Late Crop Needs to Play Catchup


Randy Norton AZ
Randy Norton e-mail

At the time of this writing (mid-June), the majority of the crop is entering first bloom. The first half of June has seen some high temperatures across the state with the low desert experiencing temperatures near the 115-degree mark. Cotton that is well watered under these conditions will have maximum growth and the potential to set significant fruit. However, water stress combined with high temperatures can lead to fruit loss and increased vegetative growth. Monitor the crop closely for the potential need for a plant growth regulator application under these conditions, particularly if you are growing Pima cotton. Guidelines for monitoring and effectively managing excessive vegetative growth can be found at the UA Crops website listed below. Monsoon activity is forecast to be high this summer with the Climate Prediction Center ( predicting above-normal precipitation levels throughout the summer (July-August-September) for nearly all of central and eastern Arizona. Officials are also predicting higher than normal temperatures, particularly for western Arizona. The combination of high temperatures and high humidity levels associated with monsoon activity could potentially lead to significant heat stress (Level 2) experienced by much of the low deserts of Arizona. Dr. Paul Brown with the University of Arizona has written an excellent summary of the effects of heat stress on cotton, and it can be found at Timely and effective management of vegetative/reproductive ratios will prove to be critical under these conditions. For additional information and specifics regarding these topics, producers are encouraged to visit


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

Slightly more than half of the 2015 cotton crop in Arkansas was planted during the first half of May. We should be on track to find flowers in the early May and earlier cotton by July 4. The status of our cotton plants at first flower will reveal much about our May and June and give us an indication of what we must do down the road to keep sight of our yield goal and not break the budget. Avoiding additional days or weeks where we must spend money on a crop without sacrificing yield or quality is a top priority. Ideally, 60 days after planting we will find nine to 10 first-position fruit above the first white flower. Square loss of 19 percent measured at first flower will generally not reduce yield but can delay maturity – an extra day for every six percent shed. Maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth will help to optimize earliness and preserve yield and fiber potential. Irrigation initiation and timing play a dominant role in this balance. Utilizing sensors and scheduling tools along with programs such as Pipe Planner will help improve irrigation water-use efficiency, as well as profitability. An effective fruiting window of three weeks between first flower and cutout (NAWF=5) will provide the yield and earliness cotton producers in Arkansas need.


Bob Hutmacher
Bob Hutmacher e-mail

Now that we seem to be solidly in warm to hot weather, the cotton plants are growing quite steadily in the fields where producers have adequate water to keep growth moving along. In late June, in terms of plant development compared with what might be considered normal for this time of year, SJV cotton fields range from maybe as much as 10 to 12 days ahead of schedule (fields already in bloom) to as much as seven to 10 days or more behind. The most advanced plants were seeded in March and have effectively weathered or escaped some of the early thrips and worms that plagued some fields. The slowest developing fields have been hit with worms and/or thrips, which have slowed down overall leaf development and, in some cases, damaged terminals resulting in increased vegetative branch development during recovery. Overall, it was a rough couple of months of irregular weather and growth in many fields, but most are coming out of it and moving forward now. The big variable for most cotton producers now will be how much water is available (and of what quality in terms of salinity) for remaining in-season irrigations. Most producers knew they were short of irrigation water well in advance of planting, so many of them provided light pre-plant irrigations, which only partially “charged” the soil profile with stored soil water. The result will be that if irrigation is delayed or reduced (such as with deficit drip irrigation or alternate row irrigation with drip or furrow), plants will have fewer soil water reserves to draw upon during rapid growth and hot weather. For some producers with reduced water supplies, a strategy to consider might be to try to limit severe, damaging water stress during the late squaring through mid-bloom period in order to at least set some bolls and assure at least moderate yield potentials. Later season irrigation delays or eliminating a later season irrigation will have less impact on earlier boll development and proportionately more impact on late-season fruit retention, boll maturation and later boll fiber quality. Achieving some measure of earliness and retaining more early and late-season bolls by being more aggressive in dealing with early boll-threatening pests such as lygus may help give you moderate yield potential, while delivering the option of reducing later season water applications, if necessary. Holding early and mid-canopy fruit will be the key in fields reaching potential for good yields in a year like this one. Many producers won’t have the water to spend on trying to keep a top crop to make up for earlier losses. In water short situations, if you have low fruit retention and plant growth becomes rank, PGs may still be beneficial. If you are delaying irrigations or employing deficit irrigations that don’t replace ET, and fruit retention remains good, PGRs may not be necessary and may actually be detrimental to yields. Again, proper monitoring of plant growth and fruit retention can help you make the right decisions.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

As we begin bloom period for cotton, we have had a pretty non-eventful season so far. Florida has had good weather, in general, for cotton production with most plantings done on time and adequate moisture for early season growth. Some cotton was irrigated to activate herbicides or to spur growth with N applications. Producers are concerned with costs of management with prices being low. July and August often bring summer showers, but dry periods can still occur. Producers with irrigation need to manage cotton for early fruiting as cotton needs two inches of water from rain or irrigation weekly during the six-to-eight week period of bloom in July and August on sandy Coastal Plain soils. Good management is especially critical with low prices to make a profit.

North Carolina

Keith Edmisten e-mail
Keith Edmisten

It looks like one of those years where conditions may be extremely variable for the North Carolina cotton crop, based on spotty summer showers. You may have some fields where mepiquat use is warranted, and some fields where it is obvious that no mepiquat is needed. Unfortunately, there will likely be many situations where it is not so obvious. Looking at internode length near the top of the plant should help in those situations, but you may have some tough decisions where you need to think about what I call “mitigating” circumstances. Some of these would include: Did the cotton start blooming on time? Is rain in the future forecast? And what is the prior history in the field? It is also a good idea to lean toward using mepiquat if you are on the fence with fields that you expect to harvest first. This may allow you to get the pickers into the field a week or so earlier than otherwise possible. We have seen some plant bug damage to young cotton that is unusual for North Carolina. Plant bugs are mobile and have many hosts, so we don’t really know what this means for later season plant bug pressure. But we need to be aware and scouting for them. You can follow Dr. Reisig on Twitter, our cotton Facebook page and on the NCSU cotton Extension cotton portal to keep up with additional developments on plant bugs.


John Idowu
John Idowu e-mail

The cotton season has progressed satisfactorily in New Mexico. There were prolonged cooler temperatures during the early part of the season, and this led to slower growth of cotton. However, temperatures have warmed up considerably, and cotton plants are now growing rapidly. The water situation is better this year. In the southeastern part of the state (Doña Ana County), which is the second largest cotton-growing county, water was available in the irrigation canals, beginning the first week in June. Initial irrigation allotments in Doña Ana County this year are eight acre-inches per acre of irrigated land, which is more than the total of last year (7.5 inches). It is possible for this amount to be boosted if more water accumulates in the lakes during the summer months. The eastern part of New Mexico has been having good rain showers, and this has helped cotton establishment and growth. Some scattered hail damage was reported in the southeastern part of the state about two weeks ago. Generally, the pest and disease pressure has been low, and we are hoping for good yields this season.


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

The 2015 cotton crop in Louisiana has experienced warm temperatures and an overabundance of rainfall since planting. Rainfall amounts of more than 18 inches were received in central Louisiana during April, May and the first two weeks in June. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of the crop was planted in May. Water-logged soil conditions have reduced the rate of growth and development. For this time of year, heat units or DD60s accumulated are about three percent above the 10-year average. Wet conditions have made nitrogen applications following emergence and weed control practices extremely difficult. Most of the cotton is beyond being susceptible to thrips. As of June 16, most of the cotton fields are squaring. PGR applications will be going out to manage plant height and excess vegetative growth. Earlier planted fields in central Louisiana will be approaching first bloom next week. Since squaring began, insect pressure from aphids, fleahoppers and plant bugs has been low throughout most parts of the state.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

The spring of 2015 will likely be remembered as one of the most difficult times with respect to agricultural activities in recent memory. Cool weather and excessive rainfall held cotton planting off until early May and caused routine disruptions throughout the planting season. Producers were still working toward finishing off the 2015 planting season on June 10 (or May 41, depending on your perspective), particularly in areas south of Highway 82. Most have heard the old saying that we are never more than 10 days away from a drought. Given this statement, as well as the above statements about issues of excessive rainfall this spring, most can relate to our love/hate relationship with water. However, given current projections on human population growth, combined with declining aquifer levels in the Mississippi Delta, strides must be taken to preserve this precious resource. For those who furrow irrigate, I would encourage you to adopt one of the poly-pipe hole selection programs to minimize water loss in tail ditches. Regardless of irrigation practice, adoption and use of soil moisture sensors can help minimize excessive irrigation while maintaining yields. While producers are some of the greatest conservationists in the world, we all must become more efficient and work to preserve our natural resources for future generations.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

This has been a tough year for Missouri cotton producers. Starting with cool, wet conditions, it finally dried up enough to get a lot of cotton planted. Much of it was planted after the optimum planting date. Then the rains set in, and it was difficult to plant. The Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending May 31 showed that 82 percent of the crop was planted. Last week, the report of June 7 showed that we were 96 percent complete. With this season’s rainfall patterns, I would expect that our crop will be later maturing. We had problems on some of the cotton drowning out with water standing in the fields. It will be interesting to see how much of this cotton is harvested. I suspect that weed control was compromised due to the weather, and a lot of catchup activities will need to take place. With the hot, dry conditions that we are experiencing, we are not that far away from abnormally dry conditions. We will need rain or irrigation to keep our moisture levels up. Earlier this year, USDA projected that we would have 175,000 acres compared with last year (245,000 acres). If this projection holds, this would be our lowest acreage since the 1980s. Several cotton gins will be closed this year or taking the year off due to the reduced acreage. It will be interesting to see how our cotton bears up to the stress of this season.


Randy Boman OK
Randy Boman e-mail

It’s amazing how much the moisture situation has changed within the past month. Record May rainfall in many areas has resulted in a major turnaround in the southwest corner of the state. We have gone from 90- to 95-degree temperatures in the first week in April, with little sub-soil moisture for the severely stressing wheat crop to an overabundance of rainfall, incredible runoff, painful flooding and important reservoirs at capacity. Residents of this region are elated and feel blessed but also express sorrow for those whose homes flooded. The overall impact of this record May rainfall on the drought has been basically a knockout punch. For the first time in several years, the southwest corner of the state is devoid of drought conditions based on the US Drought Monitor. Some of the challenges associated with the high rainfall and cool conditions have centered around planting the 2015 cotton crop. Although USDA-NASS reported that cotton was 26 percent planted by May 17, and 28 percent planted as of May 24, I submit there was virtually no cotton planted in the state as of May 17, and very little planted by May 24. This is due to the fact that most fields were too wet, or temperatures were just not quite where many producers would like to have them. Thanks to open skies, the irrigated crop was rapidly planted more or less in the first week of June, with the dryland crop planted in most areas over the first half of the month. The irrigated crop is late, as it was mostly planted up against the final planting date for insurance purposes. The value of residual herbicides is definitely being noticed this year. Outside of the late start, the potential for a good crop is very high in our area due to the abundance of moisture in the soil profile. We just need some good cotton-growing conditions to jumpstart the crop.


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

The first two weeks of June allowed much of Texas to dry out and provide some long needed heat units and sunshine. The Rio Grande crop has made a lot of progress and has good yield potential. Prior to the past two weeks of sunshine, the cotton in the Coastal Bend, Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands did not look good. There is still a large amount of field-to-field and within-field variability with six- to eight-node differences within fields. This varying growth stage is making management decisions difficult for both fleahopper and PGR management. The inability to access fields for the entire month of May has also made for some weed management nightmares and demonstrated the value of PPI and PRE herbicides. Additional heavy rainfall amounts in south and east Texas by Tropical Storm Bill are a big concern for many producers. In the Rolling Plains, planting was unable to begin until the first week of June due to saturated fields. As of mid-June, probably about 85 to 90 percent of the cotton was planted prior to more rain halting planting. For fields planted in mid-June, there is concern that the heavy rainfall potential from Tropical Storm Bill could make some replanting necessary. However, a full profile of soil moisture is providing many folks with some optimism in the Rolling Plains.


Mark Kelley e-mail

Most everyone was able to get what cotton planting they intended to do completed by the final planting dates across the Texas Southern High Plains region during the two-week break from the monsoonal rainfall events! Now, with warmer temperatures returning to the area, some are looking closely at earlier planted fields across the region to determine how much may be lost to seedling disease that resulted from the cooler, early planting season temperatures and wet conditions. Later planted cotton has emerged and looking good for the most part, aside from some environmental damage from high winds and blowing sand that occurred just prior to the latest thunderstorms. These fields and the early planted surviving crops will need to be protected from insects and weeds in order to reach maturity this year. All cotton fields should be monitored closely for thrips once surrounding wheat fields begin to dry down and are harvested. Being two weeks behind can be overcome with good temperatures, timely rainfall, good insect and weed management practices and good fertility management.


Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame e-mail

Hunter Frame This has been the hottest start to any growing season in Virginia since I started as the cotton specialist. However, rainfall has been spotty at best across the cotton-growing region in Virginia. Some areas have adequate moisture while others have gone multiple weeks with substantial precipitation. Cotton is progressing rapidly in areas with adequate moisture, and producers have started to apply sidedress nitrogen as I write this article. If producers feel the need to further fine tune nitrogen management, petiole and tissue testing can provide insight into nutrient status of your crop. Depending on your nitrogen management practices, petiole nitrate levels should range between 4,500 and 12,000 ppm nitrate-N. If you split sidedress nitrogen applications, petiole nitrate levels can fall between 4,500 and 8,000 ppm, and single sidedress nitrogen applications applied at first square typically are 8,000-plus ppm, depending on the nitrogen application rate. Also, the geographic region affects nutrient levels during bloom, and folks in other regions should consult data from local Extension personnel.

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