Monday, April 15, 2024

Planting Season Brings Positive Outlook

05-14CFcvrFLORIDA David Wright

With crop prices for most commodities down from the past few years, producers are trying to decide what to plant and how to cut costs. Our systems research with cover crops, cattle and perennial grasses shows the following: indicator enzymes for carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur cycling are increased from lowest to highest with single cropping and conventional tillage, cover crops and strip tillage, perennial grasses rotated with row crops, perennial grass rotated with cover crops and row crops, grazed perennial grass and grazed winter cover crops and row crops. In other words, cattle grazing on either winter cover crops and/or perennial grasses recycle almost twice the amount of nutrients of cover crops alone, and yields of most crops are higher after winter grazing due to higher fertility and microbial activity in the root zone, resulting in half the N and K applications needed in crops that are grazed as compared to the non-grazed fields. Our research has shown as high as 450 pounds per acre more lint on fields following winter grazing as those just with cover crops. Higher yields are noted in the non-irrigated fields as compared to the irrigated fields. Root mass was almost doubled following grazing and may be the reason for the better yields without irrigation. These results are from long-term trials.

ALABAMA Charles Burmester

Planting intentions indicate that cotton acreage may be up slightly in Alabama in 2014. Cold, wet weather, however, has kept any early cotton from being planted during the first half of April. Early cotton planting is not as important as it once was, especially in the northern part of Alabama. With larger planters, less cotton acreage and use of seed treatments instead of in-furrow application, cotton planting can be done in a short number of days. I still recommend farmers plant at least three cotton varieties with different maturities to spread the risk on our dryland cotton. We are seeing a big increase in irrigation in many areas of Alabama, but the amount of rainfall we receive in August still largely determines how much cotton we harvest in October.


This year is shaping up similar to 2013. We have been wet and cool with both corn and rice producers behind in planting. In 2012, we were four percent planted at this time of year. The good news is that we have plenty of moisture heading into cotton planting. We would like to have enough moisture to activate herbicides without having additional rain until after emergence. We rarely get what we hope for these days. While we don’t have as lengthy a growing season as in the lower Mid-South, we generally do well if we can get the crop in the ground. In many years, a lot of our cotton is planted later than our optimal planting dates, but we do all right. I can’t emphasize enough that we have excellent alluvial soils and great groundwater resources. We have more irrigation capacity each year. So, we are able to keep the crop growing. According to the April 14 Cotton and Wool Outlook, we are projected to have about a 5,000-acre increase that will bring us up to 260,000 acres. This is down from about 500,000 acres not that many years ago. Weather will likely affect acreage as much as price. With the strong winds, we have had herbicide drift again this season. With the cold weather that we experienced this winter, there is the potential for herbicide carryover. Producers can do bioassays to see what the soil is like before planting.


State recommendations vary for when to plant cotton, and when you should avoid planting cotton. In North Carolina, we recommend looking at the DD60 forecast for the five days immediately following planting. This information will be regularly posted on a timely basis to help guide you at during the planting season. Following this guideline is usually very successful, especially if you keep in mind that the temperature when the seed first imbibes water is the most critical part of this five-day period. This, of course, is in the first 24 hours after planting unless you are planting into a dry seed bed. Cool temperatures during the first 24 hours following moisture imbibition can result in seedling death or a weak seedling with no tap root. Although plants with the tap root sloughed off due to chilling injury will very often survive, they will be less able to supply water later in the season if dry weather occurs during boll fill. It is always helpful to know the cool germination values for your seed lots. If you are forced to plant in less desirable conditions, you should make sure you are using the seed with the highest cool germination levels.


Good news for cotton. Acreage intentions at the current time are expected to increase 38 percent from last year in Louisiana. Cotton producers have experienced cool temperatures, rainfall and wet soil conditions during the months of March and April. Therefore, it looks like the 2014 cotton crops will be going in a little late. Once the cotton plant has 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, spider mites and aphids 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 20 to 28 days. Often under cool spring conditions reaching the fifth true leaf stage 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. However, make sure economic thresholds are exceeded before applying a foliar application. Avoid automatic or convenience applications if economic thresholds have not been reached. Such practices can create pest problems, particularly from spider mites and aphids.


It has been said that if you watch weather on the evening news, you will always have something to talk about with folks. I must admit that I have found that statement to be true, particularly when you work in agriculture. Unfortunately, the spring of 2014 is shaping up in a similar manner to the spring of 2013. Rain and cool temperatures have halted many of those who intended to plant corn and soybeans prior to Easter. Although we are not late with respect to cotton planting yet, we are nothing more than a few rain showers away from being there. Hopefully, by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, the weather will be a bit more cooperative, and planters will be rolling. However, keep in mind that although your list of things to do isn’t getting any shorter, do not sacrifice your safety or the safety of your employees in an effort to get things done just a little quicker. Everyone knows the dangers of working around large equipment; however, it only takes a small mistake for a serious accident to occur. Be safe this planting season so that you can see the fruits of your labor this fall.

GEORGIA Guy Collins

The bigger wave of planting the 2014 cotton crop will largely be underway in southwest Georgia by the time you read this. As I write this on April 16, the soil moisture situation is good in most places, and excessive in others. We’re also experiencing a cold snap that is expected to be short-lived. Hopefully, soil temperatures and moisture will be optimal throughout most of our planting window. With that said, there are a couple of things that producers should keep in mind throughout the planting window, in addition to planting high-quality and vigorous seed. First, when debating on when to plant, keep an eye on current soil temperatures and expected heat unit accumulation within five days or so of planting. Keep in mind that cotton seed is very sensitive to cool temperatures within the first two to three days after it imbibes water. Second, make sure that seed is planted into good moisture conditions. Many producers may consider planting dryland fields as soon as good moisture is present (assuming temperatures are adequate), whereas soil moisture can be controlled in irrigated fields. Lastly, protecting the seedlings from thrips during the first few weeks after emergence is also critical. This can be achieved through the use of seed treatments and foliar sprays, or other means. Your local county agent can assist in these decisions. Naturally, the use of residual herbicides is critical to starting clean and preventing emergence of pigweed.

VIRGINIA Hunter Frame

April has been much like March with periods of cool temperatures and frequent rainfall. The ground is starting to dry faster as vegetation starts to break dormancy. Looking at soil temperatures, cotton planting should start within the first two weeks of May if the nighttime temperatures remain above 50 degrees. As many Virginia cotton producers are reading this issue, they are hopefully thinking about timely thrips control. Dr. Ames Herbert recommends that producers scout for thrips during the early season and apply foliar insecticides at the first true leaf stage where thrips damage is present. This spray may not be needed if in-furrow insecticides were used at planting or you have low thrips pressure. Post-emergence applications of herbicides is another area producers need to be focusing on as timely sprays and field scouting are the best tools for preventing a weed infestation. Whether using a glyphosate, glufosinate or conventional weed control, program timeliness is key to proper weed control. This is especially true when controlling Palmer pigweed. If glufosinate is the backbone of your weed management program and you have glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed, you need to be applying glufosinate when the pigweed is three inches or less in height. Incorporate chemistries with residual control to prevent the emergence of the weed species later in the season. After post-emergence herbicide sprays, producers should be considering in-season nitrogen/sulfur management. A general rule for cotton is 50 pounds of nitrogen per bale of expected yield.

ALABAMA Dale Monks

It is impossible not to stress the importance of getting the crop off to a strong start. Looking at last year, cotton that was planted when the environment allowed resulted in rapid emergence and early season root development. This was the cotton that was able to survive the extremely wet and mild summer and ended up yielding very well. I have heard a fair amount of discussion about the 2014 cotton crop and whether it will be up or down. We could argue over a five percent increase or a five percent decrease, but when all things are considered, we will probably land on something similar to 2013. That is assuming that conditions this month will allow us to plant when we want. Excessive rainfall moved some acreage out of corn, and we have to wait to see if those acres move into cotton or soybeans. As always, our producers have some early issues to deal with this month. Planting seed with high warm and cool germination results will help with emergence and establishment. Fields should be inspected early for grasshopper, cutworm and thrips damage and treated accordingly. Given resistance issues in the Mid-South, we must be diligent in our observations of seed treatment efficacy this year. Go to our website at for additional information.

TEXAS Mark Kelley

At the time of this writing (April 21), the Texas High Plains had received some much needed moisture. Although amounts were generally light, it was nice to see that it can rain in West Texas. Currently, cotton producers continue to make planting preparations and, if the warm temperatures forecast come to pass, some may be in the field as early as next week. Although getting off to an early start is important, it is more important to get off to a good start. Soil temperatures should be at least 60 degrees consistently at the seed level. Based on the Texas Tech Mesonet System, we are still seeing some two-inch bare soil minimum temperatures below what is needed for rapid germination and emergence. Furthermore, a good five-day forecast with ambient temperatures above 75 degrees during the day and above 50 degrees during the night time hours is desired. Other key components of getting off to a quick start are seed quality, good seed-to-soil contact, and, of course, moisture. It is recommended that producers start the planting season with their highest quality seed (standard germ from seed bag + cool germ from seed company = cool warm vigor index (CWVI)). Seed with a CWVI of 160+ is considered excellent and should be planted before lower (less than 120 is poor) CWVI seed. Good seed-to-soil contact with proper seeding rate and uniform distribution of seed will help optimize stand establishment. The greater the seed contact with warm moist soil, the higher the likelihood of rapid emergence.

ARIZONA Randy Norton

Nearly all the cotton is in across the deserts of Arizona. Cotton in the southwestern region of the state will be approaching first bloom soon, while the remainder of the state is nearing pinhead 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. Each week, cotton advisories are developed for every region of the state that contains crop water use data that can be used to assist in irrigation scheduling. Water use estimates for the week prior to the release of the advisory are given for several representative planting dates and are a good indication of the amount of water being used by the crop. Irrigations should be scheduled when the amount of plant available water in the soil is depleted to 50 percent. An example of how this can be done follows: Let’s say a crop planted on April 1 is currently in the first week of July and would have an estimated water use of approximately 2.4 inches of water per week (data from advisory) or 0.34 inches per day. Let’s say that the crop is planted on a loam soil that holds approximately 2.5 inches of plant available water per foot of soil. If the effective rooting depth is three feet, that soil will hold 7.5 inches of water. The general rule of thumb is to irrigate when 50 percent of the plant available water has been utilized or approximately 3.75 inches. Go to for more information on this topic and others.

TEXAS Gaylon Morgan

As of April 20, cotton planting was slow to get started in much of South Texas due to cooler than normal temperatures. The Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend were the furthest behind on planting. However, when planters hit the field, things happened quickly. According to the NASS, cotton emergence is actually comparable to the five-year average, which surprises me a little. Regardless, we were fortunate in South and East Texas to have adequate planting moisture, and the vast majority of the producers have not or will not have to worry about replanting any cotton this season. The deep soil moisture situation is adequate in most of South and East Texas, but March and April precipitation has been about 25 to 50 percent of normal. Without some precipitation in the near future, cotton growth and development will begin to suffer. Planting in the Rolling Plains will begin in mid-May and continue through mid- June. However, without some rain prior to planting, there is little hope of establishing a dryland crop, and irrigated cotton will also face challenges. The U.S. Drought Monitor categorizes the Rolling Plains in an extreme drought, and the geography and severity of the drought have substantially worsened. I have observed a lot of clean cotton fields this year and noticed an increase in the use of preplant incorporated and preemergence herbicides. These herbicides will help in our fight against pigweeds.

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