Tuesday, June 18, 2024

End-Of-Season Considerations

TEXAS | Murilo Maeda

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda,
Texas A&M

Cotton harvest has already started in West Texas (in our northern counties) as I write this in early October, and by the time you receive this issue of Cotton Farming, harvest activities should be well underway across much of the region. 

The first USDA-AMS classing report from the Lubbock office covering the week ending Oct. 6 includes 1,158 bales (from three gins) and shows an average 36.39 staple, 1.13 length, 32.5 strength, 80.65 uniformity and 4.05 micronaire. Up to this point, warm and open weather have prevailed, but as expected, once we cross into October, we tend to see milder, cooler weather overall. While warm, open weather has (so far) favored good harvest aid activity, areas north of the Lamesa to Childress line have picked up anywhere from a few tenths to as much as 1.5 inches of rain over the past seven days. This, along with the cooler weather in the forecast, can delay harvest aid activity, so we encourage growers to take that into account as they match defoliation to their harvest capacity. 

Cotton harvest is well under way in most regions after a rollercoaster year of high costs and tumultuous weather.

Not surprising, but still unfortunate, we continue to receive word about more acres being failed. This includes both dryland as well as irrigated fields that will continue to add to our already high 2.5 million failed acres of cotton this year. Regardless, for those of you going after a cotton crop, we wish you a plentiful, blessed harvest. Yet again — I would like to remind everyone of the increase in heavy equipment moving around this time of year. Whether during the day or at night, please pay extra attention to your surroundings and stay safe out there. mmaeda@ag.tamu.edu

TEXAS | Ben McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As I write this Oct. 6, dry weather has once again settled in for the majority of South, Central and East Texas. This recent round of dry weather has facilitated good conditions for harvesting the crop as growers are looking forward to closing the books on the 2022 growing season and beginning to look ahead to next year’s crop. 

Variety selection remains, in my opinion, the most important decision a grower will make all year. In several ways, the decision on which variety to plant will impact how your pest management programs will shape up for the remainder of the year. With all the different trait packages currently available, now would be a great time to start evaluating which traits would bring value to your cotton growing operations.

If bacterial blight is an issue on your farm, considering a variety with resistance to the pathogen may potentially mitigate some losses. If glyphosate-resistant weeds have become more problematic, utilizing varieties with different herbicide-resistance traits and rotating herbicide modes of action can help with combatting these yield-robbing weed pests.

In addition to considering variety trait packages, yield and fiber quality are perhaps the most important characteristic to consider when identifying potential varieties to grow in 2023. Results from variety trials can provide some insight regarding variety performance and can be extremely helpful for making your variety decisions for the upcoming year. Rather than just considering the 2022 Texas A&M RACE trial results, I encourage growers to go back a few years to evaluate how the different varieties performed across multiple years. Assuming the variety has been evaluated in previous years’ trials along with 2022, we can use this method to identify varieties that continue to perform well across different locations and different years. The 2022 RACE trial results will be published online in December and can be found at varietytesting.tamu.edu. Also, mark your calendars for the 34th Annual Texas Plant Protection Conference Dec. 6 – 7 in Bryan, Texas. More information on the conference can be found at texasplantprotection.com. bmcknight@tamu.edu 

LOUISIANA |Matt Foster

matt foster
Matt Foster,

As we approach mid-October, approximately 60% of the cotton acres in the state have been harvested. Harvest conditions have been excellent; however, temperatures have recently dropped, which can hinder boll opening and the efficacy of some harvest aid products. We hope to finish harvesting by the end of October/early November. Louisiana will harvest around 190,000 acres of cotton this year, compared to 110,000 acres in 2021.

Lint yields across the state are extremely variable due to hot and dry conditions during most of the growing season, along with heavy amounts of rainfall in August. Yield estimates for the state are projected to be around 800 lbs. to 875 lbs. of lint per acre. Most growers that I’ve spoken with were expecting an above-average cotton crop this year, but mother nature had different plans. 

Following harvest, growers should concentrate on soil fertility needs for the 2023 crop. The main purposes of a soil test are to indicate the current nutrient levels in the soil and aid in developing a fertilizer/lime program. A solid program can be developed by combining soil test information with cropping history and the overall yield potential of the field. Routine soil testing can also aid in monitoring trends/changes in your overall production system, thus balancing your fertility program with other production inputs. Since soil test levels can change during the year, samples should be taken at the same time each year so results can be compared year to year. Nutrient levels are generally lower in summer and fall compared to winter and spring. Generally, the best time to sample is one to six months prior to planting. mfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

ARKANSAS| Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

As we turned the calendar into October, harvest progress of the 2022 crop basically mirrored the five-year average. The long-term forecast of dry weather into mid-October will help to keep harvest progress at a fast, steady pace. While our early cotton in far south Arkansas experienced significant hardlock, much of the rest of the state is seeing little loss at this time. 

Big nice fluffy bolls all the way to the top of the plant, coupled with basically every boll the plant produced getting into the module, is a recipe for high yields. The almost ideal weather through nearly the entire month of September is a big reason for this and is likely our highlight of the season so far. 

The most recent Crop Production report for Arkansas released in September by USDA-NASS estimated cotton production at 1.6 million bales, 365,000 bales above last year. Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yield is expected to average 1,219 lbs. per harvested acre. This would represent our second highest yield on record. Our five-year lint yield average is 1,184 lbs. per harvested acre.

Most are well into planning for the 2023 season.  Soil samples for fertility, as well as nematodes, will likely be pulled in great numbers after harvest and stalk destruction are complete.  Look to the University of Arkansas variety testing webpage at https://arkansas-variety-testing.uark.edu/ for results from county and OVTs.

The Arkansas Crop Management Conference and County production meetings are scheduled to be live events this year, and dates have been set. Contact your county Extension agent for details on meetings and other questions you may have. brobertson@uada.edu

TENNESSEE | Tyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

As I write this Oct. 2, harvest has just begun in Tennessee, with only a handful of fields picked. What a rollercoaster of a year. Early May initially introduced herself as one of the best planting windows we’d seen in the past five, if not 10, years. Unfortunately, many saw that window crash closed with excessive rainfalls; often, 1 inch to 3 inches of rainfall seemed to arrive immediately after the planter left the field. Then, only a few weeks into June, the rain altogether stopped until nearly the end of July. August will go down as one of the wetter — if not wettest — months on record. And then September broke dry and finished cold.  

Perspective is important; we are fortunate and grateful to be where we are relative to where we thought we might be at the end of July. Still, this will be a tough year for many. If September could have given us a few more degrees and October would have been forgiving, we might have made the crop we thought we had at the end of August. This will be my first year in Tennessee where the earliest-planted cotton will fall hundreds of pounds short of the later-planted cotton. I also suspect our earliest planted will struggle with abnormally high micronaire.

There are a few lessons I think can be learned from this year and applied as we move forward. First, we kept thin stands in many fields, and I think, overall, most have been impressed with retention and ease of management at these populations; some are targeting a plant population that is too high and reducing seeding rate (for some) may result in similar yields with reduced expenses. Additionally, we will have a very good understanding of variety performance and placement after this year.

I hope each of you has a productive and safe harvest that wraps up well before Thanksgiving! traper@utk.edu

MISSISSIPPI | Brian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

It’s hard to believe we are writing about end-of-year considerations, but it’s time to start thinking about 2023. I’m writing this Oct. 5, and harvest is in full swing in Mississippi. Many farmers in the Delta have spent their 10 to 14 days in the trenches and are completely done with all harvest activities. However, there’s still a lot of cotton across the state awaiting harvest, but given the weather forecast, it won’t be long before everyone is finished. It amazes me how technology and management practices have compressed our growing seasons into a few short months. Anyway, cotton yields in Mississippi are variable across the state, with planting date, variety, environmental conditions and the interactions between these factors contributing to the range in cotton yields.

Thinking about “end of the year considerations,” I encourage taking advantage of the early harvest and dry conditions to prepare fields for next year’s crop and to catch up on any soil sampling that may need to be addressed. With high fertilizer costs, some growers have shifted their management strategies away from inorganic, soil-applied fertilizers to cash flow their budget. Soil sampling is important to monitor fertility levels to keep from dropping into a deficiency scenario, which is much more expensive and time consuming to correct.  

Lastly, review as much variety performance data as possible when making selection decisions.  Moving into 2023, growers are starting to favor certain varieties more than others and ordering seed before harvest is over. Other growers are still having trouble finding the variety that is a perfect fit for their farm. Looking at multi-year performance data will help in making these selection decisions. Enjoy the fall weather as we prepare for another round! bkp4@msstate.edu

ALABAMA |Steve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

Sept. 12 marked a significant weather change for most of Alabama. We went from frequent rainfall, persistent high humidity and extensive cloud cover to prevailing drier, sunny, breezy conditions. Perfect for cotton maturation — except that it was slightly cooler than normal. And thankfully, we missed Hurricane Ian altogether.

Weeks of sunshine combined with lower humidity and light winds make for great picking. While we lost some lower bolls to hardlock and boll rot, the latter half of September and early days of October boosted our prospects. Moreover, the general forecast for much of October was also favorable. Weather patterns and initial picking reports encourage optimism that yields will improve over early predictions. By the time this is read, predictions and estimates will give way to real numbers. Our five-year average yield calculated against planted acres is about 850 lbs./acre. On this date (Oct. 4), I’m still in guessing mode, but I think we should surpass 850 lbs./acre considerably. My guesses contrast preliminary USDA numbers, so I could be eating crow but don’t shoot and ship the bird just yet.

For now, cotton across the state has a welcome, white beauty.

Some areas should finish harvest early, not because of a short crop but rather because extreme heat in June and July propelled cotton development. Arguably, the overcast conditions in late summer slowed the pace somewhat, but many could wrap up picking two to three weeks sooner than normal, hurried along by crop maturity and great harvest weather.

As we finish, it’s helpful to think about what we learned this season, what went well or didn’t, and what changes we might make for next year. Hopefully, at season’s end, each farm family and group will be able to reflect upon the year with a sense of gratitude for safety and bounty. cottonbrown@auburn.edu

FLORIDA | David Wright

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Most cotton will harvest in October and will be finished in November from late-planted fields. It is time to plant cover crops and winter crops and pull soil samples for nematodes and nutrient testing. The economic climate changes for crops every year — with fertilizer prices being the big story for 2022. 

Decisions need to be made to do a better job in the future, as phosphorus and potassium prices have remained high. Drought in the deep south in late season, as well as Ukraine impact on input prices, bring uncertainty for growers to consider in the coming year’s crop. 

Some of our long-term research trials indicate that using cover crops and winter grazing livestock can be beneficial for recycling nutrients as well as utilizing the land and cover crops.  Our data from a 22-year rotation with winter grazing cattle shows that irrigation and fertilization may be reduced as much as 40% to 60%, lowering input costs and reducing risks, while increasing yields of row crops. wright@ufl.edu

GEORGIA | Camp Hand

camp hand
Camp Hand,

The best time of year — crossing the finish line. Nothing beats seeing the hard work of a long season come to fruition. This is a busy and stressful time for growers, but there is always something to learn. Make sure to make note of problematic areas in fields as you are picking. Whether nematodes, fertility or weeds that produced seed, we can make a plan to get ready for next season. It’s never too early to start thinking about the next crop. 

As I write this Oct. 7, I’m hearing yields all over the board, which I would consider normal. We didn’t have a great August in terms of “finishing” our crop. We had a lot of hardlock and rot that, at the time, many thought would devastate our crop. I hand picked some cotton in a dryland field planted April 18 just a few weeks ago and thought, with as much hardlock and lack of burr integrity that I saw, it wouldn’t be worth picking. But I was very surprised when we ran a picker through there to see that we were averaging around two bales. The words “pleasant surprise” or “better than expected” have been said to me and by me more than once. 

Overall, it looks like we’re off to a good start in terms of fiber quality. Nothing is jumping out in terms of being way off, which is a good thing. There is very little extraneous matter thus far as well. 

It feels like we’re ahead of schedule in terms of harvest so far, which may partially have to do with the scare we got from Hurricane Ian. Luckily, it missed us this time, and all we got was a little wind. I think we all feel like we dodged a bullet there, but we still have a ways to go as of the first week of October.

Let’s continue to be timely with harvest, and be safe out there. As always, if you ever need anything, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Don’t hesitate to reach out. camphand@uga.edu 


Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

I’m actually writing this on Sept. 30, while Hurricane Ian is making its way through our state. We’re hoping and praying that the impact is minimal, but some degree of cotton loss is expected. We were really hoping to miss these tropical systems this year, and even this one is more of a direct hit than was forecasted during most of the week prior.  

By the time this article is published, harvest should be winding down soon. This was a dry year for most of North Carolina (prior to Ian’s arrival) — especially during late August and early September for most areas — and our crop therefore trended about two weeks early during the early fall. As I write this, the forecast suggests a drastic cool-down is on the way, which is also slightly earlier than normal. Most of our crop was relatively mature by the time Ian hit, which is bad in the sense that we had a lot of open bolls at the time. However, most of our closed bolls were relatively mature, so boll opening was less of a concern this year. Yields are expected to be variable and decent in places.  

Variety data is usually available in early December and will be published on cotton.ces.ncsu.edu. It will also appear in the NC Cotton Variety Performance Calculator (trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton) as soon as data becomes available. guy_collins@ncsu.edu

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