Quality Seed Plays An Important Role

ALABAMASteve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama

In the summer of 1973, my parents purchased me a new car. It cost just over $2,300 and was equipped with a manual “three-on-the-tree” transmission, heater and AM radio. It was the first year of new EPA emissions regulations, so it had no “pickup,” as my daddy called it, and poor fuel economy. 

Fast forward. Last year I purchased my wife a new Honda Civic. It delivers 38 mpg with ample power and has a sunroof, fancy audio system, electric seats (also heated) and windows, self-dimming lights, driver assist systems, which shake you if you drift and brake if you get too close to another vehicle, a computer screen with capabilities beyond me and other bells and whistles. All that for about $25,000, which is more than 10 times the price of my 1973 Chevy Nova.

Trends in cottonseed are similar. Contrasted with 30 years ago, today’s seed are amazingly advanced with their lint-producing genetics and pest management technologies built-in or sprayed-on. Of course, today’s seed also command a considerably higher price. Seed comprise an ever-important management and budgetary consideration, confirming, “The seed is where it’s at!”

Price and consequence compel careful scrutiny of seed quality. Remember, seed are a biological product subject to effects in the field and gin, as well as through delinting, treating, packaging and shipping. Seed carry a premium price, and while a bag or lot of seed will never be 100% perfect, you should get a very good product. 

At the least, you should know warm and cool germ data and seed size. Knowing what you have helps you plan and plant accordingly. Obviously, given lots with varying vigor, those with better cool/warm germs should provide superior stands under more challenging conditions. Our recent Cotton Incorporated-sponsored Extension Cotton Specialists Beltwide Seed Quality project indicated that cool germs of 70% or better typically coincide with good warm germination numbers… and good stands.

Know what you have. Request the data! cottonbrown@auburn.edu

ARKANSASBill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas

Striving for earliness is an objective for most cotton farmers. However, planting early does not ensure earliness. While our planting progress the last couple of years has shifted back slightly with half our crop going in the ground the last half of May, record or near-record yields have been achieved. 

Our optimum planting window in southeast Arkansas historically includes dates ranging from April 20 to April 30. Locations at and north of I-40 see their optimum window shifting back as late as May 9. Establishing a healthy and uniform stand of cotton is the first step toward a successful season. Advances in planting equipment, improved cultural practice techniques and technological improvements in seed quality and chemical protectants have enhanced the potential to obtain a healthy and uniform stand of seedling cotton.  

Optimum conditions for planting include a mid-morning, 68-degree Fahrenheit soil temperature at our desired planting depth for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast. Good results are often seen with 25 or more heat units (DD60s) being accumulated during the five-day period after planting. It is important to start with the best quality seed to increase the chances of getting a good, uniform stand if conditions are less than optimum. Remember that as seed size decreases the importance of having good soil temperatures increases.

There are many signals or signs that people use to indicate the right time to plant. Getting off to a good, quick start will pay dividends season long. brobertson@uada.edu

ARIZONA Randy Norton

Randy Norton

With the 2022 planting season upon us, decisions now need to be made regarding initiation of this year‘s crop. Deciding upon the best time to plant involves evaluating multiple factors in order to have the best chances of establishing a healthy, young cotton crop. Two major factors to be considered are seed quality and planting bed conditions. Every lot of commercial seed sold will have been tested for seed quality by conducting a warm and cool germination test. The results of these tests can be obtained from the individual seed companies. 

Ideally, warm germination test values should be above 90% and cool germination test values above 60%. If values are less than these, you may want to consider planting that seed under nothing but the best conditions for germination to give it the best chance of developing into a healthy seedling. 

Seedbed condition is also a major factor to consider when planting. Seed-to-soil contact is critical for having efficient germination and rapid emergence. The process of seed germination begins by the seed absorbing water from the surrounding soil. This process happens best when there is good seed-to-soil contact.  

An additional critical factor that is largely out of our control is that of soil temperature. Ideally, soil temperatures should be above 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 a.m. to provide a good environment for seed germination and seedling emergence. Cooler soil temperatures will slow down the process of germination and emergence, making the seedling much more susceptible to disease, which can lead to reduced emergence and poor stands. 

Adequate soil temperatures and a good three-day forecast free of cold temperatures and rain, are ideal conditions for establishing cotton in the deserts of Arizona. 

For information regarding other cotton related topics, go to our website at extension.arizona.edu/crops-soils. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

FLORIDADavid Wright

David Wright, Florida

When the weather is good, farmers may want to jump the gun and plant early. Severe cold weather may come and reduce cotton stands. It is very important to watch weather reports and reduce risks of establishing stands. While heavy rainfall is not always predictable and can pack seed beds resulting in poor stands, use of good-quality seed can help ensure good stands. With the prices of inputs increasing more than in a normal year, farmers are still figuring out management to reduce input costs while maintaining yields.

We have many farmers that plant in sandy soils, use irrigation and may use about 175 lbs./A of nitrogen. Many non-irrigated growers may use 90-110 lbs./A of N.  We have 20 years of research showing that planting cotton after winter grazing can decrease the need for irrigation and N (about 30-100 lbs./A less N), resulting in yield increases of 150-300+ lbs./A.  At current costs of $1 per pound for N along other inputs, we need to learn to grow cotton more cheaply without losing yield. 

Florida cotton specialist David Wright said the figure above shows cotton yield after nitrogen rates and after winter grazing.

More and more farmers are partnering with cattlemen for the benefit to everyone. A non-irrigated farmer, for example, from this past year shows cotton grown after winter grazing, and our group mapped electrical conductivity (EC) for management zones. The darker zones had better soil and the lighter zones were sandier.  Cotton yields were about 1,500 lbs./A using 30 lbs./A N (starter fertilizer alone) in darker zones vs. the grower rate of 95 lbs./A N, which tended to be lower yield. The lighter zones needed more than the 30 lbs./A N starter, but 60 lbs./A gave top yields. Try a field with infrastructure for both enterprises (livestock grazing/row crops). Growing cotton behind winter grazing has been consistent in increasing yield and using less N. wright@ufl.edu


camp hand

As I write this March 14, it is a beautiful, crisp morning here in Tifton. Over the last approximately eight weeks, the cotton team and I at the University of Georgia have thoroughly enjoyed getting back on the road and seeing you all in person at winter production meetings. For those who weren’t able to attend meetings in person, be on the lookout — I will be posting videos of each Extension specialist’s talk on the UGA Cotton Team Website.

As I traveled the state this winter doing production meetings, one common question was, “What about reduced seeding rates?” Fantastic question. There has been a lot of buzz across the state on reduced seeding rates, and I think in some cases we can reduce our seeding rates. But there are a few things we need to take into consideration. 

Historically, maximum yield potential has still been attainable with a final plant stand of one plant per foot uniformly spaced. Does that mean we should just plant one seed per foot? Does every seed you plant emerge and contribute significantly to yield? As a good friend likes to remind me, “Anybody can plant cotton, but not everybody can get a stand.” Many factors contribute to stand establishment and a lot of those are out of our control (i.e. environmental). Seed quality can also affect stand establishment. Even if our growers do everything right in terms of planting, if even one of these two factors doesn’t go our way, it can result in inadequate stands. And in a year like this one, where diesel prices are through the roof and margins are razor thin, we need to minimize the number of trips we take over a field. 

When I was asked this question at production meetings, my answer was something like this: “Maximum yield potential is attainable at a final plant stand of one plant per foot uniformly spaced. So, plant the amount of seed you are confident will result in at least 1 plant per foot uniformly spaced.” That number will change from person to person because seeding rate isn’t one size fits all. Choose a seeding rate that works for you on your farm with your variety. After all, no one knows what works on your place better than you. 

As always, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. camphand@uga.edu 


matt foster

With cotton planting knocking at our door, now is a good time to start preparing for thrip management. Thrips are a major early season pest of seedling cotton in Louisiana and throughout the Cotton Belt. Tobacco thrips are the most common species on cotton in Louisiana. Research has shown that severe thrip infestations can reduce yield by 200-300 pounds of lint per acre. Cotton is most susceptible to thrip injury between emergence and the fourth true leaf stage due to the slow development of the terminal bud. Cotton seedlings injured from thrips may exhibit tattered/crinkled leaves that curl upward and fail to properly expand. Injury from sandblasting and pre-emergence herbicides can oftentimes mimic thrip injury. 

Management options include insecticide seed treatments, in-furrow applications and foliar sprays; however, insecticide seed treatments are the most popular. Currently, acephate and neonicotinoids are the only two seed treatment options. The two most common neonicotinoids are imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, and they are offered alone or in combination with nematicides. LSU AgCenter entomologists do not recommend the use of thiamethoxam alone to manage thrips in cotton due to development of resistance by tobacco thrips. At planting, in-furrow insecticide options include imidacloprid, acephate or AgLogic (aldicarb). 

Foliar rescue sprays may be necessary under certain conditions, but they should not be the only tool used to manage thrips. The decision to use a foliar insecticide for thrips control should be based on scouting. The presence of immature thrips indicates the insecticide seed treatment has broken down and reproduction is occurring. Foliar insecticide options include acephate, Bidrin, Radiant, dimethoate or Intrepid Edge. Implementing a good thrip management plan will help ensure a healthy stand. mfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

MISSISSIPPIBrian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi

Last season proved to be almost impossible to plant during the optimal window. Most Mississippi growers attempt to plant from May 1st to May 10, with some taking advantage of late April opportunities and wrap everything up by May 15. Recently, the trend has been to capitalize on two-day opportunities as they arise and finish much later than we like to claim. Obviously, the recent trend is far from what we remember as normal, causing seedling stressors to influence healthy stands well into May or June.

In late April, cool wet soil temperatures will stress seedling cotton plants. Under these conditions, it’s a good idea to avoid planting before a predicted rain event, especially as soil temperatures are just reaching 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2021, cool saturated soils were predominate for most of May, which put most growers in a position to plant as soon as the seed trench would close behind the planter.

As with most crops, earlier planted cotton tends to out yield later planted cotton in most years. Under the current weather trend, we are often met with adverse planting conditions. My grandfather was adamant about drainage in a cotton field, which has always stayed with me. A few things to consider with drainage: proper water furrow placement, repair compromised culverts and maintain unobstructed canals. Attention to drainage could help aerate soils and avoid a failed stand in some situations.

Also, as planting conditions change throughout the season, pay close attention to seed depth. Field conditions change daily and a close eye to proper seed placement/soil contact can help establish a healthy vigorous stand. Finally, pay attention to the germination percent on the seed lot. Base the planter settings on a seeding rate after consideration of germination percentage. This will increase the odds of a successful stand due to an adequate amount of healthy seedlings. bkp4@msstate.edu


Keith Edmisten

Planting season is right around the corner, and growers are buying seed. We are entering the third year of North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ cotton seed testing program. You can find the link to the testing program on our cotton portal (cotton.ces.ncsu.edu) under the Calculators and Decision Aids tab.

You need to register to use the site, and then you will be able to check the warm and cool germination results by entering the lot number for the seed. The program has shown that most of the seed entering the state is good quality. But there is some seed with lower cool germination values. You need to be aware of this to have the best chance of achieving a desirable stand. 

Our planting conditions calculator is under the same tab listed above. In many years, we don’t get a lot of days during the planting window with optimum conditions. There are several things you can do to increase the odds of getting an acceptable stand when you feel you need to plant under less than desirable conditions.

Some of the most important things to consider are planting depth and using the seed you have with the highest cool germ. It is often tempting to increase planting depth when moisture is questionable, but this can result in poor stands even in decent planting conditions. This is especially important on many of our Coastal Plain soils that tend to crust. We have been able to get good stand with lower cool germ (30-60) if we plant in optimum conditions but often see poor stands when the same seed is planted in less than desirable conditions. keith_edmisten@ncsu.edu

North Carolina State University planting conditions calculator can be found at the cotton portal (cotton.ces.ncsu.edu) under the Calculators and Decision Aids tab.


Seth Byrd, Oklahoma

As I write this in early March, dry conditions continue across western Oklahoma. The little moisture that has been received has largely been of the frozen variety and may have done more harm than good to some of the struggling cover crops cotton producers rely on to mitigate wind erosion and other threats. While it only takes a few significant rain events to improve our situation, it has been many months since some areas received such an event. Further, a planting rain or two will still be required in May and June to get the crop in the ground and established.

If we assume that a rain will eventually come, there are other factors to consider when attempting to achieve optimal stand establishment. Seed quality and germination scores have been a prominent topic over the last two to three years. Using germination scores to mitigate environmental challenges is certainly an excellent strategy to address stand establishment issues.

The common logic is to use varieties (or seed lots) with higher germination scores in more challenging conditions — such as earlier planting into cooler conditions — while waiting to plant selections with lower germination scores until conditions improve. The goal is to achieve maximum stand establishment across the farm. Excellent warm germ values are generally considered to be from the low-mid 90s and higher, while those closer to 80 may be a better fit in more favorable conditions.

Seed size is another factor that often reflects early season vigor and thus, establishment success. Larger-seeded varieties tend to have higher seed oil content, which can fuel the early season growth. Germination scores, and to a lesser extent seed size, were reflective of establishment success according to data collected from our 2021 on-farm variety trials. However, stand establishment did not necessarily reflect variety performance, specifically lint yield.

If you’re trying to address stand establishment in 2022 through variety selection, be sure to first select varieties based on their overall performance. Then compare the various varieties or seed lots you have on hand to properly place these options to optimize potential stand establishment success.

Insect pests are another factor to consider. While we typically think of thrips as the biggest early season insect pest in Oklahoma, last year wire worms devasted stands in several fields across the state. If you encountered wire worm issues last year, including a seed treatment with an insecticide — as opposed to the base, fungicide-only treatment popular for dryland production — will address this issue. seth.byrd@okstate.edu


Tyson Raper, Tennessee

Seed quality has received a tremendous amount of attention in the past few years, and rightly so. Seed quality is very important, and as an industry, we must continue to make decisions that result in the highest possible quality seed in each bag. Still, we should not forget that even the best seed can require a replant if the environmental conditions before, during and after planting are poor.  

In Tennessee, we often race through tight planting windows characterized by cooler (and lately, wetter) than ideal conditions. In the no-till or minimum-till system, we cannot do much to change soil moisture or temperature. We can, however, make sure we are properly placing seed at the right depth and maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Conditions should be monitored almost continuously in these challenging windows to check depth and make sure the furrow is closing. If planting right before a cold snap, or if you start having difficulty closing the furrow, either stop planting or assume that each additional acre planted after that point will likely have to be replanted, regardless of seed quality.  

For more information on planting conditions and forecast, check out the NC State Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator or follow the news.utcrops.com blog. traper@utk.edu

TEXASBen McKnight

ben mcknight

Cool late-February and early March temperatures have delayed cotton plantings in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend. As I write this in early March, very few fields have been planted in these areas, and some growers are still getting their grain crops in the ground. As temperatures begin to warm, planting activities will be in full swing in South Texas.

Approximately 95% of the entire state is in some form of drought, with the exception being the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Moderate to severe drought conditions prevail in much of the Coastal Bend and Upper Gulf Coast, and some areas of the Blacklands are under extreme drought conditions. Simply put, much of South, East and Central Texas need rainfall prior to getting a good plant stand established in non-irrigated production systems. 

Irrigation pivots are running in many parts of Texas in an attempt to provide some pre-plant moisture to soil following a winter dry spell. Sunset in Burleson County on May 2, 2021.
(Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications)

Consider the quality of your cotton seed as we get closer to planting, especially if producers are backing off planting rates. Obtain both warm and cool germination percentages from the seed company or distributor. Seed treatments will often result in a positive return on investment when it comes to getting a healthy stand established. When insect and nematode pressure is expected, insecticide and nematicide seed treatments and in-furrow nematicide applications can bring value to an overall pest management program. 

Cotton varieties with resistance to nematodes have been commercially available for a few years and growers should consider utilizing this technology in areas with heavy nematode pressure. I encourage growers to visit with seed company representatives about which varieties are available and suitable for their region. 

One final note is to keep in mind that soil temperature greater than 60 degrees Fahrenheit at a 4-inch depth will enhance cotton emergence. Soil temperatures below 60 degrees F can result in chilling injury, delay emergence and result in weak or dead seedlings. Keep an eye on the five-day weather forecast ahead of planting to ensure we are planting at the right time to give cotton seedlings a favorable environment for getting a healthy start. bmcknight@tamu.edu 

TEXAS Murilo Maeda

Murilo Maeda

As we approach planting season in West Texas, we remain hopeful that drought conditions currently seen across much of the state will soon improve. 

As I write this, the March 8 National Drought Mitigation Center Drought Monitor indicates that severe to exceptional drought currently grips much of the Texas High Plains. This is a large area generally north of the I-20 corridor that borders the New Mexico state line to the west and the caprock escarpment to the east and is often home to more than 4 million cotton acres. The last meaningful rainfall we saw around here was August-September last year. Field operations are currently slow due to environment limitations; however, we know the outlook can change fairly quickly. 

Concerns around input cost and availability across the nation may impact your plans. More than ever, choosing the right variety to fit your acres, as well as keeping in mind realistic yield goals and adjusting inputs accordingly can be beneficial. Our Texas High Plains large-plot variety trial can serve as a guide, and results are available at https://bit.ly/3tSRSFk. 

I encourage you to request warm/cool germination information from your seed retailer as you purchase seed. Remember these are lot specific, and what you see printed on the tag that comes with your seed may not precisely reflect what you have in the bag. While moisture will be the overriding factor, after choosing your varieties, having knowledge of your seed quality can help you determine when to plant depending on local conditions. I will follow up on this in the May issue of Cotton Farming as we get closer to “go time.”

Remember the common uptick in heavy equipment moving this time of year. Take it slow and stay safe out there. As always, feel free to reach out to us if there is anything we can help with. mmaeda@ag.tamu.edu 

VIRGINIAHunter Frame

Hunter Frame

As we move into April, Virginia producers have most likely applied burndown herbicides for cotton ahead of planting in May. For those producers who are managing high biomass cover crops and wanting to know when to terminate, a general rule of thumb is to let the legume species progress to full bloom in order to maximize nitrogen fixation and accumulation in the biomass. 

With small grain cover crops, setting goals for the cover crop is key. For example, if you want to have a thick residue cover for weed management, then you will want the small grain to become fully elongated and maximize height and biomass. Remember that with small grains, everyday the plant is becoming taller, it is increasing the carbon content, and thus, there will be a nitrogen penalty from the residue having high C:N ratios. High C:N ratios means that microorganisms will compete with crops for available N in order to decompose the cover crop biomass, taking N away from your cash crop. 

In addition to cover crop management and termination, all producers need to have a plan in place for their nutrient management programs. Given current events in the world and demand for available fertilizers, producers need to know what options are available to ensure you can secure the proper nutrients and quantities for your farm. This may mean that ammonium polyphosphate solutions (i.e. 10-34-0 and 11-37-0) aren’t available so DAP, MAP or triple superphosphate will have to be a substitute. 

Give yourself options and discuss them with your retailers. Remember, variety selection and a sound fertility program are the foundation for building yield. Yes, fertilizer prices are high, but mining soil reserves this year could result in having to replace them in 2023. Fertilizer prices are not likely to drop much in current outlooks, and cotton prices in 2022 are still profitable. This may not be the case in 2023. whframe@vt.edu

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