Thursday, December 8, 2022

Firm Up Plans For 2022 Growing Season

ALABAMASteve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,
Alabama

King Kong once dominated the landscape. Now there is no Kong.

In the past, we have had extended periods in which one variety occupied large portions of the Cotton Belt. Similarly, smaller regions have been overwhelmingly committed to a single “star” variety. A review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Cotton Varieties Planted report indicates that not long ago, one variety covered 50% of the acreage in several states. And before that, another memorable variety was planted in more than 70% of fields for several years in significant parts of the Belt.

That is not likely for 2022. Presently, there are no clear “Kongs” for most areas. 

The result is that many growers will plant multiple varieties on their farm this year, which is not a bad thing. Diversifying a variety portfolio is a classic risk minimization strategy. Most growers should consider planting the bulk of their crop with three to five different options and devoting a few acres (but not too many!) to the latest, newest offering(s) as a means of gaining experience with coming varieties.

Deciding which varieties will make up your portfolio in 2022 requires study. Data from the Auburn University Variety Testing Program and on-farm trials are available at https://aaes.auburn.edu/variety-tests/. New to the site is the AU Variety Selection Platform, a database tool that allows a detailed exploration of yield results. It provides extensive information about each trial, including weather, management inputs, fiber quality, disease ratings, etc. The platform is a tool, one that takes time to figure out how to use proficiently. But time and effort will be rewarded with a wealth of information. 

Small plot, OVT tests measure agronomic potential in a uniform, (hopefully) well-managed environment usually involving several dozen entries. Large on-farm trials compare a handful of the current best offerings from seed companies in grower fields under common, real-world conditions. The two types of trials should complement each other. The obvious thing is to look for varieties that trend towards the top and avoid those that do the opposite. cottonbrown@auburn.edu

ARKANSASBill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,
Arkansas

Most of our county 2022 Extension cotton meetings will take place in February. Following guidelines for COVID to ensure safety of attendees and speakers is changing the look of some of our meetings but is not impacting the delivery of our information. Land grant universities will continue to fine-tune the process to deliver unbiased information to stakeholders. Producers must continue getting the most out of their inputs. Watch costs, yet provide necessary inputs to protect yield potential.  

Variety selection for yield and quality as well as desired technology traits is an important first step in establishing yield potential. There are several resources available to assist in selecting new varieties. A useful tool is the University Variety Testing Program. Results from the Arkansas trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at https://aaes.uark.edu/variety-testing/. County demonstrations are another good source of information and are included with this data set. It is also appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South.  

Other practices to protect yield potential and manage costs include matching nutrient applications to the crop requirements, utilizing IPM tools to manage pests, fine-tuning irrigation scheduling, and using tools like Pipe Planner that can increase efficiency.  

Following end-of-season termination guidelines coupled with variety selection and appropriate planting dates to get a picker in the field by mid-September is another important consideration. This will help to hold onto yield and quality potential while meeting our harvest completion goal of Nov. 1. 

Contact your local county Extension agent to obtain information or to get assistance in improving efficiency and profitability. brobertson@uada.edu

FLORIDADavid Wright

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,
Florida

Last season suggested how resilient cotton can be. Like every year, favorable weather is often key to making a good crop. Despite early drought at planting, we still had enough moisture to establish good stands. But too much rain in the remainder of the growing season slowed management activities. Regardless, most growers were able to apply nitrogen and potassium in fields where needed and cotton grew well. Harvests were good. For this year, planting cotton into cover crops or into winter fallow can lead to timelier planting.

Many of our growers use strip tillage, which helps conserve moisture. This is important because no more than 25% to 30% of our cotton is irrigated. If the spring is forecasted to be dry, consider killing cover crops early. Likewise, choose varieties based on yields from trials near your location. If you have fields with known nematode issues, look at varieties that have nematode resistance. Most of our growers do a good job managing weeds, even those pests that are hard to control. For fields that still have too many weeds, consult with county agents to develop a better strategy. This may include using other modes of action herbicides, high residue cover crops, directed sprays, etc.

Nitrogen prices are causing all of us to look at ways to better utilize nutrients. Legume cover crops can help reduce nitrogen needs, but the available N depends on growth stage of the legume crop at termination and duration between termination and cotton planting. Finally, as always, growers have creative ideas that will get them through the season. wright@ufl.edu

GEORGIACamp Hand

camp hand
Camp Hand,
Georgia

Many people may not know this about me, but I am slightly musically inclined. When I was living in Auburn and working on my degrees, I played multiple instruments at the church I attended (Embrace Church). Not only did I do that, but throughout middle and high school I played the trumpet and French horn. Say what you will about “band nerds,” but at least it allowed me to travel throughout Europe with my friends performing in multiple countries. I digress, but why am I bringing this up?

The topic of this month’s Specialists Speaking is “Fine-tuning plans for 2022.” Whether it was in high school band or playing electric bass at church, the first thing we always did before a performance was tune our instruments. If one instrument is out of tune in a band, you can pick it out. This is why tuning is important. How do we tune our instruments before the upcoming production season? One of the best ways to do this, in my opinion, is to look back at previous years. What has worked? What hasn’t? Where are the problem areas in the field, and what is causing those issues? How do we fix them? 

Of course, the No. 1 concern on everyone’s mind for 2022 is input costs. As I write this Jan. 19, the contract price for December 2022 cotton is just over 98 cents per pound. According to the University of Georgia Ag Econ budgets for 2022, that is more than the breakeven price for irrigated cotton production, assuming 1,200 pounds per acre. As we are tuning up for 2022, we also need to be “in tune” with what is happening in our areas and how we can maximize net returns. To help with this, your UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. camphand@uga.edu 

LOUISIANAMatt Foster

matt foster
Matt Foster,
Louisiana

The 2022 Louisiana Agricultural Technology and Management Conference will be held Feb. 9-11 at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, Louisiana. The Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association sponsors this annual event.

On Feb. 10, two cotton-specific topics during the morning session include a panel discussion on cotton seed quality/vigor and nutrient management in cotton. Afternoon session topics include cotton variety performance, nematode management in cotton, weed control in cotton and technical updates from industry. On Feb. 11, presentation topics include cotton row spacing/growth regulators, insecticide selection, ThryvOn cotton and cotton picker yield monitors.

This is a great event for anyone involved in the cotton industry to attend. Personally, I have always gained valuable, applicable information during my 10 years of attendance. To learn more, go to www.laca1.org. mfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

MISSISSIPPIBrian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,
Mississippi

It’s never too early to start fine-tuning plans for the upcoming growing season. Considering the curve balls experienced each year, strategic planning will help growers be better prepared for the unforeseen issues that arise. Obviously, weather is out of anyone’s control, but a solid marketing strategy, prepaid inputs and variety selection will put growers a step ahead in 2022.

December 2022 cotton futures are currently just south of $1. Consider securing a price for a portion of the crop now to hedge against market fluctuations. Market fundamentals are strong, so locking in prices early can give some peace of mind as we prepare for planting. Setting prices on 50% to 60% of the intended acreage at a price that is profitable allows growers to “wait” on a better price and gives protection if prices drop.

Similarly, supply chain delays and shortages could cause more problems this year. Securing herbicides, equipment parts and other inputs will help relieve some stress as planting draws near. Glyphosate and glufosinate herbicides could be harder to obtain. This likely will cause Mississippi growers to rely on older burndown strategies to use glyphosate on in-season applications. For example, if glyphosate is normally used in five applications annually, this year’s availability issues may allow for it in only two applications. It would be wise to save these applications for when the crop has emerged.

Mississippi small plot and on-farm variety performance and fiber quality data is available at mississippi-crops.com. Variety performance can be evaluated based on region and agronomic practices across a wide range of environments. This data is useful for making variety selection decisions for growers who match their regions and agronomic environment. Wishing everyone a prosperous 2022! bkp4@msstate.edu

NORTH CAROLINAKeith Edmisten

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten,
North Carolina

This is looking to be a very unusual year with good prices along with increased input costs and limited availability of some inputs. Growers can make a few short-term management changes to try to deal with these challenges.

Keep in mind that the chance of a response to a nutrient like potassium or phosphorus decreases as the soil test index approaches 50. Recommendations for a soil test index of 50 or higher are basically replacement recommendations. Growers may want to reduce or ignore applications where the soil test index is over 50. This may result in a higher recommendation for the 2023 crop year. Also remember that the only time we have seen a response to more than 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre is when yields exceeded 3 bales or where hurricanes have resulted in a lot of lost N.

In winter meetings, Dr. Charlie Cahoon will be talking about strategies to deal with the predicted shortage in herbicide availability for the coming season. Some of the strategies he will discuss include burndown programs that do not use glyphosate, saving it for in-season use, strong residual programs and alternate in-season herbicide programs, including the need for timely applications based on weed size.
keith_edmisten@ncsu.edu

TENNESSEETyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,
Tennessee

At this point, it appears the 2022 season will be quite different than the 2021 season. Input pricing and availability (mainly on the chemical side) look like they will both challenge our standard operating procedure. Currently, post-emergence herbicides are receiving the most attention. Fortunately, several of our pre-emerge herbicides are available. While the no-till system requires using post-emergence herbicides, it is possible to overlay residuals and limit the amount of post-emergence herbicide applications. This will call for timely applications of residuals prior to breakdown of the previous application.

Fertilizer price has been a major concern. The 2022 season, in my opinion, represents an excellent opportunity to see just how much nitrogen you might be able to cut. Data from the Mid-South rarely reports a yield increase over 90 pounds of available nitrogen. Available is a key word here. Most of our soils contain about 50 pounds of nitrogen in the spring prior to making a nitrogen application.

The quantity and availability of nitrogen varies across most fields. But if you choose to rely on the nitrogen already present within the soil, you may be able to drastically reduce the amount of fertilizer nitrogen applied. Soil nitrate tests can provide insight into this amount, and most soil testing labs have specific instructions on collection and shipment of those samples. 

One of the best ways to increase fertilizer nitrogen-use efficiency is to improve the application timing and select the best source; a broadcast, preplant application of urea is susceptible to numerous loss mechanisms. In contrast, a side-dressed application of UAN at squaring is much more efficient.  

Many of these approaches will require more labor expense per acre and an increase in timeliness. Still, 2022 should represent a year when we can get into the black if we properly execute a fine-tuned plan. traper@utk.edu

TEXASBen McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight, Texas A&M

Throughout the first couple weeks of January, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across much of Texas, visit with growers at winter meetings and listen to their concerns going into the 2022 growing season. Perhaps the most frequently vocalized concern has been related to increased input costs. As I write this in mid-January, it appears there won’t be much relief for elevated input prices prior to getting the cotton crop in the ground, especially for growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley who traditionally begin planting in mid- to late February. 

Fertilizer input prices, particularly nitrogen, has been on everyone’s radar. In a recent conversation, a grower shared with me that the price of nitrogen inputs had quadrupled compared to last year’s costs. While these elevated costs may be a tough pill to swallow, there are some things we can do ahead of planting that will hopefully make our management decisions a little easier and profitable.

Perhaps the most consistent expenditure that returns value to a cotton farming operation is soil testing. In a year like 2022 is shaping up to be, having information about plant nutrients that may already be in the soil profile can help tighten the belt regarding fertilizer expenditures. Additionally, sampling deeper in the profile, 18- or 24-inch depths, may reveal more plant-available nutrient quantities than was anticipated. Crediting these plant nutrients to our yield goals and the subsequent savings associated with reduced fertilizer application may be a way for growers to keep a little extra money in their pockets on the front end of the season. For information on how to properly take and submit a soil sample for testing, get in touch with your county zgent or visit https://soiltest
ing.tamu.edu/. bmcknight@tamu.edu 

VIRGINIAHunter Frame

Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame
Virginia

Despite the COVID crisis and supply chain issues in 2021, Virginia cotton production had a banner year, harvesting roughly 72,000 acres with an estimated average yield just over 1,200 pounds lint per acre. If this holds, it will represent the second highest state yields on record with cotton prices more than $1 per pound lint. A fall where Mother Nature was very generous with clear skies and limited rain led to high fiber grades for Virginia cotton.

Moving into 2022, the conversation has turned to price increases in inputs such as fertilizers and chemicals (specifically glyphosate and glufosinate). I have fielded many questions on how much can producers cut back on their soil fertility program? As I sit here and look at cotton prices for December ’22, which are at 97 cents per pound lint, I do not know if 2022 is the year to cut back on phosphorus and potassium as any mining of soil exchangeable nutrients done this year will have to be replenished in subsequent years.

This means that to rebuild soil test P and K, higher rates will need to be applied in 2023 and 2024, when commodity prices could potentially fall below future prices for 2022 currently. Producers need to think about managing crops for high yields in 2022 given cotton prices remain high, and cotton is still profitable.

Regarding nitrogen management, there is some room for reduction although Virginia’s recommendations are based on the point at which response curves start to plateau. This means that cutting back will reduce yields based on data in the upper Southeast Coastal Plain and predicting N response can be difficult based on the weather. In other cotton growing regions, please consult your cotton specialist or soil fertility specialist. whframe@vt.edu

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