Cotton has made up a lot of ground during the last couple of weeks in northern Alabama. Several fields had blooms the first week of July, and younger cotton fields are growing rapidly. I am seeing more sulfur deficiency symptoms on cotton this year than in years past. This may be due to the heavy rainfall in some areas and poor cotton rooting early in the season. We definitely need to pay more attention to sulfur fertilization on cotton in Alabama. Late emerging glyphosate-resistant horseweed is also a problem in several cotton fields I visited last week. These fields had pre-plant and pre-emergence herbicides applied, but new horseweed plants are continuing to emerge. Many of these farms will be using hooded sprayers to control these troublesome weeds.
Mother Nature has certainly kept this season interesting. We have some April-planted cotton, but most of our crop was planted in early May. The crop has experienced many challenges from low temperatures after planting to extended periods of wet feet for some. But for what it has been through, it doesn’t look too bad, and it continues to look better as the season progresses. Cotton has a tremendous capacity to compensate and still has the potential to deliver the yield goals we have for this crop. We have yet to experience above 100-degree temperatures through mid-July. My main concern at this time is that we could have an early fall. With a crop that is slightly behind schedule and a potential for an early end, it is critical that producers monitor nodes above white flower to determine cutout to best manage crop termination. Pushing the crop and chasing bolls that have little impact on lint yield and profitability could cut into yield and quality potential. Contact your local county Extension agent for details on crop termination guidelines.
A majority of the crop is heading into peak bloom while we are beginning to experience the effects of a fairly active monsoon season. During this weather pattern, temperatures tend to stay warmer in the overnight hours, and the ability of the plant to cool itself is greatly diminished. This unique set of conditions is where we can begin to see heat stress affect the development and retention of fruit on the plant. It is important to monitor this potential fruit shed phenomenon as it may lead to reduced fruit load and increased vegetative growth. Plant growth regulator applications become critical under this scenario to help arrest out of control vegetative growth. Heat stress levels can be tracked in real time at several of the University of Arizona’s AZMET weather stations. This data can be found at http://cals.arizona.edu/azmet/cotton.htm#HEATSTRESS. For more information, go to cals.arizona.edu.crops.
The early wet weather resulted in delayed planting in many areas of Florida, and much of the cotton began blooming in late July and early August. The recent heat wave with temperatures near 100 degrees for several weeks in July slowed cotton growth and boll set. There is still plenty of time for most of our varieties to make a good yield if we are able to get timely rains and more moderate temperatures. Many of the management decisions have been made to this point with fertilizer inputs being finished as well as most layby herbicides. Some producers will want to apply fungicides and keep an eye on insects where they have irrigation and rank growth. Overall, the 2014 season still has a chance to finish well but may not be as high yielding as the past two seasons when timely rains made for near perfect seasons.
As I write this on July 10, most of the Georgia cotton crop is in relatively good shape. As a result of Georgia’s wide planting window (late April to June 15), current growth is anywhere from four to five leaves to nearly mid-bloom. Some replants were necessary in the early part of the planting window due to heavy packing rains. However, moderate rains were fairly prevalent through mid-June in most places, which gave the remainder of this crop a good start and allowed producers to catch up. Therefore, most of our crop is not very far behind at all, compared to what we originally expected. Dry, hot weather prevailed during the latter half of June and on into early/mid July. Earlier planted cotton, which was naturally larger and developing a boll load during this spell, appeared stressed in many areas, with some potentially reaching cutout a little prematurely.
The Louisiana cotton crop continues to look very promising. This year’s crop has been aided by some timely rains throughout the first half of the season. Cotton fields started to bloom during the third week of June. Nodes above white flower counts were between nine and ten, which indicate growing conditions were excellent during the first 60 days of growth. Fruit retention was around 85 to 90 percent going into first bloom. Currently, mepiquat chloride applications are being applied to manage height control. As of July 15, the earlier planted cotton fields have completed their third week of bloom and are between six to eight nodes above white flower. We should start seeing some open bolls around Aug. 1. Overall, pressure from insect pests has been light through the first part of July. In conclusion, emphasis will be focused on controlling plant bugs by producers and consultants for the remainder of the season. Timely rains during the latter part of July will be needed to equal last year’s record yielding crop.
Although it is difficult to believe, by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, we will be on our way toward making final decisions on this year’s crop. Given the lateness of this crop, irrigation and pest management will likely continue for most of the month, and harvest-aid applications will take place in September for the most part. A few blooms were found during the latter part of June, but the bulk of our cotton did not begin blooming until the week after July 4. Tarnished plant bugs have been a problem once again this year as previously mentioned, and applications to control these troublesome pests will likely continue throughout August. The 2014 cotton crop in Mississippi is beginning to make the turn, and many fields look good. While we have had our fair share of issues up to this point, we have a respectable crop in the field. If 2013 taught us anything, it was to never give up on a cotton crop. We do not appear to have the state record crop of last year; however, we are a far cry from the worst crop we have seen in recent memory.
Our overall crop looks good. According to the Crop Progress and Condition Report released on July 7, 93 percent of our cotton is in the fair to good categories. There have been reports of squares aborting following heavy rains and cloudy conditions. However, most of our cotton is holding squares very well. From May 1 through June 6, our DD-60s are looking good. At Portageville, there have been 953 heat units. For comparison purposes, we are ahead of the 726 heat units accumulated by July 15 in 2008. Is this important? I really don’t know, but Missouri had a record yield in 2008 with 1,106 pounds per harvested acre. I was not surprised that the Missouri acreage dropped by 5,000 acres from last year. With our rainfall patterns, most producers were fortunate to get most of their crops planted. But if you look at our acreage last year, we had 255,000 acres planted but only 246,000 acres harvested. The loss of this many acres is very unusual for Missouri. I would say that our crop is about two weeks late at this point of the season. Blooms are being observed. Our last effective bloom date is about Aug. 15, so we should have five to six weeks of blooms before that date. This should be fine since most of our cotton bolls are set earlier in the season. If we can avoid a prolonged cloudy and rainy period in July and August, we should be in good shape.
August is a time to be monitoring for stink bug levels. We recommend utilizing the dynamic thresholds for triggering potential stink bug applications. The thresholds change depending on the week of bloom. This dynamic threshold takes into account the ability of the plant to compensate and the proportion of the bolls that are safe from stink bug damage, which increases during the bloom period. August is also a good time to get an idea of the highest node on the plant that will likely develop harvestable bolls. A good rule of thumb is that a square should be on the plant by the first of August and a bloom by the end of the third week of August to have a reasonable chance of producing a harvestable boll. Knowing where this occurs for a given field may help you in making those difficult defoliation timing decisions later on.
The cotton crop in western Oklahoma is progressing nicely. According to NASS, our planted acreage was about 240,000, which is an average size crop for the state. Overall, we have had reasonable rainfall in many areas but are still struggling with lack of runoff for reservoirs. A lot of cotton was planted leading up to the Memorial Day weekend during which substantial rainfall painted a large area. After this rainfall, many fields were planted. Due to this, we have quite a large acreage that will be blooming later in July than perhaps what some would like to see. However, the good news is that we have reasonable crop potential at this time. Early insect pressure was generally light, and producers stayed on top of fleahopper issues. Weeds have been a challenge in some areas in spite of considerable residual herbicide applications. If we can continue to obtain good rainfall and manage to effectively beat back our weed challenges, we will have good crop prospects in 2014.
A record-setting wet June, coupled with moderate daytime temperatures and a few cool nights early in the season, seem to have held development back in many areas of West Tennessee. These rains have kept a few producers out of the field and in some situations prevented timely applications of post-emergence herbicides. As of the second week in July, I have only seen a handful of fields with scattered blooms. Most fields appear to be seven to 10 days behind. Still, a great deal of growth has occurred in the first two weeks of July, and most producers dodged rains and timed herbicide applications well. Many fields look very strong with cotton beginning to lap the middles. Plant bug pressure has been increasing, but square retention has generally been reported as high. Given the moderate forecasted temperatures and the late nature of this crop, producers should place a particular emphasis on earliness this year. This includes maintaining a very high square retention and protecting the low first- and second-position fruiting bodies. These bolls are very valuable in a year like this one, as we may not have enough growing degree days to make a late-set top crop.
At the time of this writing, thunderstorms are developing and moving south across the region. This hopefully will provide the needed moisture to keep the dryland cotton in the area going and provide another break for the irrigation systems. At this time, we are still developmentally delayed with the best cotton at or near first bloom and the worst, at least two weeks from bloom. Producers who wish to sidedress or fertigate additional nitrogen should have it completed by first bloom in order to take full advantage of the fertilizer. Also, where moisture and nitrogen are plentiful, plant growth regulators (PGRs) may be warranted. This will also depend on variety growth characteristics. Where “growthy” varieties are planted, low-rate multiple applications of PGRs are effective in controlling growth. With other varieties, producers should monitor the crop regularly to determine the need for a PGR.
As of July 14, cotton in the Rio Grande Valley is considered fair to good, and many people feel the crops looks good at first glance, but an in-depth inspection provides a less favorable outlook. This is partially due to poor fruit set early in the season, but the plants could make up the difference with a good top crop. This alone will present some late-season management challenges with insect management and defoliation. The first defoliation applications typically are applied near the end of July in the RGV, but most cotton fields are behind 10 to 14 days. Cotton in the Coastal Bend is quite variable due to the sporadic rainfall within the region over the past month. The Blacklands has virtually two crops, depending on when the crop emerged. Significant efforts with cultivation, hooded herbicide application or hand hoeing should be implemented to minimize seed production by glyphosate-resistant weeds.