Nearly all of the cotton is in across the deserts of Arizona. Cotton in the far West region of the state is quickly approaching first bloom, and the remainder of the state is nearing first square. Decisions regarding irrigation timing become critical at this point in relation to minimizing moisture stress experienced by the crop. Research has indicated that stress resulting from delayed irrigations will cause the abortion of fruiting forms, resulting in decreased yield potential and increased potential for excessive vegetative growth. Maintaining proper crop water status is important and can be done by scheduling irrigations, according to crop water use and water-holding capacity of the soil. Weekly cotton advisories are developed for every region of the state that contains crop water use data that can be used to determine irrigation scheduling. More information and specifics regarding irrigation and crop water use can be found at cals.arizona.edu/crops. Weekly cotton advisories can be accessed at http://cals.arizona.edu/-azmet/cotton.htm.
The period from planting to first square is a critical time for the cotton plant. While water and nutritional requirements for the plant are low during this time, cotton is not a very good competitor. Allowing weeds or other pests to overcome pre-squaring cotton will impact yield potential. Research in cotton studying weed competition early in the season for a designated period and then keeping the crop weed-free for the remainder of the season has shown as much as a 20 percent yield reduction with competition occurring only during the first 15 days after emergence and as much as a 40 percent yield decrease with competition only during the first 30 days.
Everyone knows the importance of early season weed management. However, frequent rainfall events, coupled with windy days, often result in very narrow windows of opportunity to complete fieldwork. It is important that we place a high priority on early season weed management to avoid losing yield potential.
Even though cotton prices could be better, many producers still have cotton as part of their farm plan due to rotations. We have shown that cotton can add a half ton or more to peanut yields when planted for two years prior to peanut planting, and that cotton in the rotation might be slightly less profitable than peanuts this year. Over a three-year period of using a good rotation can lead to much higher profit than if cotton were not grown. Likewise, cotton and peanuts respond less to irrigation than corn and soybeans and fit cropping systems on marginal soils much better. That is why they have been traditional crops for our area. High yields are necessary for profits when prices are lower, so this is a year to apply good management and especially good rotation practices.
I know it is tempting to get your planters out and set them up to deliver a seeding rate and roll through the season without adjusting seeding rates. This may be acceptable if you have the planting capacity to plant your cotton in a short period of time and can plant only during optimum conditions. However, many producers will likely have to plant cotton through less than desirable conditions at some point(s) in the planting season.
Seeds are a major cost associated with growing cotton. Adjusting seeding rates for planting conditions throughout the planting season can result in a substantial saving. These savings could be crucial, particularly in a year with lower cotton prices. Cotton seed is particularly sensitive to chilling injury during the first two days of water imbibition. Producers can use this information to decide if they should quit planting cotton a couple of days prior to cool fronts moving into the state.
At the current time, cotton acres are expected to decrease by 20 to 25 percent from last year in Louisiana. Cotton producers have experienced abundant rainfall and wet soil conditions during the months of March and April. As of April 20, less than 2,000 acres were planted. Therefore, it looks like the 2015 cotton crops will be going in a little late.
Once planting is completed, and cotton seedlings have emerged from the ground, producers will want to concentrate on managing the cotton plant from the first through fifth leaf stage. Reaching the fifth true leaf stage as quickly as possible and unscathed from thrips is important in producing good cotton yields at the end of the season. Seed treatments for controlling early season insect pests through the fifth true leaf stage play a viable part in getting off to a fast start.
Depending on environmental conditions, seed treatments may last anywhere from 14 to 28 days. Under cool spring conditions, reaching the fifth true leaf stage often is delayed, and seed treatments no longer offer protection. Under these conditions, foliar sprays are needed even though a seed treatment was used at planting.
I am hopeful that by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands that we will have made significant progress with respect to cotton planting. However, challenging weather conditions throughout most of the spring have put most into hurry up and wait mode. While we still have ample time to plant cotton, uncertain fall weather necessitates planting as soon as the weather will allow. For the past two years, more than half of the cotton in Mississippi was planted between May 15 and June 6.
We made tremendous yields during those two years but have also been blessed with very favorable fall weather. No one is under the illusion that we will have great weather every fall and, as such, planters should roll as soon as possible. The average seeding rate in Mississippi is 40,000 to 45,000 seeds per acre. However, research has shown that we can achieve excellent cotton yields with as few as 15,000 plants per acre. In order to achieve high yields with plant populations that low, all plants must be evenly distributed in a given field with no two- to three-foot skips.
We do not advocate planting fewer seeds based on the above; however, when trying to make re-plant decisions, if you have a minimum of 15,000 healthy plants per acre that are evenly spaced, park your planter and start working on your sprayer.
With all of the ice and snow cover, the Drought Monitor showed us to be in an abnormally dry to moderate drought. Well, with the frequent rains, we are now not only wet, but we have some sloppy conditions. I was concerned with the Planting Intentions Report showing 192,000 acres, our lowest since the 1980s. However, this actually might be the best-case scenario. I have since learned from producers, ginners and chemical dealers that it could be a lot worse.
The typical spring, rainy season is being felt once again after a considerable absence during the past four years. Recent rainfall was a blessed sight in western Oklahoma. Although we are still substantially below our needs with respect to runoff necessary for reservoirs, April rainfall leading up to planting season has been great. By now, most producers have made variety selection decisions.
We are anticipating a good look at the new XtendFlex technology in 2015. Although in-season dicamba applications will not be allowed, it will still provide producers the opportunity to investigate and familiarize themselves with new varieties. Also, as we move into planting time, don’t forget that cooler temperatures can lead to poor stands or stand failures if the correct conditions align.
Planting should be delayed until 1) mid-morning temperatures in the rooting zone exceed 60 degrees at a six-inch planting depth and 68 degrees at the two-inch depth; 2) the five-day forecast indicates dry conditions and at least 25 DD60 heat units; and 3) the five-day forecast projects low temperatures above 50 degrees. These criteria are useful to ensure a good start for the 2015 crop.
Tennessee’s target cotton planting window, from a calendar-date standpoint, begins on April 20 and stretches to May 10. As many wrote in last month’s Specialists Speaking section of Cotton Farming, we need to focus more on conditions than the calendar. Still, it is raining as I write this, and the long-term forecast suggests more rain is on the way. With the possibility of a late start to the season looming, now is a great time to review a few of the early season cultural practices.
In Tennessee, early-mid or mid-maturing varieties are generally only able to outperform early maturing varieties if they are planted within the April 20-May 10 window. If planting after May 10, consider planting earlier maturing varieties. Well-drained, moist and warm seedbeds will support rapid seedling emergence and grow-off. In addition to insecticide seed treatments, consider protecting young seedlings from thrips damage with a one- to two-leaf foliar spray. Visit our website at utcrops.com or blog at news.utcrops.com.
Weather predictions of an El Niño pattern have come to fruition in much of Texas. This has come with mixed emotions after dealing with years of drought. Now, the South Texas cotton acres will decline further as a result of continuous saturated soils in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), Coastal Bend (CB) and now Upper Gulf Coast (UGC).
Reports from the Rio Grande Valley indicate about 45,000 to 50,000 acres of cotton planted, which is about half of the expected cotton acreage for the region. Reports from the CB are that about 15 to 25 percent of the cotton acreage has been planted as of the April 15 final planting date.
The UCG has also had a wet spring, which has delayed corn, sorghum and now cotton planting, but there should be sufficient time to get the cotton planted before the May 15 final planting date. For more information, go to the cotton.tamu.edu web page.
Current soil moisture conditions are better than producers in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions have observed in quite some time. Slow infiltration of winter snow melts and recent rainfall events have, in most areas, provided good subsoil moisture to carry future cotton crops through a good portion of the early growing season. Furthermore, with warm temperatures and additional precipitation forecast, cotton planting could begin as early as the last week in April.
With adequate soil moisture in the seed bed and warm temperatures, getting this year’s cotton crop off to a good start seems probable. However, having the crop established is just the beginning of the journey, and producers should be diligent in maintaining near zero competition from weeds and protect early season fruit from yield-robbing insects.
The last two years were an indication that protection of this earlyset fruit can optimize yield and quality even if we get off to a later than usual start or have an earlier than usual season-ending frost event. If producers need any assistance with management decisions, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension personnel are always available to help. I personally can be reached at (806) 781-6572 anytime someone needs information.
By the time Virginia farmers read this article, they will be underway planting cotton. The early season management of cotton is critical to producing highyielding cotton in Virginia. Any delay or setback in the growth of cotton will open the window for potential damage in the fall through delayed maturity. The first management decisions will be early season weed and thrips control. Killing weeds when they are small is easier than trying to kill larger weeds. When evaluating thrips damage, remember that damage on older leaves is old damage. Be sure to inspect the growing point “bud” of the plants. For soil fertility, our recommendations are to place 20 to 30 percent of your N, 100 percent of phosphorus and 50 to 100 percent of potassium at or prior to planting (splitting potassium application on sandy soils may reduce leaching losses).View More in our Archives