Preparing For Planting Season


Randy Norton AZ
Randy Norton e-mail

Planting season is upon us in the western deserts of Arizona and will begin across the central deserts and towards eastern Arizona soon. Decisions regarding variety selection have been made and planting seed is already in the barn.

It is important to know about the new technologies that are available in many varieties for 2017 that give us additional options for weed control in our production systems. Dicamba tolerance is now fully registered with both tolerant cotton varieties and the proper chemical formulations (XtendiMax from Monsanto and Engenia from BASF) to use with these new varieties. Cotton varieties tolerant to the Enlist Duo product from Dow are also available. Enlist Duo herbicide is currently registered for use in all Arizona counties except Yuma, La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal and Pima.

It is important to know about the new technologies that are available in many varieties for 2017 that give us additional options for weed control in our production systems. Dicamba tolerance is now fully registered with both tolerant cotton varieties and the proper chemical formulations (XtendiMax from Monsanto and Engenia from BASF) to use with these new varieties. Cotton varieties tolerant to the Enlist Duo product from Dow are also available. Enlist Duo herbicide is currently registered for use in all Arizona counties except Yuma, La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal and Pima.

Use of either of these new technologies will have a potential fit in certain areas of the state where emerging populations of glyphosate-resistant weed species (specifically pigweed) have been documented. If you choose to use this new technology, it is critical that you read and follow the label and supplemental labels for the herbicides to ensure you are applying them in a manner consistent with their effective use. Parameters, such as wind speed, nozzle type and pressure, boom height, sprayer speed, water conditioners, tank mix partners, etc., are all specified on the labels and must be followed carefully to get the most from these new technologies.

Another critical factor to consider when using these new herbicides is tank cleanout. Triple rinse procedures are required when using any of the new phenoxy herbicide formulations. Monsanto, BASF and Dow have developed websites to provide the latest information available for these products. Visit and for the dicamba products and for the 2,4-D product. If you have additional questions, contact your specific company (Monsanto, Dow or BASF) representative or the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in your area.


Bill Robertson AR
Bill Robertson e-mail

Dry weather in February made it possible for field work across most of the state to occur. Soil sampling, dirt pans, fertilizer buggies, and burndown or tillage was a common site as we approached Valentine’s Day.

The kickoff of cotton burndown programs for most is just around the corner. Those who put in a cereal rye cover crop likely did so with an objective of improving soil health and helping with pigweed control. Burndown programs should be timed ahead of the planter to address issues related to the “green bridge,” which can facilitate movement of pests from a dying cover crop to an emerging crop. Remember that many of the early season cotton pests overwinter in broadleaf weeds. The higher the level of broadleaf plants or weeds in your cover crop increases the potential that issues from the green bridge may occur.

Burndown of tall cereal rye four weeks ahead of the planter will make planting more difficult as the rye tends to lodge and twist up. Planting through this lodged residue can be difficult. Burndown two weeks ahead of the planter is generally enough time for standing rye to be terminated. However, this can be a problem if difficult-to-
control weeds are also present in the rye for green bridge issues. Some prefer to terminate the day before planting, but this is very risky if broadleaf weeds are present. Regardless of herbicide strategies prior to planting, Gramoxone and a pyrethroid behind the planter should be part of your program.

Our immediate goal for the 2017 crop is to start with a good stand of healthy cotton. This requires fields to be clean at planting. A timely and effective burndown program is our first step toward this goal. Contact your county Extension agent for more information.


David Wright FL
David Wright e-mail

It is coming up on springtime when growers are preparing for planting. Three-month weather forecasts for the deep Southeast are showing warmer and drier conditions for February through April. Due to the very dry fall going into a wet period after Dec.1, there was not as much cover crop planted as normal.

Those who did get cover crops planted may want to terminate them a little earlier than normal if irrigation is not available so the seedbed doesn’t dry out. It is a good idea to use a residual
herbicide with the burndown so weeds do not emerge prior to planting, causing more moisture loss. Sometimes tillage is necessary to control larger weeds, which further dries out the seedbed.
New varieties with new technology will be on the market this year so there will be a learning curve for all of us as we go through the first season using these tools.


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 2017. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar. If a field is planted too early, the cotton crop may suffer stand loss and cold temperature stress, which reduce yield potential.

Germination can begin when mean daily temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit at seeding depths, but growth will be slow at these temperatures. A soil temperature of 65 degrees F at a depth of 4 inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast following planting is best. Also, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be above 50 degrees F for the following five days. During the critical germination period, soil temperatures below 50 degrees F can cause chilling injury to germinating cotton.

Emergence generally will occur after accumulation of 50-80 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.

The 2017 Louisiana Weed Management and Insect Management Guides are available at Once you have reached the website, go to crops>cotton>weeds and crops>cotton>insects.


Darrin Dodds MS
Darrin Dodds e-mail

Cotton planting in Mississippi will likely kick off in the next six to eight weeks, depending on how Mother Nature treats us. The past four years have seen very little cotton planted in April in Mississippi. In some of those years, well over half of our crop has been planted from May 15 to June 5. However, keep in mind that Mississippi as a whole has averaged more than 1,000 pounds per acre for the past five growing seasons and has averaged more than 1,200 pounds per acre in three of those five years. While I would love to see us get started early, do not jump the gun and plant cotton seed into cold, wet soils in an attempt to get ahead.

Cotton acreage in Mississippi is expected to increase substantially in 2017. Depending on who you talk to, our growers may plant upwards of 750,000 acres this season. If so, that would be a 71 percent increase over last year and the highest planted acreage since 2006. While I am happy to see our acres on the rise, I have concerns about yield on that many acres. We have grown accustomed to high yields; however, our cotton has been grown on the best land and managed properly. I am optimistic that we can maintain our yield standard of the past five years on this amount of acres, but we are going to have to cross all of our t’s and dot our i’s to make it happen. A good start would be to plant seed on productive soils when the weather says it’s time.


Mike Milam MO
Mike Milam e-mail

Missouri producers are eager to get started this spring. In many winter discussions, weather was a major topic. We all agree we had what could have been near-record yields except for problems early and late. We had a remarkable planting season with most of the crop going in earlier than normal. The cool, wet conditions in May came after those planting into cover crops. Therefore, we probably had more re-planting than normal. The worst problem was the prolonged, heavy rains over a 10-day period. The result was target spot and boll loss. Anticipating the weather is something on everyone’s mind.

Probably the greatest concern going into this season is the new herbicide technology. With the problems we experienced last year with dicamba, there is some fear of this happening again on a larger scale. With the new dicamba and 2,4-D formulations, it is even more critical to read and follow label directions. Equipment cleanout is also going to be more important than ever. For farmers using these technologies, it will be more difficult to do everything possible to prevent damage to other crops, gardens, trees and shrubs.

One final note. The Fisher Delta Research Center at Portageville will host a pesticide pickup for farmers and homeowners on Saturday, March 11 from 8:00 a.m. to noon. They are accepting all pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, dewormers, fly tags and fertilizer containing pesticides. Pesticides from businesses will not be accepted.


Keith Edmisten e-mail
Keith Edmisten

We have completed three years of research comparing tillage systems in North Carolina. There are several conclusions I think have the most practical implications for cotton producers. First, strip-tillage completed two weeks prior to planting was always as good as, or better than strip-tillage done at planting. Strip-tillage two to three weeks prior to planting gives farmers the option to not disturb residual herbicide activity at planting.

Secondly, strip-tillage conducted in the fall reduced soil resistance to root growth for two years without additional strip-tillage and was similar to annual strip-tillage. Soil resistance after three years was only slightly higher than annual strip-tillage and was considerably lower than continuous no-till. Finally, comparisons between conventional (rip and bedded) versus strip-tillage (no beds) were made in 17 environments.

Bedding used to be common in North Carolina but is not as prevalent now as producers have shifted to reduced-tillage systems in response to herbicide-resistant transgenic varieties. There was no difference in yield due to bedding in 15 out of 17 of the environments. In two of the locations, bedding resulted in higher yields than planting flat with strip-till. The increase in yield due to bedding in these two environments ranged from 100 to 250 pounds of lint per acre and was due to excessive moisture.


Tyson Raper TN
Tyson Raper e-mail

There is considerable acreage planted to multiple species of cover crops in Tennessee this year. Many of these acres will not be planted to cotton, but I have heard of substantial acreages where cotton will follow a cover crop mixture. Little hard data has been collected up to this point on best termination practices in a multiple-species cover crop. However, we can use several observations collected from fields in the past few years and from 30-plus years of single-species cover crop work conducted both within and beyond Tennessee. If those observations ring true, the best balance of maximizing cover crop benefits while minimizing potential negative impacts will occur by terminating the cover crop roughly two weeks prior to planting.

There are several reasons for this timing. First, many species typically grown in the mixtures release compounds that inhibit germination. Although this can be a great benefit in combating weeds, those compounds can also affect your cash crop’s germination. Second, this two-week period allows soil water to be recharged. Finally, crispy, dry residue is easily sliced and sloughed off the row with a lead coulter and opening wheels, allowing seed to be consistently placed at the proper depth. Terminating cover crops two weeks prior to planting will likely be the best approach to successful cotton establishment in our environment. For additional information on this topic, check our blog at


Galon Morgan TX
Gaylon Morgan e-mail

Cotton planting in South Texas has started early this year. Increased cotton acreage, a warmer than usual winter, and the fear of losing adequate planting moisture have been the main drivers for earlier than normal planting dates in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. Nearly 95,000 bales were ginned from the Rolling Plains the first week of February with fiber quality continuing to be good, except for small increases in leaf grades and bark content.

An increase in cotton acreage is still expected across every cotton- production region in Texas, and the majority of the acreage will likely be in either XtendFlex or Enlist varieties. Fortunately, the XtendFlex and Enlist varieties have yielded well, have great fiber quality packages, and provide additional weed control options.

However, producers should not dismiss the value (lower seed price and comparable yield and fiber quality) of the RoundupFlex and GlyTolLibertyLink varieties, especially if glyphosate-resistant weeds are not present on their farms. Producers must also diligently follow the application requirements and should give serious consideration to the potential off-target and spray tank contamination risks associated with the application of Enlist Duo on Enlist Cotton or XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology or Engenia on XtendFlex cotton varieties.
For additional cotton variety performance information from 2015 and 2016, go to


Seth Byrd TX
Seth Byrd e-mail

As of early February, the Lubbock and Lamesa classing offices were still classing more than 150,000 bales per week combined, reflective of the tremendous 2016 cotton yields in West Texas. Quality was still holding strong with only slight decreases in color and leaf grades compared to the season average.

Planting will still likely be a couple of months away by the time this issue reaches you, but by that point decisions regarding variety selection will probably have been made. It is important to note that varieties with new herbicide traits as well as those without performed well in 2016. Although the herbicide trait factor will likely be a primary driver of variety selection in 2017, there was certainly no evidence of an increase in yield potential over varieties without tolerance to dicamba or 2,4-D. However, these technologies do provide another tool for use in weed management, so it is likely a large proportion of acres in the High Plains will be planted with varieties that have the new traits. Feeling comfortable with following the application requirements and label language will be critical so that this new technology is properly stewarded as we move forward.

It is recommended that traits factor into a decision (whether they be herbicide or Bt traits) when they can address an issue that caused problems last year or may potentially be a problem in the coming season. Varieties have a wide array of trait packages that perform well in the High Plains, so looking at what problems can be addressed through traits and other variety characteristics is key. Maturity, early season vigor, and disease or nematode resistance may be a bigger factor than herbicide traits. A variety’s total package should be evaluated.
You can find information on variety performance at, as well as information on varieties’ responses to various diseases and nematodes in the High Plains at

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