Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Firming Up Plans For The Season

MISSOURI | Bradley Wilson

Bradley Wilson, Missouri

It is time to turn our attention to the 2024 season that will quickly be upon us. The annual cotton Extension production meeting will be held at the Fisher Delta Research and Extension Center Feb. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Registration will begin at 8 a.m., and lunch will be provided. Several speakers will be in attendance to provide research updates and address production challenges that may be faced in 2024.

As the topic for these comments is “Firming up plans for the season,” we look ahead at what we need to be doing in the next few months to gear up for the upcoming season. Choosing cotton varieties may be the first step in doing so as selection can be important for desired yield and fiber quality potential. The 2023 cotton small plot Official Variety Trials and large plot on-farm county trials can be utilized as a resource for variety selection. This data can be found at https://moaes.missouri.edu/t-e-jake-fisher-delta-research-extension-and-education-center/ under cotton variety testing.

It is also important to think about fertilizer needs prior to the season. Soil sampling is an excellent method to determine fertilizer inputs needed in individual fields for timely application in 2024. Now is the time to determine management inputs needed, such as herbicides, insecticides and PGRs, to have these products on hand when applications are needed. If we can help in any way to prepare for the season, please feel free to reach out. brwilson@missouri.edu

TENNESSEE | Tyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,
Tennessee

The 2023 season resulted in the highest Tennessee average cotton yields ever recorded. Tennessee, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, harvested, on average, 1,237 pounds of lint per acre across 265,000 acres. Still, over the past couple of years, a larger percentage of our crop mix has been determined while planting. The 2024 mix appears to be even more volatile with few farmers comfortable giving a firm answer to what they intend to plant this year. Price per pound and ultimately return per commodity dominates these conversations. 

As you begin to make this decision, I’d like to highlight a few adjustments you will need to consider when you pencil out the cotton budget. First, we now have high-yielding cultivars from several companies that provide protection from nematodes, thrips and/or plant bugs. While many of these cultivars are more expensive than the “susceptible” alternatives, they should decrease chemical and application cost expenses. 

Second, many in our area have applied residual herbicides on a side dress fertilizer application. This may ease post-emergence herbicide and application costs. Finally, we have observed a shift of last effective bloom date to later in the year. While this may result in an increase in expense on insecticide and application costs spent on protecting later-maturing fruit, we are observing an increase in yield, which likely justifies this expense. These and other subjects will be covered in detail at the University of Tennessee Cotton Focus meeting on Feb. 7 in Jackson, Tennessee. For more information on this meeting, please visit news.utcrops.comtraper@utk.edu

GEORGIA | Camp Hand

camp hand
Camp Hand,
Georgia

As I write this Jan. 8, it is an overcast, dreary day in Tifton. The last thing on my mind, and many others, is putting seed in the ground in May. However, we do need to begin preparing for the next crop, and there is one big thing that can be done now to do so.

Dr. Glen Harris is the Extension soil scientist here at the University of Georgia, and if you’ve heard him give a talk before, you’ve probably thought he might be doing a stand-up comedy act instead of an Extension talk — personally, I think it’s a good combination. We were talking before Christmas about soil sampling, and he said one of his least favorite questions to get is, “Well, should I even pull a soil sample?” Dr. Harris’ answer is this: “Asking me if you should pull a soil sample is like asking your barber if you need a haircut!”

Right now at the top of my list is pulling soil samples to prepare for the 2024 crop. With the prices looking the way they do, I know many are thinking about how and where to cut, and soil samples are certainly not the place to do so. UGA still recommends fertility based on yield goal, but I think one part of this that gets glossed over is that recommendations are based on realistic yield goals. Growers know their fields better than anyone, so applying fertility based on the history of a field should also be taken into account.

By the time this is published, we have already begun county meetings, and if we haven’t been in your county yet, we are looking forward to coming to visit with you all. County meeting schedules are available from your local UGA county Extension agent and at ugacotton.com.

As always, if you ever need anything don’t hesitate to reach out. Your local UGA county Extension agents and specialists are here to help! camphand@uga.edu

ARIZONA | Randy Norton

Randy Norton
Randy Norton
Arizona

Cotton acreage in the state of Arizona has experienced a dramatic trend downward over the past couple of years. Planted acreage in Arizona during the 2023 season was estimated by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service to be 92,000 total acres. This decline has been driven largely by water issues experienced throughout Central Arizona. With a reduction in the availability of Colorado River water to Central Arizona, many acres have been fallowed. Priority for available water has been directed primarily to the most productive ground on individual producers’ operations. 

Focus now should be directed to making the most productive farmland possible produce a viable crop. Attention to crop inputs including seed, pest control, fertilizers, plant growth regulators, etc. needs to be scrutinized to ensure a positive return on investment. Even though some ground has been fallowed, it is still essential to maintain some level of weed control on these fields to prevent the spread of glyphosate-resistant weed seeds to other areas and fields. We have isolated occurrences of this pest throughout the state and do not want to let it spread because of fallowing selected fields.

Selecting the proper variety for your production scenario is critical. We will hold Extension meetings to show results from testing across Arizona in 2023. Results will be published on the University of Arizona Extension website and in the Arizona Cotton Growers Association newsletter. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

ALABAMA | Steve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,
Alabama

How about a simple demonstration of why statistics are needed in variety evaluations? Henry Jordan manages the Auburn Variety Testing Program and the small plot, replicated variety trials (OVTs). He included DP 1822 XF twice as two separate entries in the full season (47 entries), short season (36 entries) and conventional (13 entries) trials. In other words, the treatment lists included DP 1822 XF and DP 1822 XF (Check), though he reported only one in published data.

Having the same variety twice provides an indication of consistency or variability of results. In field experiments, many factors — environmental, management and human error — create variability in data.

In the 21 trials that twice included DP 1822 XF, the average difference between the two was 88 pounds per acre of lint. The low was six pounds per acre; the high 265 pounds per acre. Of these, 14 trials had a difference less than 100 pounds per acre; three had a difference greater than 200 pounds per acre… for the same variety!

The goal of any experiment is to test responses to imposed treatments (ex. variety, fertility rate, pest management, etc.). Variability is inherent to field research, and statistical analysis seeks to separate effects of treatments from those due to the factors mentioned above. Obviously, when the same variety entered twice results in yields varying 200 pounds per acre, accurate separation of variety performance is reduced.

In the sets of OVTs referenced earlier, 13 varieties that made the “top-yield group,” those that statistical analysis indicated they were not different from the highest-ranking entry, just like the 88 pounds per-acre difference in DP 1822 XF entries was not due to variety. Averaged across six locations, the “top-yield group” included five in the full season, six in the short season and three in the conventional. The “top-yield group” included entries from five seed companies and both herbicide technologies.

Local variety selection benefits from a closer examination of data, which can be found at https://aaes.auburn.edu/variety-tests/. Study by location, region and, where possible, across years. Currently, there is no “star” variety that will dominate acreage. A handful, maybe three to five, trend toward the top, and such a portfolio, along with planting date, can provide effective diversification to spread risks. cottonbrown@auburn.edu

NORTH CAROLINA | Keith Edmisten

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten,
North Carolina

Cotton generally turned out better than most people predicted last year; although that wasn’t true for everyone. With prices lower than we would like for the ‘24 crop so far, growers need to think about the cost of producing the crop. There are basics such as variety selection that we will be discussing over the next few months. Both the OVT and large-plot yield results are available on the North Carolina State University cotton portal.

Other expenditures that can make us money are fertility, weed and insect control. Yield responses to over 90 pounds of nitrogen have been rare in our research plots and have only occurred where we had early hurricanes (June-July) or had 3.5 bale yields in the coastal plain. We have never seen responses to foliar fertilizer when the soil test recommendations were followed. Insect and weed control are as much a timing issue as selection of materials. If we can plan ahead in terms of scouting and the ability to respond in a timely manner in pest control, we can maximize what the season gives us.

Concentrating on these basic production aspects can keep our cost of production in line with profits. Are there some things outside of these basic practices we can reduce or eliminate to stay profitable? The answer to that is different for every grower. keith_edmisten@ncsu.edu

TEXAS | Ben McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As I write this early January on the last day of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, I’m reflecting on the past few days spent at the conference and the great conversations I had with producers, mentors, colleagues, students and cotton-industry stakeholders. In my opinion, there is no better way to start the new year than enjoying fellowship and camaraderie among the great folks that comprise the U.S. cotton industry.

Several conversations I had at the conference related to the challenges cotton producers will face in 2024 and in coming years. There is no shortage of issues hampering cotton producers, but developing a comprehensive management plan now is a great way to get the 2024 growing season off to a good start.

While insect and disease pressure can often vary from year to year, problematic weed species encountered in a particular production field in previous years will typically be an issue to deal with again this year. Now is a great time to begin developing a plan for early season weed control programs and deciding which herbicide options will be a good fit for your farm’s weed spectrum.

I am a proponent of utilizing residual, preemergent herbicides within an overall weed management program. The critical time for maintaining a weed-free period to protect yield in cotton is early in the growing season. Controlling troublesome weed species prior to or shortly after emergence will also greatly reduce the pressure put on postemergence products applied later in season and enhance overall herbicide-resistance management strategies. bmcknight@tamu.edu

MISSISSIPPI | Brian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,
Mississippi

Cotton production in Mississippi was highly variable this year. Some areas boasted extremely high yields whereas others barely produced any yield at all! This variability can be attributed to weather. Extreme drought conditions plagued central and southwestern Mississippi hardest. Depending on where a late-season pop-up shower occurred meant the difference in a couple hundred pounds of lint in many cases. Our average yield is still projected near 1,100 pounds per acre, which is decent considering the year. Dry fall weather allowed for an efficient harvest, giving growers time for field preparation for 2024. Input costs versus market price is the primary concern for growers planning to grow cotton.

In 2024, there will more B3TXF and nematode-tolerant varieties planted in Mississippi. The next question to be answered is how many acres of cotton will be sown? It’s a good question because many of the fundamentals point toward a decline in acreage; however, after talking to growers, I do not think there will be a massive drop in acreage — just remaining relatively flat. In 2023, Mississippi harvested 400,000 acres, and I expect 2024 to be very similar.

Finally, as planting season nears and crop mix decisions are made, it is important to secure a couple of varieties that will perform well for a particular region/environment. I expect 2024 to be like the past with some variability in performance due to the environment. A mix of a few well-placed varieties will allow growers to hedge against whatever Mother Nature is planning. bkp4@msstate.edu

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