The remaining winter and early spring months may bring some rain or snow, but weather patterns in late 2017 and early 2018 look like a dry prelude to the 2018 planting season. So far this winter, central California has had relatively normal temperatures but extraordinarily dry conditions.
Uncertain rainfall and snow forecasts raise concerns about irrigation water supplies, and producers soon will be assessing their strategies for pre-plant and early season irrigations. Hopefully, weather patterns will shift and provide rain and snow soon.
Decisions regarding variety choice, need for in-furrow treatments, and fertilizer and soil amendments to build or at least maintain adequate soil structure and fertility are right around the corner. It is true that a lot of our cotton production problems and costs experienced in 2017 cotton were related to persistent high populations of lygus and aphids. But when you are trying for high yields, other production inputs such as nutrient availability or soil conditions such as unrelieved compaction can also limit yield potential.
There may be a tendency to cut back on soil fertility evaluations and phosphorus and potassium fertilizer applications due to cost constraints. However, particularly in situations where you are trying for consistent high to very high yields, periodic soil sampling may be appropriate to point out yield-limiting P and K deficiencies with both Pima and Acala cotton.
While the difficulties of the 2017 production season are still on your mind, think about which fields had the most severe growth and yield problems.
And not just last year, but look at other recent higher-yield years as well. Use that information to help decide on nutrient and input management changes, or where alternative varieties with better vigor or conversely, more manageable vegetative growth, would best fit your operation.
Basic yield results from the University of California variety trials will be summarized by early February and will be available on the UC cotton website at http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu. Later in February, HVI fiber quality data tables will also be posted on this same website.
Look at variety performance across an array of conditions represented in the University of California variety trials as well as seed company trials to give you a better handle on what to expect in Pima, Acala and non-Acala California Upland plantings.
The winter months provide an opportunity to review the decisions that went into producing the 2017 cotton crop. There are many aspects of a successful season that need to be considered to make improvements from year to year. For example, these advances include new biotech traits and harvesting technologies. Precision agricultural equipment and techniques should be evaluated for the most efficient integration into a farming operation.
A specific example on which we have done considerable research over the past several years is the control and management of cotton root rot (Phymatotrichopsis omnivora). This pest has caused millions of dollars in crop loss for many years. Until recently, no effective management options have been available.
The fungicide flutriafol, sold as Topguard Terra, has proven to be effective in managing cotton root rot in our desert cotton production systems. Due to the geographically defined nature of the cotton root rot pest, precision management through site-specific application of the fungicide has proven to be effective and efficient. By reviewing and delineating areas in a field that were affected by cotton root rot in 2017, you can make plans for applying the fungicide in 2018 to areas where the disease is present.
The integrated use of technology with traditional chemical control for the effective management of cotton pests will help our production systems remain sustainable and economically viable.
Planting decisions for the 2018 season are taking shape. Cash margin information developed by our economists is very tight and has little room for mistakes. We must be smart to get the most out of our production practices. We need to watch costs, yet provide the necessary inputs to protect yield potential.
Variety selection for yield and quality is an important first step in establishing our yield potential. There are a number of tools available to assist in selecting new varieties.
The primary source is the University Variety Testing Program. Results from the Arkansas trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at http://arkansasvarietytesting.com/home/cotton/. County demonstrations are another good source of information and are included with this data set. It also is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South.
Other practices to protect yield potential include matching nutrient applications to crop requirements, applying all integrated pest management tools, and making use of tools like Pipe Planner that can represent real cost savings.
Contact your county Extension agent for information or to get assistance in improving efficiency and profitability.
Florida had an unusual cotton year in 2017 with the two previous winters being the warmest on record. This may have contributed to the whitefly and nematode problems encountered. Yields were about 200 pounds per acre off recent year records. With better prices for 2018 and two periods of freezing weather, growers are optimistic that the crop will be profitable once again and contribute rotation benefits to peanuts.
New cotton varieties offer high yield potential with traits to control nematodes as well as weeds with new chemistries. Acreage is expected to increase this year as the peanut market was oversupplied from last year’s production.
Cover crops should be managed to produce high amounts of residue and often require 30-40 pounds of nitrogen per acre for aggressive growth. Cover crops increase soil microbial populations as compared to winter fallow. This leads to be better nutrient recycling and soil structure for the following cotton crop. Cover crops can also help reduce nematode populations, which may result in higher cotton yields.
The 2018 Louisiana Agricultural Technology and Management Conference will be held on Feb. 14-16 at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, Louisiana. The annual event is sponsored by the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association. Each year, current relavant cotton production issues are discussed in detail by the presenters.
On Feb. 14, the conference begins with a morning session on soil fertility issues and soil health. In the afternoon, Bt resistance issues in field crops will be one of the key presentations of interest to the cotton industry. On Feb. 15, a half-day session will include topics such as target spot mangement, nitrogen management, and performance and potential value of the new Bt thrips and plant bug traits. Farm policies affecting cotton and cotton technical updates by industry also will be discussed. In addition, breakout sessions pertaining to rice, sugarcane and soybeans are scheduled during the three-day conference. This well-planned and coordinated meeting is a key event for professionals involved in the cotton industry throughout Louisiana and the Mid-South. If you have never attended, make plans to be there this year.
Go to www.laca1.org for registration and lodging information.
February marks the beginning of the 2018 production season for many in Mississippi. Burndown applications will likely be one of the first priorities in the spring. Selecting the appropriate tankmix for burndown is similar to selecting a defoliation program — many farmers have a preferred mixture that has worked well for them.
Regardless of the products you choose to control winter vegetation, properly applying them is paramount to your success. Application volume (GPA), travel speed, tip selection, and adjuvant or additive selection are a few things to consider when making these applications. The overall goal is to maximize efficacy and minimize off-target movement.
It is pretty early in the season to start discussing off-target movement of pesticides. However, given the issues that occurred in 2017 with dicamba, off-target movement will likely be discussed until the 2018 crop has been harvested and well beyond. Nearly 80 percent of the cotton planted in Mississippi in 2017 was dicamba tolerant. The percentage of Xtend cotton will likely remain high in 2018. A number of Enlist cotton varieties are also available, and cotton containing this technology will likely gain some level of market share in the Mid-South in 2018.
In addition, cotton — as well as many other crops and plant species — that is not tolerant to dicamba or 2,4-D will be out there. Everyone knows the injury level these products can inflict when off-target movement occurs. All possible precautions must be taken to minimize off-target movement of these (and other) products in 2018. If this year is a repeat of 2017 with respect to off-target movement complaints, 2019 may find us with a smaller set of weed- control options. Have I mentioned off-target movement enough? This is likely the first of many times you will hear this term in 2018.
The Missouri cotton harvest and ginning season is officially over. The Dec. 14 Cotton and Wool Outlook projects the state’s yield at 1,172 pounds per acre.
One of our biggest goals this season is to reduce complaints of off-target synthetic auxins. To reduce complaints, we have new 24(c) labels with a cut-off of June 1 in the Bootheel counties. The Missouri Department of Agriculture requires certified applicators to complete online or in-person training before buying or using dicamba.
University of Missouri Extension is the sole authorized training source. Only certified applicators may purchase or apply dicamba. Visit agriculture.mo.gov/dicamba to learn more about Missouri’s requirements. The cost is $30 for either online or in-person training. For more information, go to extension2.missouri.edu/synthetic-auxin-herbicide-applicator-training-program.
There will be a Missouri Pesticide Collection Event at the Fisher Delta Research Center on Saturday, March 10, 8 a.m. until noon. For questions, call 573-751-0616 or visit dnr.mo.gov/env/hwp/pesticide.
Selecting varieties is becoming more complicated. While I gladly welcome the high-yielding, excellent fiber quality varieties introduced into our market over the past few years, I envy the simplicity of selection decisions producers made 30 years ago.
Things were relatively easy then. Seed cotton yield, turnout, fiber quality, maturity, cost and a few other minor factors drove decisions. Today, in addition to those, we have to weigh herbicide trait and the sociopolitical baggage with which that factor brings, insecticide trait and tolerance to bacterial blight. We also must consider tolerance to Verticillium wilt, nematode resistance, ever-changing financing/rebate programs, customer support and local relationships with retail/sales.
The breadth and magnitude of these factors can be overwhelming, but there is good news. It is becoming more difficult to make bad decisions. Each year I conduct large- and small-plot variety evaluations. I am both shocked and impressed at the ability of all tested cultivars to perform at a very high level. To be clear, there are always differences. Some varieties mature earlier and produce slightly more seed cotton than others tested. Some are associated with lower micronaire or longer staple, are more tolerant to disease, or are better adapted to a certain landscape or management regime than others.
Don’t misunderstand. All factors should be weighed for each farm if you intend to maximize returns, and the decision for each farm will be different. The point is there are no clear, absolute winners. No one variety or system should be grown everywhere because it is superior in every way. Each variety brings with it a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.
On Feb. 8, we will conduct our annual Cotton Focus event. This year, we will begin at 8 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 200 S. Church St., in downtown Jackson. My colleagues and I will spend much of our time on the agenda defining these strengths and weaknesses in order to help you make well-informed variety selections. Additional topics covered include updates on insect control, weed control, target spot and bacterial blight. I hope you can join us.
For additional information on any of these topics or for a list of other events conducted by the row-crop Extension team, visit news.utcrops.com.
Texas farmers are optimistic about planting cotton in the South, East and Rolling Plains this year. Current cotton prices will hold or bump up cotton production in all the regions of the state. However, continued dry conditions and predicted below-normal early season precipitation may affect whether this happens. If the precipitation prediction becomes reality, any conservation practices that preserve planting moisture will be key to establishing a uniform cotton stand.
Above-normal temperatures are also predicted for spring and summer so pushing for early planting may be more beneficial in 2018 than during other years. However, seed quality becomes an important factor with early planting and high seed costs. Growers can and should obtain seed quality information (cool:warm vigor index) for each lot of seed they purchase. Knowing seed quality and seed size gives growers a better idea on how early they can push the planting window and their flexibility to chase moisture with planting depth.
In most of Texas, we are expected to have another big increase in the adoption of XtendFlex and Enlist varieties. XtendFlex varieties are available in numerous seed brands, and I encourage growers to look at the cotton variety results (Cotton.tamu.edu) to identify the best varieties with the XtendFlex traits.
Additionally, anyone planting XtendFlex technology who plans to apply the labeled dicamba products must participate in a one-hour mandatory auxin training. This is offered through AgriLife Extension, Monsanto or BASF. An updated list of training locations can be found at https://agrilife.org/aes/auxin-training/.
We will likely see a big Enlist acreage increase in South Texas where PhytoGen Enlist varieties performed well in the 2018 RACE trials and Monster trials. Although the latest auxin traits have a fit for much of Texas, the GlyTol LibertyLink and even the Roundup Ready Flex varieties are still viable and economical options for growers.
The 2017 crop harvest is nearing the finish line as I write this in mid-January, and it’s apparent that cotton producers on the Texas High Plains will top the 5 million bale mark for the second year in a row. It remains to be seen how high the final number climbs, but reports have already circulated that the region will see another acreage increase in 2018 on the heels of two very solid years.
Although yield numbers were favorable in both 2016 and 2017, these were two very different years in regard to environmental conditions and the resulting fiber quality of the two crops. One of the main stories coming out of 2017 was the impact of what was a more typical seasonal temperature pattern in the region. Rainfall totals, specifically in July, August and September, were much higher than normal. They certainly played a role in the challenges faced by some farmers at the end of the season, particularly in the northern half of the region.
Methods to manage maturity, specifically nitrogen and irrigation, will be one of the topics covered in the winter production meetings. On-farm variety trials results or RACE trials will be another topic of discussion. Results of these trials for the Southern and Northern High Plains, as well as all other regions of the state, are available at cotton.tamu.edu. When reviewing the 2017 variety trial results, note there are several high-yielding varieties available under a wide array of packages that include herbicide and Bt traits.
Be sure to check in with your county Extension office for a schedule of the upcoming production meetings.
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