The northern Alabama cotton crop in late September and early October was one of the best looking cotton crops that I have seen in some time. Cotton pickers were hardly leaving any cotton in the fields. Two weeks of rain and wind has greatly changed the looks of this crop. Some cotton is on the ground, and much is stringing out of the burs. Cotton pickers are again running, and yields are still good in most areas. Some of the later cotton is still opening very slowly as these green bolls still need more drying time. Overall, we predict a good cotton crop for northern Alabama, but we will always wonder what it could have been?
Mother Nature has presented challenges to the cotton producers of Arkansas basically the entire season. An estimated 24,000 acres of cotton were all but destroyed on Oct. 7 by early morning storms containing hail in Craighead and Mississippi counties. The passage of a weather front the following weekend brought additional wind and rain statewide that has reduced a pretty good crop to just an average one for many. As expected, we all are anxious to have this one over and in the books. Regardless of the challenges, as a season comes to an end, plans for next year should be falling in place. Variety evaluation to begin the process of variety selection for next year should be a priority. Evaluating the performance of newer varieties to the standards on your farm and comparing notes with on-farm variety testing programs near you and the official variety trial or OVT conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland will help provide you the information to select the best varieties for your farm. There are many sources of information for new varieties, technologies and products. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service offers an excellent source of unbiased recommendations for crop production. Do your homework wisely and make decisions that best fit your needs or situation to improve your bottom line.
Cotton Root Rot (CRR – Phymatotrichopsis omnivora) is a potentially destructive fungus that can affect cotton plants from early bloom through cutout. Depending on the timing and severity of disease occurrence, final crop yield may be dramatically reduced. Distribution of this disease in Arizona cotton fields is very spatially defined as it occurs in similar areas of a field every year. However, variations in size of the affected area may occur from year to year. Reasons for the variations in timing and extensiveness or severity of the disease from year to year are poorly understood. Recent discovery of the effectiveness of a fungicide in the control of CRR has piqued the interest of researchers and producers alike. Evaluations conducted in Arizona in small plot trials over the recent three years has shown significant reductions in disease incidence with the use of the active ingredient in the product Topguard (flutriafol). The EPA granted a Section 18 emergency exemption for the use of Topguard in Arizona for 2014, and approximately 500 acres were treated commercially across the state with effective results. It is expected that a full label for use in cotton will be available by the end of 2014 for use in the 2015 cotton season. However, a renewal of the Section 18 will be pursued to ensure that it is available for our producers in Arizona for 2015. For more information on general cotton production topics, go to cals.arizona.edu/crops.
As producers finish up harvesting, days are getting shorter, and attention turns to how the year turned out and hunting. There were not record yields as we have seen for the past two to three years, and sporadic rains in certain areas and ample rains in nearby locations resulted in a very non-uniform crop. Early rains leached fertilizer, and late rains delayed harvest. Overall, there are several high-yielding varieties from which producers can choose with different technology for many of the weed problems that we are encountering. Producers are worried about the price, and if cotton will fit into the rotation next year. High yields will be required at current prices to figure in a profit. With several months before the next crops start, producers will have a chance for the price to change and hope that next year is better.
Approximately one-fourth to one-third of Georgia cotton has been harvested as I write this on Oct. 16. Yields have been variable, depending on irrigation capabilities or length/severity of drought stress during the summer. Most of the acreage harvested to date has been the early maturing dryland crop. There have been some higher than expected yields in some fields, and USDA-NASS has forecasted our average yield to be 911 pounds per acre, which is relatively high given the stress this crop has been through this season. At this point in time, as more irrigated fields are defoliated, yields of the later-planted irrigated crop appear to be strong. Regrowth was especially severe during the early fall but seemed to be slightly slowing during mid October. A few rainy and cooler spells slowed harvest progress during late September and early October, and several producers reported multiple applications in order to achieve acceptable defoliation during that time. Declining temperatures may influence product selection and rates of defoliants for the remainder of the crop. Hopefully, good harvest weather will help us achieve the best yields and quality possible.
As we approach the latter part of October, approximately 60 to 70 percent of the cotton acres have been harvested. Harvest conditions have been good, with the exception of one to six inches of rainfall being received throughout the state during the second week of October. Hopefully, we can finish the cotton harvest during the early part of November. Yield estimates remain on the positive side in most portions of the state with the exception of two parishes in the south-central portion of the state where they received heavy amounts of rainfall throughout the season. This year’s crop still has the potential to be the second best on record for Louisiana. According to USDA-AMS figures (as of 10/17/14) out of Rayville, 24 percent of the bales received produced a micronaire value of 5.0 or greater. In 2013, 58.7 percent of the bales produced a micronaire of 5.0 or greater. Length, strength and uniformity values are very comparable to the 2012 and 2013 crops.
Cotton harvest is nearing completion, and most Mississippi producers are very happy with their 2014 crop. The USDA is predicting that Mississippi will produce 1,154 pounds per acre this season. As most know, Mississippi producers set a new yield record in 2013 at 1,203 pounds per acre, which places the 2014 crop in good company. With the exception of one significant storm system, harvest season has progressed relatively smooth. In addition, a large portion of our fields have been worked and are in good shape for next season. One thing to keep an eye on as we head into 2015 is soil fertility. Given that we have produced very good crops for the past several years, it is crucial that you are fertilizing your land properly. If you have been fertilizing for a two-bale crop but have produced a threebale crop the past few years, you are mining your soil of essential nutrients. With crop prices down from previous highs, it is tempting to save money by cutting back on fertilizer. This is a short-term solution that could ultimately come back to haunt you. Fertilizing to replace what was removed through the harvested crop, as well as applying extra to build soil test levels if needed, will be a key component to optimize yields in the future.
According to the Oct. 15 Cotton and Wool outlook, Missouri’s yield is projected at 1,087 pounds per acre. However, this past week, we have had a lot of severe thunderstorms and wind. I have heard reports of cotton being on the ground in a number of fields. In our heavier fields, I expect that water will be standing for awhile after the rains stop. The good news is that we are projected to have a very low probability of rain for the next two weeks. According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report released on Oct. 14, 21 percent of our cotton has been harvested. This compares with the five-year average of 34 percent. So, getting the crop out of the field could be a challenge. Only three percent of our cotton is in the poor range, so with our boll load we still have a lot of yield potential. While our heat units have been lower this year, there are plenty for total production. After the crop is out of the field, producers should map fields for weeds, nutrient and drainage problems. Soil samples should be taken to prepare for next season. Missouri and NRCS cost-share money is available for the drainage issues. Many of the larger ditches have been cleaned out, making it easier to drain fields.
There is certainly no such thing as a normal year in North Carolina, but this year was closer to “normal” than last year. Because of this, I would put more emphasis on variety evaluations from this year than last year. This is especially true for the latermaturing varieties that tended to underperform last year. As you read this, I am sure you have already been considering varieties for next year. If we knew what the weather would be for 2015, we could all pick the perfect variety. Since we do not know the weather for the coming year, utilizing multiple varieties with different maturities helps to spread risk. Earliness is very often emphasized in cotton, but later-maturing varieties do have some advantages. These would include more drought tolerance, generally better fiber quality and spreading the defoliation and harvest period so that less cotton is open at one time and exposed to weathering losses. I would pay particular interest to potassium levels as you soil test this year. Potassium deficiency was the most common nutrient deficiency I saw in 2014. Following two years of rather high rainfall, you may find that potassium has leached below the rooting zone, particularly on deeper sandy soils.
As of this writing, the 2014 Oklahoma growing season is winding down, and harvest is ramping up. The moisture situation is still challenging in the far southwestern corner of the state. Many producers have made harvest-aid applications on higher yielding cotton, and some lower yielding fields have already been harvested. Thanks to cotton heat units at Altus from September through mid- October running about 17 percent above normal, many late fields have gained remarkable maturity. Normally, cotton-maturing weather is over by around Oct. 20, and first freezes in the area begin around the first week in November. The dryland crop will struggle in many places, but a high percentage of acres will be harvested. The irrigated crop will do a lot of the heavy lifting with respect to bale production. We are looking forward to harvesting new releases and standards in our variety performance trials to see what’s in store for the near future. It never ceases to amaze me how far yield and quality have come over the last few years.
Several untimely rains caught many producers between defoliation events or (even worse) immediately prior to picking here in the middle of October. Still, the forecast looks favorable and with a little luck most caught in limbo will be able to pick their crop with little penalty in quality; most all varieties in our testing program held locks through the wind and rain and should pick fine given that they have time to dry/bleach. The additional rainfall, moderate temperatures and longer-thannormal time frame between defoliation and picking have supported regrowth in some areas. Fields which did not receive a regrowth prevention product are easy to pick out from the road and are requiring an additional application to remove the new growth. Initial yield numbers and quality reports from the field are very promising, but these numbers are coming from the earliest planted cotton. Fingers are crossed that these values hold as we move into later maturing fields.
Cotton harvest in the Southern Blacklands is concluding in late October, which is more than a month later than normal. However, yields have been quite impressive in both dryland and irrigated fields in the Upper Gulf Coast, Blacklands and Winter Garden regions with some three-plus bale dryland yields being reported. Harvesting has really just begun in the Northern and Southern Rolling Plains with about 15 to 20 percent defoliated. Dryland yields will be highly variable, as usual, but overall the dryland cotton is expected to be below average due to lack of rainfall or rain too late in the season to help. The irrigated cotton is expected to be quite good across much of the Rolling Plains, except some widespread areas that received some bad hail storms. The 2015 cotton variety results for South and Central Texas will soon be available for producers at cotton.tamu.edu, and producers can begin preparing for the 2015 season. These variety results are a great place for producers to evaluate the performance of cotton varieties in large-plot replicated trials across many locations.View More in our Archives