The latest National Cotton Council survey projects Mid-South cotton acres will decrease by nearly 26 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. Mississippi is projected to have the least decline in acreage with an estimated 14 percent reduction. The NCC survey indicates Mississippi producers intend to plant 368,000 acres in 2015 compared to 425,000 acres in 2014. As a whole, all U.S. cotton is projected to decrease by nearly 15 percent in 2015.
March tends to be a very transitional month for cotton production in Mississippi. Burndown applications were applied in many areas; however, it will likely be four to six weeks before we think about planters rolling through fields. Producers will likely be busy planting corn and gearing up for soybeans, as well as cotton.
One thing that should be considered in fields not yet planted is drainage. Although drainage furrows are cut in many fields, give some consideration to areas where drainage furrows will discharge. The wet spring we experienced in 2014 reminded us that the best drainage furrow in the world is useless unless it provides an avenue for excessive water to escape. Areas surrounding drainage furrows had striking reductions in yields in 2014 as excessive water had nowhere to go. A well thought out drainage plan will go a long way toward maximizing yields in the event of another wet spring.
Results from various cotton variety trials have been summarized and are now available online at cotton. okstate.edu. Yields ranged from about a bale per acre in dryland trials to about four bales per acre in some irrigated trials. The importance of variety selection cannot be overstated. The “broken record” sound endures as Exceptional Drought (D4) continues to paint much of Southwest Oklahoma and North Texas.
In spite of the drought, there is no doubt that the 2014 crop is the largest since 2010. Based on Abilene Classing Office data, the 2014 Oklahoma cotton crop continues to grow, and it appears that we will be on track to make the NASS estimate. Classing results indicate fiber quality has been good.
A lot of important issues are being pondered by cotton producers this winter. Many of these pertain to provisions of the new Farm Bill, STAX and how all of this will affect profitability and planting decisions in 2015. We will soon be heading into our “rainy months” and remain optimistic that 2015 will be a better growing season. Despite the drought, most Oklahoma dryland producers had a harvestable 2014 crop due to limited-till or no-till production techniques. When growing no-till cotton, herbicides are essential to replace tillage as the primary weed management tool in these systems.
The existence of glyphosate-resistant horseweed in most cottonproducing regions of Oklahoma magnifies the importance of tankmixing with additional chemistries. According to recent producer surveys, horseweed continues to be one of the most difficult weeds to control in preplant burndown situations in minimum/no-till cotton. Studies conducted in Oklahoma have shown that effective control of horseweed can be achieved by including dicamba or 2,4- D with glyphosate to obtain good weed control, especially with some species.
It cannot be overstated that weed size at application is critical for success. Research has shown that excellent horseweed control has been observed when applications were made at the rosette stage (flat or prostrate prior to bolting or vertical growth). It is important to take note of the plant-back restrictions required for both dicamba and 2,4-D. Following a dicamba application of up to 0.25 pounds/acre active ingredient, planting cannot occur until 21 days after a minimum accumulation of one inch of rainfall or overhead irrigation. In addition, dicamba is not recommended for preplant use in areas that receive less than 25 inches of annual rainfall. For 2,4-D, Oklahoma studies have shown that planting may occur 30 days after application of up to one pound per acre active ingredient without concerns of crop injury or yield reduction. As always, producers should read and follow label directions.
As of Feb. 16, there are still a lot of non-committable crop acres in Texas. We will see some regions of the state decrease their cotton acreage more than 10 percent, but the statewide average will likely wind up around 10 percent. Wheat has captured some of these acres, but it is still unknown which crops will pick up the remaining cotton acres.
Much of South Texas and East Texas has a full profile of soil moisture, which has many folks optimistic about the potential for the 2015 season. The Southern Rolling Plains are currently categorized in a moderate drought, but the Northern Rolling Plains remain in a severe to extreme drought, according to the drought monitor.
With low cotton prices, prioritizing expenses becomes even more important. We typically see a 20 to 30 percent difference in yield between the best- and worst-yielding varieties in our on-farm trials, and this can mean the difference in profitability. For the Rolling Plains, the cotton variety results were recently completed and can be found at cotton.tamu.edu.
Fertilizer also remains one of the biggest expenses. By soil sampling and analysis, the adequate but not excessive nutrients can be applied to optimize yield. It is common to see cotton fields with sufficient soil residual nitrogen in the soil to make one-plus bale cotton. However, deeper soil tests are required to quantify this residual nitrogen level. For additional details, go to the publication available at cotton.tamu.edu/fertility. One area not worth cutting expenses is on pre-season and early season weed control. The pre-emerge applications and/or PPIs should be included in everyone’s 2015 crop budget. Go to cotton.tamu.edu/weeds.html for labeled products in Texas.
Soil moisture levels are currently in better shape than we’ve seen in some time. If the region continues to receive winter moisture, and the “strange” weather events (late final freeze, early season cold snaps) don’t occur this year, most areas should get off to a good start. Aside from uncontrollable weather, choosing the right variety with good seed quality and seedling vigor, planting three to four seeds per rowfoot to warm, firm, moist seed beds along with good seed/soil contact can help optimize stand establishment.
Results from our 2014 cotton variety trials are currently being analyzed and should be available to producers by early March to assist them with variety selections. If assistance is needed prior to release, producers are welcome to contact me at (806) 781-6572! Hope to see many of you at the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association Trade Show on April 9-10 in Lubbock.
Although there have been some good developments recently, we are most likely looking at rather low prices for this coming year’s cotton crop. Producers need to think hard about money spent on inputs this year. Even with three-bale per acre yields, we did not see increases in yield this year due to various “luxury” inputs, including increased fertilizer and foliar fertilizer applications.
Very often a producer will make these applications across the board and may notice an improvement in the appearance of the cotton afterwards. Often these improvements are cosmetic and do not result in improved yield. This may be an example of the plant having enough nutrients or that the roots reach a subsoil area where some nutrients tend to accumulate. The best way to learn about the true value of any input you are considering is to leave out a few untreated check strips.
We will certainly remind you later in the year, but, if you do not have someone who has a handle on plant bug scouting and thresholds, try to get someone trained. Plant bug damage has increased the past few years and has moved inland from the areas where we have seen plant bug pressure in the past.
The 2015 cotton planting season is just around the corner, and many decisions affecting this year’s crop are being made right now. Cotton acreage overall is expected to be down in 2015 with upland cotton acres estimated to be around 60,000 acres and Pima cotton acres near 35,000 acres. This represents a potential major shift in production for Arizona. There has been a lot of durum wheat planted across the state this winter, which is where much of the cotton acreage has shifted.
Potential profit margins for cotton during the 2015 season are likely to be very thin with the current low commodity prices, which are expected to remain soft for the near future. Decisions related to production practices will need to be scrutinized at an even higher level to ensure that every dollar invested in the crop will provide a net positive return.
Selecting an appropriate variety for your area and management style will be critical to achieve a maximum yield and return. Consult variety testing information from the university and seed companies to get the latest performance data on new and existing upland and Pima cotton varieties. Cotton variety evaluations have revealed that total dollar value differences from the highest yielding variety to the lowest yielding variety in a trial may be as much as $200 to $400 per acre.
A poor decision on variety selection may be very costly. Decisions related to fertility management for optimum crop growth and yield are also critical to achieve a maximum return on the 2015 crop. Pre-season soil sampling will help decide the level of nutrients needed to be supplied in-season through supplemental fertilization.
Soil test levels are particularly useful for determining phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) needs. Nitrogen needs are better determined by using a yield goal approach, assuming that for every bale of lint produced, the crop will utilize approximately 50 pounds of N. This may come from several sources, including irrigation water, residual soil N and supplemental N fertilizer.
In general, the contributions to the total N requirement from sources other than fertilizer N are small, so plan to supply the majority of the needed N through fertilization. Go to cals.arizona.edu/crops for more information and specifics regarding these and other topics.View More in our Archives