Specialists Speaking

Mike Milam

For all practical purposes, the Missouri cotton crop is harvested. The Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Nov. 11 shows only 89 percent harvested. But I have not seen any cotton in the field in the southern end of Dunklin County. In general, defoliation went well since a lot of our cotton was defoliated under warm conditions. With the late season rains, we did have some fields that had significant regrowth, and some late season bolls were slower to open.

This was a drought year, and we had our normal share of problems. Since we were dry, some planting was delayed. In some fields, there were two to three emergence dates that made management more difficult. Producers were challenged by Palmer pigweed again this year. In some cases, it was one step forward and two steps back. In other fields, producers did a good job of reducing their seed banks.

I have only seen a few fields in which the stalks have not been cut. Wheat has been planted in the middles. Strictly based on observations, cotton acreage will be down significantly next year. It was estimated that we had 330,000 acres of cotton at harvest this year. I expect that we will have 200,000 or less next year. Many fields that have been a traditional cotton monocrop now have wheat planted. So, there will be much more wheat-soybean double crop next year. Corn acreage is also expected to increase again next year.

David Wright

2012 was a good year for a lot of cotton producers with many saying they had their best farm-wide yield ever. However, there is not the enthusiasm for cotton as in 2011 due to lower prices. Producers have done an outstanding job learning to manage Palmer amaranth and keeping the seed bank lower for the following peanut or corn crop.

There are new challenges each year whether it is lower prices, new weed resistance, weather or insects. Several great new cotton varieties have performed well over a wide range of growing conditions.

From an employee of a Land Grant University, which was celebrated this year as being signed into law 150 years ago this July by President Lincoln, it is a pleasure to work with producers on new challenges and see them overcome odds with God’s help and end up with near record-setting yields and quality.

Producers seem to adapt quickly and end up with good crops regardless of the challenge.

John Kruse

Louisiana cotton producers are reviewing the performance of cotton varieties from multiple sources of information, including the LSU AgCenter On-Farm Variety Trials. The on-farm trial program ran 15 trials this year in all the major cotton-growing areas of the state, including the Louisiana Delta, Macon Ridge, Ouachita River Valley and the Red River Valley. Eleven of the 15 trials had overall averages that exceeded two bales per acre, and differences in yields within the trials were substantial.

Trial specifics can be found at www.louisianacrops.com. The other analysis producers are making revolves around how many acres of cotton they will plant in 2013. With current lint prices down significantly from last year and other commodities at elevated prices, it is likely that overall cotton acres will be reduced from the prior year’s level. Nevertheless, loyalty to cotton remains strong in Louisiana, and producers will adapt and find a way to keep cotton in their crop rotation.

Mark Kelley

Cotton harvest in the Texas High Plains is progressing quickly with approximately 85 percent of the crop harvested. If weather conditions continue to be favorable, most producers should be out of the field by Thanksgiving, which is significantly earlier than normal. However, the favorable weather we have experienced during cotton harvest is considered a mixed blessing.

Although it is ideal for producers harvesting cotton, many producers would welcome precipitation for wheat crops that are suffering due to continued drought conditions. Consequently, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agents from most counties in the district are describing soil moisture levels as “short” or “very short.” Regardless of the moisture conditions, cotton harvest continues, and lint yield reports from irrigated acres are mixed.

Some producers are reporting higher than expected yields, while others are reporting lower than expected yields. Lint yields as high as three-plus bales per acre have been reported by producers with high capacity irrigation systems and where timely rainfall events occurred during the growing season. On the other hand, the anticipated number of dryland acres to be harvested continues to decline as more fields are being released by insurance adjusters.

The final number of abandoned dryland acres could reach 1.3 million to 1.4 million acres, or approximately 60 percent of the 2.25 million acres planted. Overall, unofficial production estimates for the Texas High Plains and Panhandle growing regions are around 3.4 million bales this year. As of Nov. 15, a total of 1,447,313 bales were classed at the regional USDA-AMS classing offices. The Lubbock USDA-AMS classing office has classed 1,134,030 bales, and the Lamesa classing office reported 313,283 bales classed.

Of the bales classed at both locations, the predominant color grade continues to be 21, and leaf grades are mostly 2 and 3. Current averages for staple length for Lubbock and Lamesa are 35.2 and 35.4, respectively. Micronaire, strength and uniformity averages reported out of the Lubbock office are 4.17, 30.31 grams/tex and 80.08 percent, respectively. The report from the Lamesa classing office, as compared to Lubbock, indicates micronaire values are averaging slightly lower at 3.96, strength averages are very similar at 30.25 grams/tex, and average uniformity is just below 80 percent at 79.85 percent.

In 2012, we were fortunate to harvest a total of 13 large plot, replicated cotton variety demonstrations, and reports will be generated and made available to producers in the near future. In addition to our reports, Dr. Jane Dever and associates generate excellent reports on variety performance. Both sources of information are made available in hard copy format as well as electronic versions on the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center Lubbock Web site at http://lubbock.tamu.edu and the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences Variety Testing site at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/cotton/index.htm.

Charles Burmester

Cotton harvest is wrapping up quickly as we are approaching Thanksgiving in Alabama. Harvest was later than normal in most areas, but the final cotton yields have been worth the wait. Most areas are reporting dryland cotton yields around the two bale per-acre mark and irrigated yields approaching three bales. These yields should be close to state record cotton yields for Alabama.

It is hard to believe in early July that the northern Alabama cotton crop was about one week away from a drought disaster. We were fortunate that good rainfall and lower temperatures brought the cotton crop back. This was a season of up and down extremes, but it finished well for most Alabama farmers.

John Idowu

Farmers in New Mexico have started with cotton harvest, and the harvest will continue until December. So far, about one third of the cotton has been harvested. The yields are typical of what to expect in an average cotton year. The harvesting conditions have been very good with no rainfall or high winds. Most farmers waiting to harvest are those who may have planted late, with their cotton fields not yet defoliated enough for an optimal harvest.

Fortunately, we have had several dry days with below freezing temperatures at nighttime, which is encouraging a rapid drying and defoliation of the cotton fields. It is hoped that the good condition for harvest will continue to enable farmers to deliver all of their cotton to gins on time.

Gaylon Morgan

As of Nov. 15, all of the cotton in South Texas has been harvested with yields very regionally variable as discussed last month. The cotton classed thus far from Corpus Christi was about average on most fiber quality characteristics. However, about 25 percent of the crop will receive discounts for high micronaire, above 50. In the Southern and Northern Rolling Plains, harvest has progressed quickly because of a late-October freeze, abandoned dryland acres and below-average yields on irrigated cotton.

The irrigated cotton yields were highly variable, depending on scattered summer showers and irrigation capacity but are generally below average in yields for both regions. Probably about 75 percent of the irrigated cotton crop will be harvested and only about 10 to 20 percent of the non-irrigated crop in the Northern Rolling Plains. In the Southern Rolling Plains, less than 50 percent of the dryland cotton will be harvested and nearly all the irrigated cotton acres.

Keith Edmisten

The late crop this year doesn’t give us a lot of time to digest what happened and start planning for next year. The crop was late for several reasons. May was cool, and the crop got off to a late start, and it was cloudier than normal. Then September was cooler than normal with a lot of cloudy weather, and the top crop matured slower than normal. On the bright side, this crop was more difficult to mature because it was a good crop.

We had the moisture to make a good crop, including a top crop that was slow to mature, but in most cases it did mature well and opened nicely. The easiest way I have observed to have an early crop is to have a dry year, so we’re lucky in that regard.

I think there are some lessons we can learn from this year and also some observations that we should be careful not to put too much emphasis on. This year, as discussed above, was a good year to really test the maturity of varieties. In dry years, we often don’t see a lot of difference in the maturities of varieties. What we saw this year in terms of variety maturity are probably good “take home messages” concerning the maturity of varieties.

Guy Collins

As I write this on Nov. 16, harvest in southwest Georgia has progressed fairly well up to this point. As a whole, Georgia cotton is probably 70 percent harvested by now, and perhaps a little more than that in the southwestern counties. Many areas in southwest Georgia encountered a frost during Nov. 7-9, which marked the end of most producers waiting on upper bolls to finish developing.

USDA-NASS (Nov. 1 estimates) has Georgia projected to harvest 1,285,000 acres with a yield of 1,009 pounds/acre, which is a noticeably higher yield than in recent years. This can easily be attributed to the frequent rainfall experienced throughout most of the year. Cloudy and wet weather during the late summer or early fall resulted in some boll rot and hardlock issues for early planted cotton. However, yields remain high on average. Dryland yields are variable as always, but many dryland fields have performed well this year.

Yield data from the UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program and Statewide Variety Testing (OVT) are still coming in, but preliminary data suggests that some new varieties may be very competitive. The results from these two programs will be discussed during the winter county meetings as well as the UGA Cotton Production Workshop at the Georgia Cotton Commission’s Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 30, 2013, in Tifton, Ga.

Darrin Dodds

Cotton is usually not at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the month of December. Deer hunting, college football and Christmas tend to be in our thought process more so than crop production. However, during the winter months take time to reflect upon what went right and what went wrong in 2012 and use this to improve your operation in 2013.

Also take time over the winter months to examine as much variety trial data as possible. Review information from university studies, private industry trials and trials conducted by dealers to help determine the best variety for your particular operation. Choosing the right variety is one of the foundations of successful crop production, and that process should begin now.

I would like to bid farewell to my colleagues in Tennessee and Louisiana as well. Extension specialists Chris Main and John Kruse have been invaluable to me as professional colleagues, but, more importantly, have been great friends over the past several years. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. During this holiday season, keep those in mind who make it possible for us to live in the greatest country in the world. Be safe and we’ll see you in 2013.

Bob Hutmacher

In recent years, many cotton producers in the San Joaquin Valley have been making the choice to focus on growing Acala cotton, or focus on growing Pima cotton, sometimes even planting a lot of their acreage in one or two varieties that they know well. In order to balance some of your risks in growing cotton, however, there still are good reasons to have some diversity in both the types of cotton (Acala, Pima) and choice of varieties that you grow.

For many of those choosing to grow Pima, price differentials in favor of Pima have certainly been involved in driving the trend toward more Pima plantings, but there remain some worthwhile considerations for any producers relatively new to Pima production. A good number of Pima varieties are available, ranging from a few that can be managed to mature at close to Acala timing to some very long-season varieties.

By many observations, Pima cotton typically still requires an effective growing season about one to as many as three weeks longer than many Acalas in most years. A compounding factor is that in areas where race 4 Fusarium is an issue, the varieties currently identified as most resistant to this disease are Pimas. There are, of course, successful strategies of early plantings, delayed irrigations producing water stress, plus PGR programs and sequential harvest-aid use that can help bring in the crop on a better schedule.

The early plantings occasionally carry a risk of weaker stands and more seedling disease losses, so producers seem to still generally avoid the risk of very early plantings. Depending on factors such as soil type, soil fertility, rooting depth and success in setting early season fruit, many Pima producers continue to have experiences at both ends of the growth spectrum: (1) plants that are small-to-moderate in size with moderate yield potential sometimes showing late-season nutrient uptake problems which reduce later fruit set and yield potential, a problem we have called “early decline”; and (2) large, difficult to manage Pima cotton with too-vigorous vegetative growth.

Randy Boman

Drought still has most of western Oklahoma in its grip. The good news for cotton producers is that dry open weather has allowed a fairly rapid harvest of the crop. Producers were able to get winter wheat and cover crops established on the failed cotton acreage thanks to the late September rainfall (2.3 inches). The bad news is that October (0.3) and November (0.4) rainfall at Altus produced a rather scant total of 0.7 inches. Normal rainfall for October (2.7), November (1.5) totals about 4.2 inches. January and February typically deliver about two inches. This has huge implications for our winter crops.

We are looking forward to getting out of the drought, however, with the fizzling of the El Niño in the Pacific, everyone is looking to the skies hoping and praying for badly needed rainfall. Many producers are wrapping up harvest as of this writing. The NASS November crop report for Oklahoma was reduced from 170,000 bales to 150,000 bales. Based on my information, I think this number is still too high, and the final number will likely be somewhere around the 100,000 mark.

Considerable dryland acreage has once again failed. Irrigated yields are essentially a function of how much irrigation capacity was available to the crop and the effectiveness of delivery. Some high-capacity center pivots and drip-irrigated fields have produced up to 3.5 bales/acre; whereas limited furrow irrigated fields have been closer to one bale/acre.

The fiber quality resilience of the new cotton varieties is amazing. As of this writing, the Abilene USDA-AMS Classing Office is indicating that about 60,000 bales have been classed. Color grades are still hanging in there with about 70 percent classing as an 11, 21 or 31 color.

Randy Norton

With the majority of the cotton crop out of the field for 2012, the time comes now to go back and review decisions made for this cropping season. Variety performance, insect control measures, plant growth regulator applications and fertility management decisions, along with many other decisions, can all be reviewed in an effort to determine where efficiencies can be improved.

The rising cost of many of our inputs, and the lower price for cotton will force us to examine each decision critically that we make regarding crop management for the 2013 season. One area that I would like to focus on in this article is our fertility management decisions. Management of the three major nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is critical to producing a profitable crop. Of these three nutrients, nitrogen will likely be the most intensively managed in our desert cropping systems.

Soil testing can help determine the need for additional phosphorus and potassium in the form of supplemental fertilizers. Nitrogen, on the other hand, will likely be needed regardless of soil test levels. Soil test levels can help determine the amount and timing of nitrogen fertilizer, but nearly all of our soils in Arizona will require some supplemental nitrogen.

Publications regarding soil testing techniques and interpretation of results can be found at the University of Arizona Crop Information Web site at cals.arizona.edu/crops. Over the winter months is an excellent time to collect and analyze soil samples and begin to make decisions regarding fertility management for the upcoming season.

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