New Season Brings Big Decisions


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

As planting time approaches, decisions concerning varieties and how much to plant have likely been made. Other decisions such as when to start planting and which varieties to plant first can and do vary with whomever you ask. The bottom line is we need a place to put a picker in the field in September if possible – regardless of the amount of cotton we plant. In Arkansas, history tells us that the earlier we plant, the better we do. Optimum conditions for planting include a mid-morning 68- degree soil temperature at two inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast. It is important to start with the best quality seed to increase the chances of getting the stands we want if conditions are less than optimum. Whatever the calendar date is, park the planter if heat unit accumulation (DD60s) is predicted to be 15 or less for the five-day period after planting. Good results are often seen with 25 or more heat units being accumulated during the five-day period after planting. There are many signals or signs that people use to indicate the right time to plant other than calendar dates. Regardless of methods used to determine when to plant, it is important to remember that planting early does not ensure earliness. Getting off to a good, quick start will pay dividends season-long if we do it right the first time.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

Cotton has been grown in the Southeast in rotation with peanuts and corn and has shown that it is a resilient crop for the harsh weather conditions that we often experience. In many areas, it is the main crop for rotation with peanuts and is especially valuable for producers who do not have irrigation or have fields that are not suited to irrigation for whatever reason. When you look at the value of cotton to other crops in the rotation, break-even yields often result in higher yields and significant profits on following crops. Cotton can still be profitable even at today’s prices if high yields are made. With today’s high-yielding varieties and management options, many producers are making yields of three to four bales, which can be profitable during times of low prices. This is the year to use smart management options for profit in cotton and future rotated crops.

North Carolina

Guy Collins NC
Guy Collins e-mail

As I write this on March 10, temperatures have recently warmed up and spurred some field work. February and early March were very cold and wet for much of North Carolina, which has delayed producers from any field prep work and burndown applications. If rains subside and temperatures remain relatively warm, we should see some action in many fields, as it is important for burndown applications to be targeted toward smaller weeds, especially in the case of glyphosateresistant horseweed. Depending on weather conditions, we should see some cotton planted toward the end of April. As is always the case, starting clean from the use of pre-planting and at-planting residual herbicides continues to be important in managing pigweed. As seed costs are high, extra care should be taken to ensure optimal emergence such as planting into good soil moisture and temperatures and adjusting seeding rates to match conditions for optimal stand establishment and vigor. Additionally, monitoring for thrips and taking quick action with a well-timed foliar spray, if needed, is very important – especially if conditions aren’t favorable for rapid seedling growth, such as cool weather or herbicide injury. North Carolina cotton producers are encouraged to follow us on the cotton portal:, which is one of many platforms that we will use to address production issues and provide information throughout the year. Producers are also encouraged to follow us on Twitter for updates, using the Twitter list: NCSU Cotton, or our individual Twitter handles (@NCcotton, @Cotton_Guy, @DominicDReisig).


Dan Fromme LA
Dan Fromme e-mail

Cotton planting is just around the corner in Louisiana, and now is a good time to review a few key practices to help everyone get off to a great start in 2015. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar. If a field is planted too early, your cotton crop may suffer a stand loss and cold temperature stress, which reduces yield potential. Germination can begin when mean daily temperature is 60 degrees at seeding depths, but growth will be slow at these temperatures. A soil temperature of 65 degrees at a depth of four inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast following planting are best. Also, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be above 50 degrees for the following five days. During the critical germination period, soil temperatures below 50 degrees can cause chilling injury to germinating cotton. Emergence will generally occur after an accumulation of 50 to 80 DD60s or heat units after planting. Planting should be delayed if the five-day forecast predicts the accumulation of fewer than 25 heat units after planting. The minimum plant population in the final plant stand should be no fewer than two healthy plants per foot. Creating a pest-free seedbed is critical to avoid problems from cutworms and spider mites. Pre-plant, burndown herbicide applications should be made at least four weeks prior to planting to ensure no green vegetation is in the field for these pests to survive. It is equally important to eliminate weedy host plants on field borders to reduce insect pest problems later on that might move into adjacent cotton fields.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

April is typically the time that cotton planters start rolling in Mississippi; however, if the past two years and this spring (so far) are any indication, planting may be delayed once again. As of this writing, very little to no corn has been planted, and a good chance of rain is in the forecast for the next five days. Although we have planted cotton later than anticipated in 2013 and 2014, Mississippi producers made tremendous yields in each of those years. A multitude of factors went into the yields we observed in 2013 and 2014, the least of which was late planting. For those that know me, I tended to stay in trouble as a child and to some degree into adulthood, and the phrase that keeps ringing in my ears is: “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.” The point that I am trying to make is this: Do not pass up an opportunity to plant when environmental conditions are right. We have been blessed with great weather deep into the fall for the past couple of years. However, at some point, we are likely to see an early fall. Plant as early as you are comfortable with but do not delay planting based on experiences in the past couple of years.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

Last month, much of our cotton area was in the abnormally dry to moderate drought category. It was quite dusty, and I did see some fields with blowing sand. So, we had some legitimate concerns going into field preparation. As most Missourians know, the weather can change quickly. We have had two winter storm events and also heavy rainfall. In Southeast Missouri, we recently had nine to 15 inches of snow and ice. Now, we have concerns about excessive moisture. We are behind schedule on field preparation and burndown. With the warmer temperatures expected, some progress can be made before planting begins. The good news is that we should have moisture to begin the season. With burndown delayed, we might start the season with more resistant weed pressure. Producers will need to catch up at planting and layby. I am also hearing rumors that our cotton acreage might drop even further than the planting indications indicated. Producers always have to play the cards they are dealt. We could be facing a very interesting season.


Randy Boman OK
Randy Boman e-mail

Unfortunately, we have not had any significant change to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It indicates much of western Oklahoma is still dealing with severe to exceptional drought. We have moved into our make-or-break rainfall time of year for finishing up our winter crops and providing soil profile moisture for summer crops – March through June. March has provided some moisture as of this writing, but we still need more precipitation. Based on the National Cotton Council’s planting projections, acreage in Oklahoma will be reduced by about six percent. This was among the lowest projected reductions among Cotton Belt states. We are optimistic that we will receive some badly needed rainfall to support this acreage.


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

According to the National Cotton Council, Tennessee is expected to plant 176,000 acres of cotton in 2015. If that estimate proves true, cotton acreage in Tennessee will be less than the previous 40-year low noted in 1983. Unfortunately, this drastic reduction in acreage occurs alongside the commercial release of one of two highly anticipated technology- trait platforms. Due to large acreage investments in other crops, most Tennessee producers will be well buffered from risks associated with placing one or two new cotton varieties on the majority of their cotton ground. Still, it is very important to practice restraint when adopting new varieties on which little data has been collected. Many of my colleagues and I were able to evaluate a few of these varieties during the 2014 season. Keep in mind that this data was collected in one of the cooler, wetter seasons we have seen in quite some time. As you move forward for 2015, 1) gather as much information on varieties as you can, 2) place proven performers on the majority of your cotton acreage and 3) evaluate new cotton varieties on a limited number of acres.


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

Gaylon Morgan In South and East Texas, we are starting the season with a full profile of soil water, which is a vast improvement over more recent years. In most years, the cotton planting in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and Coastal Bend would be near completion. However, a wet winter and spring has delayed the planting of corn, sorghum and now cotton. The planting window has been limited in the RGV, and producers are less than two weeks from the March 31 cotton planting deadline. In the Upper Gulf Coast, a similar scenario is playing out, and we may see a slight increase in cotton and sorghum acres due to the inability to plant all the corn acres. The Blacklands have good moisture and are also running behind on planting summer grain crops. It has been a cold and wet winter in the Rolling Plains, which has replenished much of the soil profile moisture. Agronomically, producers should pay special attention to soil temperatures this year. Under our cloudy conditions and wet soils, the soil warms more slowly, which creates a good environment for seedling diseases. For good stand establishment and early season vigor, plant cotton after the four-inch soil temperature is at 62 degrees and a favorable seven-day forecast.


Mark Kelley e-mail

With the winter moisture that most of the region has experienced over the last few months, producers are preparing their fields for spring planting. For the most part, the soil is working very nicely, and we hope to have firm, moist beds to plant for the 2015 crop season. With planting just around the corner, variety decisions are being made and, to assist with the decision making process, we have finally gotten our “2014 Systems Agronomic and Economic Evaluation of Cotton Varieties in the Texas High Plains” report released. I appreciate all involved in the process, from planning to final report! Many producers, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agents and AgriLife Research and Extension personnel helped with the research. Special thanks to Kristie Keys and Kevin Norman for assistance with writing. For more information, visit or call me at (806) 781-6572


Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame e-mail

Virginia cotton acreage is expected to decrease from 87,000 acres in 2014 to 81,000 acres in 2015. This decrease is largely due to current prices; however, Virginia producers are very reactive to markets, so if prices rebound or other commodities fall, that could affect planted acreage. Producers should be gearing up to apply burndown herbicide applications within a week or so as I write this (March 18). Coming off a record year in 2014, Virginia is hoping to continue the extremely high production that it has experienced from 2012 to 2014. Things to keep in mind as we move forward into planting season are soil temperatures leading up to planting, matching variety maturity to planting date, preplant soil fertility programs, herbicide programs and timeliness of in-season crop protection applications.

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