With the 2016 season behind us, it is a good idea to conduct a “post-mortem,” so to speak, on the season to evaluate what went right and what went wrong. Obviously, some things are out of our control, such as weather, but many others can be evaluated and changes made to increase your operation’s efficiency in the coming season.
The key to conducting a successful post-mortem is to have plenty of data and records to review. Having good in-season records of what happened will help tie a response in the crop (such as yield) to in-season crop management techniques. Start by examining fertility, irrigation, plant growth regulators, pest control and harvest prep records. Look for relationships between these management practices and crop response, specifically yield and fiber quality. Yield monitor data from your harvester provides a unique overview of the season and crop response to management. Initiating improvements based upon this review will make your operation more efficient in the future.
The 2016 season presented several unique opportunities and challenges. Some still have us scratching our heads. Regardless of the challenges, as a season comes to an end, plans for next year should be falling in place. Variety and technology evaluation to begin the process for next year should be a priority. Best management practices (BMPs) have been developed for these new technologies to maximize performance and minimize drift, volatility, and/or contamination. Users of new technology must be fully committed to following these BMPs. There are many sources of information for new varieties, technologies and products. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service offers an excellent source of unbiased recommendations for crop production. Do your homework wisely and make decisions that best fit your needs or situation to improve your bottom line. Contact your local county Extension agent for updates on this season’s testing programs and to get the date and location of upcoming county production meetings.
Farmers had a long window to finish harvest this fall as dry weather persisted late into the season with little to no rain. The climate forecast is for a La Niña weather phase during the winter, which usually means warm, dry conditions. This does not bode well for those who planted cover crops for next year’s crop.
However, growers can focus on soil sampling, yield maps and management zones in their fields to figure out how to manage crops as they go into next season. This information will make it easier to decide whether certain inputs are needed. Likewise, rotations are critical to achieving consistent high yields and should be part of any management decisions for the coming year as farmers reflect on this year’s crop.
Louisiana cotton producers have been vigilant in preventing the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds throughout the state. Now is a good time to review some key strategies going into the new season. To manage herbicide-resistant weeds and prevent development of resistance, weed scientists at the LSU AgCenter recommend the following practices. Use tillage, cultivation or other cultural practices, such as crop rotation, when possible. A residual herbicide should always be included in a weed resistance management program.
It is important to rotate herbicides using different modes of action and apply tankmixtures at effective rates with different modes of action. Avoid using sequential applications of the same single herbicide over and over again. Weed control on fallow ground is important to prevent spreading of documented or suspected resistant weeds. Clean equipment thoroughly before and after each use to prevent resistant weeds from spreading to other fields.
Dry weather facilitated a very timely cotton harvest in 2016 and has persisted in many areas from the first part of August until mid- to late November. Fieldwork is all but complete; however, in some areas beds will likely have to be re-touched at some point as dry conditions prevented optimum bed formation. Dry conditions have also prevented germination of winter cover crops.
Early indications for 2017 are that cotton acres will increase in Mississippi once again. Early predictions range from 600,000 to 700,000 planted acres next year. As everyone knows, a lot can happen between now and next May; however, cotton appears to be on the upswing. Furthermore, if early estimates hold, 2016 will mark the fourth consecutive year Mississippi growers have averaged more than 1,000 pounds per acre. Prior to 2013, the only year in which our growers as a whole eclipsed 1,000 pounds per acre was 2004. Regardless, the past four years have been very good for cotton growers, and many are hoping that will continue in 2017.
Remarkable conditions allowed harvest to be completed much earlier than last year and the five-year average. From all accounts, yields are in the above-average range. We were fortunate the weather cooperated during both planting and harvest. Only the heavy rainfall in August marred this growing season.
Producers should take advantage of both Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Districts and NRCS cost-share to put conservation practices on the ground. Production meetings, soil sampling, equipment maintenance and other practices will be beneficial to producers during the off-season.
Cotton harvest is in full swing at the time of this writing in early November. Both yield and quality in the 2016 crop have been outstanding. We are looking for a state record per-acre yield for the second consecutive year, and what is likely the greatest state-level bale production since the late 1940s. I fully expect to see records set for some fiber properties again this year, too.
The season ended with another outstanding fall with above-normal temperatures, and thus cotton heat-unit accumulation, in September and October for the third time in a row. Sometime in the future we will swing back the other way and encounter below-average temperatures, as that is how averages work. Producers should be thinking about how to manage fertility and get ahead of the game with soil sampling and analysis. As we move into post-harvest, farmers need to do their homework and ponder responses to challenges encountered in 2016.
As I write this on Oct. 31, North Carolina cotton producers are right in the middle of harvesting the 2016 crop. Yields vary depending on many factors, primarily fall weather. There have been several reports of decent yields, while many reports were not as positive. By the time this is read, harvest will be winding down or most likely completed.
The 2016 season brought many frustrations for our producers. The large majority of fields had good to excellent yield potential in early September depending on summer rainfall, planting date, variety and insect pressure. Disappointingly, much of this potential was lost due to Hurricane Hermine followed shortly by Hurricane Matthew. This resulted in total crop losses in areas that were flooded and significant weathering losses (30 to 80 percent) in other areas that weren’t flooded.
During December, as we reflect on the challenges of 2016 and look to a new year, I think it is important to 1.) Remember that the frustrations we experienced in 2016 aren’t necessarily the “new norm”; 2.) Focus on our inputs….what worked in 2016 and what didn’t….and what is the true value of our various inputs and 3.) Re-evaluate and realign our strategies to be more competitive in cotton for 2017. We look optimistically to a successful new year in 2017 and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Before delving into variety selection, we should take some time to look back through our yield monitor data to determine the causes for any inconsistencies and whether they should be addressed. There are two contrasting lines of thought in addressing spatial variability. The first attempts to increase the uniformity of the field by increasing inputs within marginal areas to push yield to match optimal areas. The second attempts to increase the efficiency of each individual area within the field while disregarding field uniformity. Generally, this approach will result in a reduction of inputs within marginal areas while increasing inputs in optimal areas.
Where should we be? Somewhere in the “gray area.” Arguably, the second approach is the most efficient but can be quite troublesome in cotton due to the difficulty associated with managing field variability. The best approach efficiently addresses marginal areas where returns on investment are likely without overspending on areas that will not provide a return.
The weathered cotton from the UGC (Upper Gulf Coast) has been feeding into the Corpus Christi Classing office with lower quality across the board on color, leaf grade, length and strength. From the Abilene Classing Office, the overall cotton quality has been decent, but with higher levels of bark than usual. In the entire Rolling Plains, defoliation has been more successful and consistent than in years past with warm weather and fewer stressed plants. The Permian Basin harvest is estimated at 75 percent completed and rolling strong with average to slightly above-average yields.
Harvest of non-irrigated cotton in the Southern Rolling Plains was less than 50 percent completed when the early November rains delayed operations. Irrigated cotton harvest is just moving into full swing but with yields higher than expected. Fortunately, little yield or quality loss is expected. The Northern Rolling Plains is estimated at less than 10 percent harvested due to a late-maturing cotton crop and rain delays.
By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you, the majority of West Texas cotton will be out of the field. As of early November, about 20-25 percent of High Plains acres had been harvested. However, a period of rain halted field activities for a week, likely leaving a small but significant amount of acres to be harvested in December. The vast majority of the more than 500,000 bales classed as of Nov. 3, has had excellent leaf and color grades, and micronaire. Ideally, this trend will continue throughout harvest.
While the 2016 season generally was favorable for cotton production, reflecting on issues after harvest provides an opportunity to address problems moving forward. Weeds continue to be a challenge, and bacterial blight and Verticillium wilt were present to a significant degree in certain places. Accounting for these factors in the decision-making process for 2017 could be key if some farmers believe they left pounds in the field.View More in our Archives