Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Prepare Now For Planting Season

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

Planting season will soon be upon us for the 2019 cotton season, and decisions are being made about the proper time to plant.

The temperature experienced by the seed during the first critical hours and days after planting will to a large extent determine emergence and eventual stand establishment.

Optimum soil temperatures for seed germination are between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures between 55 and 60 F become marginal and below 55 F are dangerous. They likely will result in reduced seed germination and unacceptable stand establishment.

Additional factors may also add stress to the seedling, including salinity and low soil moisture content. These conditions, along with cool temperatures, can make obtaining a stand difficult. Soil temperatures typically reach the optimum range when air temperatures are more than 80 F for highs during the day and stay above 50 F for low temperatures overnight.

Waiting for adequate soil temperatures increases the likelihood of obtaining adequate seed germination and stand establishment. It reduces the chances you will have to decide whether to replant. A good forecast predicted for the first three to five days after planting is also critical.

The University of Arizona produces weekly advisories that include current soil temperature data along with a weekly forecast for the state’s cotton-producing regions. Look for this information on the University of Arizona Crop Information website

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Wet conditions have greatly limited field preparations through the fall and into early February. This includes ruts in many fields that have yet to be

Cover crop plantings in the fall were reduced for those who planned to put them in. Many who did not get covers planted are looking at planting spring cover crops to help provide wind and blowing sand protection for cotton seedlings.

We hope cotton burndown programs will be put in motion soon. Those who planted a cereal rye cover crop likely did so to improve soil health and help with pigweed control. They generally will want to delay rye termination as long as possible.

However, burndown programs should be timed ahead of the planter to address issues related to the “green bridge,” which can aid pest movement from a dying cover crop to an emerging cotton crop. Remember that many of the early season cotton pests overwinter in broadleaf weeds. High levels of broadleaf plants or weeds in your cover crop will increase the potential that issues from a green bridge may occur.

Our immediate goal for the 2019 crop is to start with a good stand of healthy fast-growing cotton. This requires fields to be free of weeds and other pests at planting. A timely and effective burndown program is the first step. Contact your local county Extension agent for more information.

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda
Texas A&M

As harvest activities conclude in the Texas High Plains, our growers have time to reflect on the past season. There are a couple of things to keep in mind about planting. In the last issue of Cotton Farming, I mentioned this is a good time to plan your fertility program for the coming year, and it is worth repeating. With fertilizer prices trending higher for 2019 (especially nitrogen), it is important to set realistic yield goals and adjust fertilizer rates appropriately.

Dr. Katie Lewis, assistant professor of Soil Chemistry and Fertility at Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Lubbock, recommends sampling a little deeper into the soil profile (18 to 24 inches) to look for any residual nitrate-nitrogen. This may help you save a few dollars by crediting what is already there for the next crop.

Another important reminder is about the new requirements for auxin herbicides for 2019. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension will conduct several two-hour training sessions, covering both dicamba and 2,4-D technologies across the state in the coming months.

We encourage everyone who plans to use them in the new cropping season to check with their local Extension office about an opportunity to take the mandatory training. We all need to continue being good stewards of the technology.
Results from the Texas High Plains Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) trials are available at

Galon Morgan, Texas
Galon Morgan,

Despite excellent to excessive soil moisture in most of the cotton production regions in Texas, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is starting the 2019 season with moderate drought conditions. However, growers are pre-irrigating when possible, and acres are expected to increase to 230,000.

In the Coastal Bend, a full soil moisture profile exists, but the ground is workable and fields are prepared for planting slightly more cotton than in 2018.

Moving up the coast, conditions are excessively wet, and little field or fertilizer work has been accomplished. This will lead to some prevented planting of grain crops and more acres in cotton (or soybeans) than expected, which was already predicted as double-digit increases.

Blackland’s cotton acres are expected to increase in the double digits as well — especially in the North Blacklands — which is driven by price and an inability to plant winter wheat. The Rolling Plains also will increase cotton acres primarily because of the inability to plant wheat in the fall.

Cotton variety results from across the state are currently available at to help with planning for the 2019 crop. Additionally, with good soil moisture and a favorable forecast, starting the season weed-free and using residual herbicides will be critical to a successful weed control system, regardless of the herbicide traits.

As one of my colleagues says, the labeled dicamba and 2,4-D choline products should not be the hub of the wheel. They should be just one spoke and an option to be used only after a solid pre-emergence and residual weed control program has been implemented.

Dan Fromme, Louisiana
Dan Fromme,

In Louisiana and around the Cotton Belt, thrips are considered the No. 1 early season seedling cotton pest. Dr. Sebe Brown, entomologist with the LSU AgCenter, says tobacco thrips compose the primary species infesting Louisiana cotton while western flower thrips are often present at lower numbers.

Dr. Brown goes on to say that with the absence of aldicarb (although we now have a commercially available aldicarb replacement named AgLogic), insecticide seed treatments dominate the early season cotton insect pest management landscape. As of 2019, there are only two seed treatment options: acephate and neonicotinoids.

Imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are the two most commonly used neonicotinoids. These treatments are offered alone or in combination with nematicides. Based on bioassay data generated over the past seven years, the LSU AgCenter does not recommend thiamethoxam alone as a seed treatment for cotton. Tobacco thrips resistance is the reason for this decision.

However, imidacloprid is still effective, and when used with the insecticide/nematicide thiodicarb (Aeris), provides very good thrips control. If Aeris is not an option, imidacloprid overtreated with acephate (6.4 ounces per hundredweight) is another viable option. Acephate alone will control thrips; however, acephate has a significantly shorter residual than imidacloprid and the probability of returning with a foliar application is very high. Also, if you elect to overtreat cotton seed with acephate, the seed cannot be returned.

In-furrow applications of imidacloprid also work well controlling thrips. Four pounds of imidacloprid at 9.2 ounces per acre or 2 pounds material at 19 ounces per acre provide excellent thrips control. AgLogic — the generic replacement for Temik — has demonstrated satisfactory thrips control at the 3.3 and 4 pounds per acre rate.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

Late fall and early winter of 2018 were filled with more rain than most can remember in Tennessee. While several were able to complete a little “dirt-work” or establish covers, large expanses to the south even still have stalks to cut. I also notice fewer acres planted to cover crops as I drive through state than I have seen in previous years.

Unfortunately, 2019 has not brought the relief many hope for. Feb 6 brought flooding to several regions of Tennessee flooded on Feb. 6, and the five-day forecast today on Feb. 8 showed large amounts for the next week.

If our pattern of inconsistencies and extremes holds, saturated conditions should break soon. They must.

Many recent calls have been about hill-dropping seed and target plant populations. Over the past few years, our data have again upheld the old, standard requirements. Yields are relatively stable as long as you have about 1.9 plants per foot, even in early to mid-maturing varieties.

beltwide cotton specialists
The 2019 Beltwide Cotton Specialist of the Year, Dr. Tyson Raper (center with plaque), is pictured with previous honorees following the annual award dinner in New Orleans, Louisiana. Raper is the cotton and small grains specialist at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Our crop’s ability to compensate for stand inconsistencies and concerns over lifting power of some of our highest yielding, relatively small-seeded varieties has supported a move back to hill-drop plates in acres with a history of crusting. Our data also support a modest reduction in seeding rates, especially for those nearing 50,000, planting larger-seeded, more vigorous germplasm.

Keep an eye on our blog or twitter for summaries of these trials and others at @TysonRaper.

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

While it’s too early to plant cotton in Oklahoma, March typically signals the start of preparations for the upcoming season. Two of the primary activities associated with this time of year are the application of herbicides — typically yellows — and fertility.

As we all know, starting clean (or weed-free) is one of the biggest keys to a successful cotton season. The value of using a yellow herbicide may depend on your production practices. Incorporation through tillage is typically the best method for achieving optimal activity from a yellow herbicide.

While some formulations can be watered-in through irrigation or rainfall, these herbicides rely on soil contact. Producers in minimal or no-till operations may want to weigh the cost-benefit to determine if there is another method to achieve a clean start.

The other area of focus this time of year is fertility. Using soil tests to determine nutrient levels and requirements at critical depths in the soil profile is by far the most reliable and efficient way to determine fertility needs. Oklahoma State University is home to an excellent soil testing lab. This is a great resource for producers or consultants regarding soil testing procedures or interpreting results.

For more information on soil testing or the OSU lab, contact your local county Extension office or go to

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

I hope by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you that the rain pounding the Bootheel since last fall has tapered off. Looking to the 2019 season, fieldwork should ramp up in March after being delayed by the wet fall.

This means weed pressure over the winter most likely will be high due to excessive moisture and lack of tillage. With burndown approaching, I encourage you to incorporate residual herbicides into your burndown program to ensure a clean start.

In addition, I recommend taking a look at the seedling vigor presentation here at Plan your planting around the vigor of the varieties you have chosen. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar.

But if one of your varieties was in the bottom 10 for seedling vigor, plant it later in the planting window. In general, the first plantings in Missouri have a greater threat of cool temperatures after seed is in the ground. This can lead to stand losses and cold damage, which reduce yield potential.

Varieties with lower vigor will be affected more than others. I suggest your first plantings be varieties from the seed vigor top 10 list to get a good start for the year.

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

This year has begun much like 2018 ended — wet with little to no fieldwork completed. While we have some time in the Mid-South to prepare for cotton, those who are planning to plant corn into fields that were rutted up last fall may now want to consider how to handle this situation. Preliminary indications are that cotton acres will increase in Mississippi in 2019 compared to 2018.

The primary issue — other than fieldwork — leading into cotton planting season is pre-plant weed control. I almost thoughtlessly typed burndown weed control in the previous statement. However, if fieldwork is needed to remove ruts and get beds back in shape, at least some level of weed control will be accomplished through these operations.

If weed pressure is not excessive, fields will likely be worked without using an herbicide. However, the likelihood of freshly worked soil remaining relatively weed free through planting will depend on several factors.

In all likelihood, an herbicide application will be required prior to planting. If these applications are delayed and planting time is approaching, be aware of plant-back restrictions for the products you use. A failed stand, regardless of the reason, is not the way we want to start the 2019 production season.

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Warm weather makes farmers think of having equipment ready for planting season. Many Florida farmers who were in the path of the hurricane are still clearing trees from around fields and field roads to gain access for planting and management.

Timing of the hurricane delayed harvest and led to fewer cover crops being planted. Farmers may have to contend with more winter weeds, too. With widespread use of conservation tillage, we recommend cover crops be killed three to four weeks prior to planting to reduce cutworm damage and seedling diseases under cool, wet conditions.

Starter fertilizer can be used to enhance early growth of cotton and will sometimes increase yields. Deciding what technology is best for your farm often depends on the type of weeds present and what neighbors will be growing in surrounding fields.

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

The outlook for North Carolina cotton in 2019 appears to be positive despite the challenges we experienced in 2018. Attendance throughout our winter county meetings has been high, which we hope is a good sign for cotton acreage intentions. Several growers have suggested their acreage will increase from that of 2018, and a few farmers have indicated they will be planting cotton for the first time ever, or for the first time in several years.

We hope for favorable weather in March so timely fieldwork can proceed. I’ve included a few comments about burndown from our new cotton and corn Extension weed specialist, Dr. Charlie Cahoon, who hit the ground running with his applied research and Extension efforts. We’re glad to have him join our North Carolina State University Cotton Team.

Timeliness is critical for effective burndown strategies. Our primary target weeds are horseweed/marestail, as well as primrose and a few others. Scheduling burndown when weeds are small during March greatly increases the herbicide options to manage problematic weeds versus targeting larger weeds in April.

Delayed burndown can often narrow the range of effective options and complicate management. During March, try to make burndown sprays on relatively nice days when daytime highs are in the 60s. Avoid application when nighttime lows approach 40 degrees or less.

March also is a good time to make necessary field repairs. Heavy rains during the latter half of 2018 caused plenty of washes that need restoring before planting season. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to think about soil fertility and how significant rainfall may have affected fertility levels for the coming season.

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