The National Agricultural Statistics Service October Crop Production Report estimated Arkansas cotton production at 1 million bales, unchanged from the September forecast but 160,000 bales more than last year. Yield is expected to average 1,096 pounds per harvested acre, unchanged from last month but up 21 pounds from 2016 and slightly less than our five-year average of 1,101 pounds per acre. Harvested acreage is estimated at 438,000 acres, up 63,000 acres from 2016.
In mid-October, our crop was slightly behind schedule as only 29 percent had been harvested. Our five-year average for the same date was just over 30 percent harvested and 44 percent harvested last year.
To date, we are hearing about good yields and some that aren’t very good. I think our average will be better than NASS’ prediction. Some of the early cotton we picked didn’t do as well as hoped. It looked like it would pick 1,500 pounds per acre, but it picked 1,250 to 1,300 pounds. Thirteen hundred pounds isn’t bad, but when you’re expecting 1,500, it’s a bit disappointing.
Boll numbers were good, but there were a lot of small bolls on the plant. However, we are optimistic yields will improve. Nice, full-sized bolls from the bottom to the top of the plant are present in many fields we are about to harvest. Some of the better yields being reported are on fields averaging 1 round module per acre.
We have yet to harvest any of our county on-farm variety plots. But based on preliminary indications, we have a number of varieties that appear to consistently be performing well. We look forward to combining the county data with Dr. Fred Bourland’s Variety Performance Trial results. County production meetings are being scheduled at this time. Contact your local county Extension agent for dates and locations.
In the cotton/peanut regions of Florida and the Deep South, peanut harvest has always taken precedence over cotton. And 2017 is no exception. Cotton harvest usually starts in full bore after Oct. 15 when most of the peanut crop is in the barn. However, during the early part of peanut harvest, Hurricane Irma came through, resulting in good moisture for digging peanuts but twisting up and laying some cotton on the ground. The twisted cotton has slowed harvest and exposed the remaining cotton to storms that have been passing through.
The cotton crop looks good for the most part even though it was twisted. However, yields may be reduced by 20-30 percent or more along with quality. Many bolls lying close to the soil are discolored, with some seed sprouting in the boll and general weathering. Even though the growing season was wet and timely management was difficult, this may still be an above-average crop. Time will tell as final yields and grades come in.
As we approach mid-October, approximately 50 percent of our cotton acres have been harvested although conditions have been good throughout the state during the past six weeks. We hope to finish harvesting by the end of October. Louisiana will pick about 200,000 acres of cotton this year, compared to 136,000 acres in 2016.
Lint yields this year are extremely variable, ranging from 500 to 1,250 pounds of lint per acre. Yield estimates for the state are projected around 900 pounds of lint per acre. According to USDA-AMS figures on Oct. 5 out of Rayville, only 10 percent of the bales received have produced a micronaire value of 5.0 or greater. This year’s length, strength and uniformity are averaging 1.16, 31.2 and 81.6, respectively.
Following harvest, we will emphasize soil fertility needs for the 2018 crop. Basically, soil tests serve two functions: showing nutrient levels and indicating where to start in developing a fertilizer/lime program. To prescribe a sound program, combine this information with cropping history and the overall soil productivity potential of the field. Soil tests also can be used to monitor the production system and measure trends and changes, which helps maintain the overall fertility program on the same level with other production inputs.
In 2010, 87 percent of the soil samples in Louisiana tested below the critical level for phosphorus, and 76 percent were below the critical level for potassium (Soil Test Levels in North America, IPNI). The critical level is the soil test level below which nutrient inputs are required to meet soil fertility management objectives. If you continue to mine the soil, it could take several years of higher fertilizer rates to restore optimum productivity.
Fertilizer and lime inputs are purchases that represent a significant portion of production costs. Their efficient use is critical to farm level profits and environmental protection. Before you apply fertilizer this fall, soil test to see how much you have in the bank.
Mississippi cotton harvest activities are lagging about two weeks behind normal. In addition, a number of growers who have picked a portion of their crop are reporting lower-than-anticipated yields. Others and I have alluded to the challenging weather conditions faced by our growers throughout the year, and the results are showing up in yields from early harvested cotton. A number of folks, particularly in the Delta, are reporting 1,100 to 1,250 pounds of cotton whereas in past years yields have ranged from 1,300 to 1,600 pounds.
Controlling costs has long been a topic of discussion for those growing cotton, and 2017 did little to quell that conversation. Unexpected expenses to control worms in the 2017 crop as well as the continuous battle with pigweeds has made this crop an expensive one to produce. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that higher costs and lower yields results in less (if any) profit to the grower. Heading into 2018, consider maximizing production while minimizing input cost. In addition, take stock of where dollars are spent and what the potential return on investment for that dollar may be. Some costs cannot be avoided; however, there are likely some that can. Minimizing dollars spent that offer little potential return on investment will increase your overall bottom line.
The Oct. 2 Crop Progress and Condition Report indicates dry conditions have allowed harvest to advance. It has certainly been warmer than usual with very dry conditions. The 15-day forecast shows very little chance of rain. We certainly need some rain to help settle the dust. Last year at this time, producers had harvested 13 percent compared with 6 percent this year and 8 percent for the five-year average. Cotton condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 9 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 49 percent good and 6 percent excellent.
The first yield estimate in the Cotton and Wool Outlook had Missouri at 1,151 pounds per acre. This was much higher than our yield record of 1,117 set in 2014. The October yield estimate increased to 1,196 pounds per acre. Defoliation is picking up pace now, and many unharvested fields look good. We had very good boll set this year although looks can be deceiving. In my experience with yield trials, some of our best-looking varieties often had lower yield. The fluffiness of the cotton may have deceived our eyes.
We have already seen an increase in soil testing as producers prepare for harvest. This is an excellent time to take soil samples. The field is visible, and problem areas can be sampled separately. In my humble opinion, with our dicamba issues this year, I think there will be more restrictions on its use next season.
Harvest season started off very well. We were lucky to avoid much of the hurricane-related weather that hit other areas and that we have had to deal with the past few years. The first week of October was ideal for growers who were ready to pick and were not busy with peanuts.
As I write this on Oct. 11, we have had several days of cloudy weather that have slowed us down with about 15-20 percent of the crop harvested. Hopefully, the warm weather will clear out before we get into issues, such as seed germination in the boll. The early pickings are ranging from 800 to 1,200 pounds per acre in most places.
Environmental conditions for defoliation have been good for late September and the first half of October, and temperatures are predicted to stay fairly warm for the rest of October. This should help with any late-season defoliation, but will also be conducive to regrowth in fields with residual nitrogen. The long-term predictions are calling for periods of rain. It will be important to avoid picking cotton that is too wet to avoid heating in modules or bales.
The 2017 crop is racing toward the finish line. Based on Mesonet Station data for Altus, August resulted in about 19 percent below normal for cotton heat unit accumulation. This cool trend continued into the first two weeks of September, and we finished that month about 4 percent below normal. As of mid-October, temperatures have been somewhat above normal. We’ve also encountered substantial rainfall in some areas in September, which resulted in late growth. Harvest aids have been applied to some fields, and a few have been harvested.
Based on the October U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service report, we are possibly going to see record-setting production — if we can get the crop harvested without significant weathering and ginning issues. The 980,000-bale estimate would be the highest bale volume produced in the state since about 1933 and the largest harvested acreage since 1981. The 555,000 harvested acres is about twice the normal amount. This crop will substantially challenge our harvesting and ginning infrastructure. Of course at this time, we are a long way from having this crop in the bale.
Producers need to put a lot of thought into module construction, module cover condition, site selection for module storage, and ground preparation for placing modules. Cotton Incorporated’s website has extensive information about these important end-of-season decisions. The likelihood of substantial field storage time for cotton modules exists this year due to the large number of acres, as well as anticipated good to excellent yields in many fields.
Many gins will be backed up for quite some time, so be smart about module placement — make sure the site won’t flood if extensive rainfall is encountered. It is imperative to keep watch on conventional module covers. They may need to be replaced if damaged by high winds or other environmental factors. Wet modules can significantly reduce bale processing rate at the gin, as well as reduce fiber and seed quality.
On Oct. 12, we were close to 20 percent harvested. Several farmers had been running for more than a week, while some were just getting started. We had a fairly nice window for defoliation, and it looked like cold weather may come to stay Oct. 16.
Hurricane Nate was hit or miss for most of West Tennessee. We received another decent rain just a few days after Nate, followed by cloudy conditions. We were fortunate in 2015 and 2016; in both of those years, we received practically no rain on the crop after it opened.
This year has been more challenging with defoliation windows opening and closing frequently, and it appears harvest may be more typical than what we experienced in 2015 and 2016.
Still, we are harvesting an above-average crop that should grade well. Initial results from variety trials are surprising compared to 2015 and 2016. Keep an eye out for a preliminary release of trial results to be posted in the immediate future on news.utcrops.com.
In South Texas, early cotton was classed very good quality. Some of the cotton affected by Hurricane Harvey is starting to appear in the latest weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture classing report. However, fiber quality reported thus far is better than many people anticipated, considering all the cotton went through in the hurricane.
Most of the cotton in the Blacklands has been harvested with the best yields occurring in the northern Blacklands. The Rolling Plains began harvest aid applications on dryland fields in early October. Some earlier maturing fields will not even receive a defoliant application due to a widespread occurrence of premature senescence that occurred through much of the area following a week of wet weather. However, due to the timing, little yield loss, if any, is expected.
Most of the dryland and irrigated fields in the Rolling Plains have good to great yield potential as harvest approaches. The late-planted fields, replant fields and later maturing varieties still need some extended warm weather to reach full yield potential. Variety trial results from South and East Texas will soon be available at cotton.tamu.edu.
The main concern in the Texas High Plains is still how far behind or immature the crop is. As I write this on Oct. 12, most of cotton in the region has yet to see a harvest-aid application, and a large portion could use several weeks of warm, dry weather. This is a culmination of a slow start to the season due to drought, hail and blowing sands, and a cooler than average and cloudy August, with similar conditions following in September. These are critical months for developing fiber.
On the other hand, defoliants and boll openers have been applied to many fields in the southern part of the High Plains, and harvest will likely be well underway in those southern counties by the time this issue reaches you. This area was rain-starved for much of the first half of the season, but fields that survived those turbulent weeks have reached the end of the season in fairly good condition.
Although it is unlikely we’ll see an extended warm, dry period, favorable conditions are in the forecast for the second half of October. However, the probability of opening the entire boll load is lower than we would like to see given the sheer amount of maturing that needs to occur and the expected weather conditions as we enter November.
On an optimistic note, and perhaps more importantly, the conditions forecasted for late August were favorable for many of the popular harvest-aid products. Fields that had an application during that window likely had good defoliation and boll opening activity. Although it may be tempting to take some of the high yield potential fields right up to a freeze before applying harvest-aids, we recommend making applications four to five days prior to a suspected freeze so boll openers and other products will have time to get the crop closer to harvest-ready. Further complicating things is the shortage of many products that make up standard ingredients of common harvest-aid recipes.
With the state of the crop and the amount of acres that are facing maturity issues, it will likely be a stressful and indecisive time for many producers, particularly those in the northern half of the High Plains. They must attempt to balance maximum boll opening while optimizing fiber quality.
Only time will tell what the 2017 crop will look like in November as it comes out of the field.
In Virginia, we missed the big tropical systems this year, and cotton yields are ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds lint per acre across the state. Some fields are yielding more, but as of now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projection seems to be accurate. This is much needed for cotton in Virginia as 2015 and 2016 were two of the worst years on record.
As far as the introduction of new auxin herbicide formulations, the weed scientists have informed me there have been no formal complaints about the materials to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. However, I think everyone in the state is waiting to see what happens at the federal level with these technologies moving forward.
Overall, 2017 has provided a much-needed reprieve from adverse weather. Producers now have a little boost in morale when it comes to producing cotton in Virginia.
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