PLENTY OF MOISTURE FOR GROWTH
Missouri producers ran out of time to get the seed in the ground. A large portion of the crop is planted later than we would like to see. To summarize our planting season by week, we had two percent planted, then 12 percent, then 58 percent and finally 93 percent by the last week in May. The Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending June 9 shows that the crop condition has 94 percent in the fair-to-good categories.
Currently, we have plenty of moisture for germination, plant growth and development, and for activating herbicides. There has been some tissue and soil testing for sulphur and nitrogen in a few fields. Our heat units from May 1 to June 9 are 426 at the Portageville location. This is very close to 408 last year and 432 in 2011. Squaring has just begun in the earlier plantings. I am surprised that things are going so well considering that we had such a cool, wet spring.
Since this issue is dealing with water challenges around the Cotton Belt, our biggest challenge this year was the wet fields. At this time last year, we were in the beginning stages of a drought. We are fortunate that we have good, clean groundwater and plenty of it. Having the ability to put down a well and have a dependable, renewal source at competitive costs is a big plus for Southeast Missouri producers.
WATER USE IS ALWAYS A CRUCIAL ISSUE
Water is usually the critical issue in crop production in most years. Seldom do we have years even with irrigation that an issue with a pump or low water levels does not put a crop under stress at some point. With production prices going higher each year, it is necessary to do everything possible to make a good crop, including irrigating. We have had several years of below-average rainfall, and water table levels are declining. This is resulting in some dry wells and putting more pressure on producers to conserve water.
Our research with rotations where we include a perennial grass for at least two years shows that yields of non-irrigated cotton can often be as high as or higher than irrigated cotton in standard rotations. Winter grazing prior to cotton planting also results in about one-third greater root mass, making cotton more drought-tolerant and adding an average of 150 to 250 pounds per acre of lint to the cotton crop under irrigation and 200 to 400 pounds more lint without irrigation.
As we receive more regulation on water use, these kinds of strategies will help us maintain or increase cotton yields while pumping less water. We are just getting into the high water use time for cotton and hope that we see record yields this year with the newer varieties that we saw in 2012.
COTTON CROP PROGRESSING NICELY
Although a little behind, the Louisiana cotton crop is moving rapidly. We had some stand issues earlier in the season, which resulted in very little replant. As of this writing, most of the cotton ranges from pinhead to one-third grown squares; we should be seeing white bloom very soon. Square set has looked pretty good with most in the 75 to 80 percent range.
Although most areas of the state have received timely rainfall, there are a few spots looking for moisture. Hopefully, the rains will continue as we go into the critical blooming period. If we see significant rainfall, there will undoubtedly be a lot of PGRs going out. Most of the cotton is beyond thrips susceptibility, but mites have been popping up in a number of locations, and so far I haven’t heard of any control issues in cotton. Early colonizing aphids are also about, but, most importantly, plant bugs are beginning to move into the cotton. We have been picking up a great many more plant bugs from wild hosts compared to last year, so be prepared.
Bollworm trap catches have been generally low, but populations have been coming back with some fairly disturbing pyrethroid resistance levels. So far, there haven’t been any crop fertility issues reported, although it’s a little early for that. As we expected, planted cotton acreage for Louisiana is down from 225,000 acres planted in 2012; we are looking at just shy of 125,000 acres in 2013. This crop will represent the lowest planted cotton acreage in Louisiana’s recorded history.
GEORGIA CROP CATCHING UP
Although planting for much of the 2013 Georgia cotton crop was behind schedule due to cool wet weather during early to mid-May, many producers had caught up by June 1. As of June 9, approximately 10 percent of this year’s crop remained to be planted, according to USDA NASS, which is fairly normal. Heavy rains from the recent tropical depression and other storms in early June prolonged harvest of some wheat acres, which delayed planting of some later double-cropped cotton.
Thrips pressure remained high in many areas through most of the latter half of planting. However, soil moisture has been generally sufficient for achieving decent stands. As of mid-June, there were very few reports of replanting. Hopefully, rains will continue to be timely throughout the critical periods this season. Many producers will soon be making PGR and irrigation decisions. Close monitoring of soil moisture and plant growth always helps producers and scouts to make the best possible decisions.
IT’S TIME FOR THE FRUITING CYCLE
Once the stand is established, it now becomes important to turn our attention to the prime-time of cotton making, which is the primary fruiting cycle from first appearance of pinhead square through cutout, which typically happens in late August. Monitoring crop progress through this cycle is important, allowing us to watch for departures from normal and then promptly address potential causes for the observed deviations.
Cotton developmental stages have been well correlated to heat units accumulated after planting (HUAP). In crop monitoring, we need to be looking for a few important milestones. Under normal conditions, these milestones should occur in a very predictable fashion, which will be highly correlated to HU accumulations. These important phenological events include occurrence of pinhead square (700-900 HUAP), first bloom (1,100-1,300 HUAP), peak bloom (1,900-2,100 HUAP) and cutout (2,500-2,700 HUAP).
The University of Arizona has recently completed the first stage of development of a new mobile website that helps producers and PCAs track cotton crop growth and development. This app will allow entry of plant growth data and then plot that data along established baselines.
Developmental milestones are also plotted with this app and will allow you to compare your crop to normal growth and development. We invite you to visit the website and try the new app and enter some of your own data. Go to cals.arizona.edu/mobilecotton/ to try it out.
SCATTERED RAINFALL HELPS SOME AREAS
As of June 14, the Rio Grande Valley is progressing quickly with some scattered rainfall and irrigation, moving the crop along into mid-bloom. The Coastal Bend did catch some precipitation in late May; however, few cotton acres remained to reap the benefit. In the Upper Gulf Coast, Brazos Bottom and Blacklands, the cotton crop is progressing quickly with near normal heat unit accumulation and adequate soil moisture.
Fleahoppers have been a challenge in many areas but are less of a concern as the majority of the cotton approaches early bloom. Planting in the Rolling Plains proceeded quickly in early June, as the final planting date approached. As little as five percent of the dryland cotton acres were planted by the first of June in the Northern Rolling Plains due to insufficient planting moisture. Fortunately, some rainfall occurred the first week of June and should suffice to obtain adequate cotton stands in most fields.
However, minimal subsurface soil moisture exists, and timely rains will be essential to keep the crop going. The Southern Rolling Plains has received some decent rainfall this spring, and the crop appears to be off to a good start. Management of weeds – glyphosate-resistant and non-resistant – has been a challenge this spring throughout many regions. Glyphosate-resistant weeds continue to spread into more cotton fields. It is important for producers to remember the importance of rotating the herbicide modes-of-action and including residual herbicides in their early season weed management programs.
SPOTTY RAINFALL HAS HELPED CROP
Summer has arrived in the western part of Oklahoma. In mid-June, temperatures climbed into triple digits, and most of the counties in the far western and southwestern part of the state are still in Exceptional Drought (D4) conditions. However, some spotty rainfall was obtained in critical areas to assist with stand establishment.
The Altus area remains in the grips of drought, and the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District is struggling with stand establishment and lack of irrigation water. It appears that production will struggle for an unprecedented third consecutive year. Cotton that has emerged is relatively disease-free due to warm temperatures. Areas around Caddo County have encountered excellent rainfall, which has required some replanting. Thrips pressure has been light to moderate in many areas, but a few fields have required insecticide applications for control.
Overall, due to the rainfall situation, it has been a rough start in many areas. Clean-till cotton has been “ragged up” by winds, but no-till or strip till fields are looking good to excellent where adequate moisture was obtained to assist with stands. July is right around the corner and is typically one of our dryer summer months. Producers should be on point with respect to use of residual herbicides. We still need considerable assistance from “Mother Nature” in terms of timely rainfall to keep the 2013 crop going. The good news is that we are getting closer to the end of the drought in many areas in the state.
THIS YEAR’S COTTON COULD BE LATER
Conditions are pointing toward a later than normal cotton crop in North Carolina. We need to do everything we can to help the cotton mature, including avoiding excess nitrogen in sidedress applications and using mepiquat (Pix) where it is needed. There are a lot of misperceptions about what mepiquat actually does in the cotton plant. Basically, it makes cells smaller, which, in turn, makes the leaves smaller and the stalk shorter. This can allow for increased light penetration into the leaves, feeding the lower bolls on the plant.
More light to the lower canopy can increase the retention of early bolls, making the crop earlier. This can be of particular benefit in a year with delayed maturity. I would especially consider it important on your earliest cotton and your latest cotton. The earliest cotton may benefit from mepiquat application(s) because it can allow you to get the pickers in the field sooner. Really late cotton can benefit by helping the cotton mature before we run out of heat.
The earliness we sometimes see from mepiquat is usually about a week. The non-treated cotton will often mature about a week after treated cotton, so that you have to be timely to capture the value of the earliness. If we don’t have enough rainfall to promote excessive growth to cause shading in the lower part of the canopy, we will likely see little to no earliness benefit from mepiquat applications.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
2012 was unique in that cotton was planted earlier than many could remember. The first blooms made their appearance during the last week of May and first week of June. Fast forward to 2013 during which the majority of our crop was planted during the final two weeks of May, and blooms will likely not appear until sometime after Independence Day.
Thrips have been very problematic for many producers for the third year in a row and will need to be addressed when determining pest management programs in the future.
Given the lateness of the crop, managing for earliness is more important than ever before. Insect management will be of critical importance. Yield loss due to fruit loss early in the growing season is often masked due to cotton’s ability to add bolls at upper and outer fruiting positions. However, one boll on and/or outer fruiting position is generally not equal to bolls set lower on the plant and closer to the stalk.
In addition, this crop may run out of time to add these upper and outer bolls if fall weather is unfavorable. It will also be beneficial to avoid excess nitrogen fertilization. Excessive nitrogen can delay maturity and lead to rank cotton that is difficult to manage.
Adjusting management practices now may help improve yields when harvest season rolls around.