and Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph. This past year, 49 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations.
In addition to the official cotton variety trials, on-farm cotton variety trials are conducted with growers throughout the state. The objective of both the official variety trials and the on-farm trials is to provide as much information as possible concerning a cotton variety’s performance over a range of soil textures and growing conditions.
As the new season approaches, variety selection is a key component in the planning process for the upcoming year. Now is an excellent time to review the past year’s results. Review as many public and private company tests in your area before making a variety decision.
Results for the 2017 LSU AgCenter cotton variety trials are at lsuagcenter.com. Find them by clicking on topics>crops>cotton>varieties. Best of luck in 2018!
New year — new expectations. Although the 2017 crop came up short of what some had hoped for, it was a respectable one. However, given the extra money spent on pest management, profit margins shrunk, and in some cases disappeared. As with all years, the name of the game in 2018 will be minimizing costs and maximizing yields.
Many farmers have already booked varieties or are in the process of doing so as of this writing. However, variety selection should not be limited to the newest, latest, greatest, end all, be-all varieties on the market. Choose a variety you know will perform on your soils under your management regime. As everyone knows, choosing the wrong variety is a costly error.
Given no two years are the same and 2017 was challenging on a number of fronts, examine all of the variety performance data you can find from 2017 and before if the variety you are interested in has been around longer than that. Rough estimates using our on-farm data indicate that choosing the wrong variety can cost you up to $200 per acre.
It would also be beneficial to go back through records from last year as well as previous years and examine where money is being spent on your crop. In some cases, there may be areas where money can be saved that won’t cost you pounds in the picker. Any money saved that doesn’t decrease yield adds to your bottom line.
Cotton harvest has been underway for some time in Oklahoma. A significant run of dry weather provided good harvest conditions, and most cotton producers are done. The bad news is that according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, mostly low level drought conditions are now affecting about 51 percent of the state. Another 37 percent is considered abnormally dry. Although this has helped drive a rapid harvest of the monster crop, wheat and other winter crop producers are unfortunately feeling the negative impact.
The ginning infrastructure also is being challenged. Many modules may not get ginned for several months, and producers are encouraged to monitor module cover integrity. If the covers get badly damaged or shredded by high winds, they should be replaced.
For the crop classed thus far, quality appears to be good to excellent. Color grades have been good to excellent with about 47 percent 11and 21, and about 45 percent 31 color.
Leaf grades and overall distribution have been good, with 87 percent grades 1, 2 and 3, and an average of 2.6. Staple has averaged 37, with about 65 percent 37 or longer.
Some high micronaire has been noted with 3 percent above 5.0, but 94 percent has been in the 3.5-4.9 range. Fiber strength has averaged 30.5 g/tex, with nearly 76 percent 30 or higher. Uniformity is averaging 81.1 percent, and bark contamination is currently very low at only 5 percent of the bales.
Earlier harvested cotton has been dominated by picker harvesting, so this likely a contributing factor to higher uniformity and reduced bark contamination. We will probably see some lower quality as later harvested cotton gets ginned and classed.
Our variety trials have been harvested and ginned. We hope to get fiber quality data back and results posted online and distributed to our newsletter clientele soon. Multiple new entries have performed extremely well, including those with XtendFlex and Enlist technologies.
Producers should be aware that the Red River Crops Conference will be held in Altus, Oklahoma, on Jan. 17-18. The first day is dedicated to cotton. The second day is devoted to winter in-season crops and other summer crops. Now is the time for farmers to do their homework and begin planning for the 2018 growing season, so please join us at the Red River Crops Conference.
We should have all of our lint yield data processed by Dec. 11 and hope to publish a preliminary report on our variety trial results by the end of 2017. A significant period of rain delayed harvest for many in the area, including the University of Tennessee Agronomy Program. Subsequently, our fiber quality data set will not be complete for several more weeks. However, our preliminary data set should include enough information to begin guiding selection decisions.
Here are a couple of comments from the 2017 season. First, we saw resistance develop to both genes within the Bollgard II varieties. This is important because we will likely see bollworm populations in Bollgard II fields during the 2018 season that justify an insecticide application. This resistance is going to shift the market relatively quickly during the next few years to the varieties with three Bt genes.
Second, bacterial blight was noted in a large number of West Tennessee fields during 2017. Although severe yield penalties due to the disease have not been noted, this disease does reduce yields. And it is likely we will continue to see it during 2018. Third, we saw divergence in the fiber quality properties of many varieties. Many companies now offer varieties with a tendency to class at a higher grade.
As you begin to dive into the 2017 variety data, take a close look at those that contain three Bt genes, resistance to bacterial blight and result in a quality premium.
Coming off a fairly good year, the Rio Grande Valley is looking forward to comparable cotton acres in 2018 — about 200,000. The Texas Coastal Bend acres will likely be flat to slightly up. In both regions, there remains more of a balanced presence of XtendFlex, GlyTol LibertyLink and Phytogen WRF varieties. This is driven by variety performance and weed management options. Phytogen varieties (non-Enlist) included in the variety trials performed very well in these regions. But the need for chemical stalk destruction options will likely slow the adoption of the Enlist varieties in 2018.
In the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands, cotton acres could be up 10-15 percent due to poor grain prices. Phytogen 330 W3FE was the most consistent top-performing variety in these regions. However, DP 1646 B2XF was also consistently in the top 25 percent, and FM 1953GLTP, ST 4848GLT and ST 4949GLT also performed well in the variety trials.
With moderate to high bollworm pressure in 2017, we expect to see growers look increasingly toward the Vip traits in the coastal regions and Blacklands. In the Rolling Plains, cotton farmers will have harvested about 95 percent of acres by mid-December. Yield reports are variable, but across the region should be above average. Fiber quality, color and leaf grades appear to be improving slightly, while other fiber characteristics are holding.
Texas was planted to about 65 percent XtendFlex cotton in 2017, and this number is expected to increase in 2018. The adoption of XF varieties has caused a complete shift in company market share over the past two years. In Texas, Americot/NexGen has moved from 8 percent to 40 percent market share in two years.
There are many good varieties with various trait packages, and this is an important consideration. However, we commonly see a 20 percent yield difference between the highest and lowest yielding varieties in our on-farm trials. In a year of tight profit margins, a 20 percent yield difference is a big deal and justifies spending some time to identify the variety that best fits the soil type, management, etc. For local cotton variety yield data, go to cotton.tamu.edu and click on Variety Results.
Harvest began much the same way as planting. We had hit and miss good weather mixed with periods of humidity or high winds, which is still an issue for the majority of acres harvested with basket strippers in this region. But by mid-November, conditions improved and as of early December, cotton harvest was nearing the finish line across most of the Texas High Plains.
There will be many decisions made between now and the beginning of the 2018 season. The first is whether to go back to cotton next year. With the current issues in both sorghum and corn, cotton acreage in the High Plains will likely stay fairly stable or even increase slightly in 2018. This potential uptick in acres depends on whether the issues in these crops are resolved and the market outlook.
For most producers, the 2017 season might be defined as good but perhaps not what they were hoping for coming off a tremendous 2016 crop. For some, mainly those in the southern half of the High Plains, low rainfall was likely the biggest culprit although this is nothing new to those who farm in this region. For others, particularly farther north, maturity was an issue as evidenced by the micronaire on classing office reports. One method that may be used to address the maturity issue in 2018 is variety selection.
A large acreage across the Cotton Belt and in the High Plains in particular has shifted toward varieties with the new dicamba-resistant XtendFlex trait over the past two years. In fact, 66 percent of Texas acres were planted to XtendFlex varieties in 2017. However, varieties classified as early maturing with the XtendFlex package aren’t as early as the early maturing varieties available with glyphosate-tolerant or glyphosate- and Liberty-tolerant herbicide packages that made up most of the acreage in this region just two years ago. Depending on the satisfaction with weed control, there may be some shift to earlier maturing varieties with a stronger fiber quality background, whether they are XtendFlex or not.
Harvest of the replicated agronomic cotton evaluation (RACE) trials is wrapping up at the time of this writing. Be on the lookout for this information on cotton.tamu.edu and at the county winter production meetings.
With the 2017 crop year behind us, it is time to begin making decisions for the upcoming season. Last year’s challenges that included heat stress and difficulty with defoliation and boll opening generally turned out to be less than optimum for Arizona cotton.
However, much can be learned from last year’s experiences, particularly when it comes to variety performance given the conditions we experienced. Yield results were highly variable across the state. In fact, many of our variety tests exhibited that same level of yield variability. For example, in the University of Arizona advanced strains testing program location at Maricopa, a little more than 1,000 pounds of lint yield separated the lowest and the highest performing variety. This yield level difference among varieties at this location is unusually high.
In reviewing the weather data for the Maricopa area, we had several consecutive days of Level 2 heat stress, which had a significant impact on crop development. Approximately 40 entries at this location provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the effects of heat stress on the crop. There is no doubt different levels of susceptibility to heat stress exist among the varieties tested in 2017.
So what does all this mean for you on your individual farm? I think it is more critical than ever to evaluate as much variety testing data as you can and look for trends of variety performance across locations and years when making a selection for your farm.
The University of Arizona conducts an extensive variety testing program across the entire state, and those results will be out and available in January. I encourage you to review these results and the results of trials conducted by seed companies. It is also important to consider your experiences with particular varieties on your own farm when making a variety selection.
It has been several years since we’ve seen the level of heat stress we experienced in 2017. We hope it will be a long time before we see it again. But as you know, the only constant in life is change, and that is particularly true for the weather.