PLANTING PROJECTIONS MAY VARY
The NCC Planting Intentions Survey shows less than a one percent increase in acreage for Missouri. Based on past reports, this may or may not happen with a lot depending on the weather. In the past, I have noticed that the Missouri intentions are usually overestimated.
A lot of this depends on other crops, but weather is usually a factor in Missouri. Some years it is too dry to finish planting; other years it is due to being too wet. So, we will need to wait and see.
I am sure that we will have challenges again this year. With our weather conditions and shorter growing season, weeds or insects, Missouri producers have to be ready for anything. With favorable weather we have a lot of yield potential with our alluvial soils and abundance of groundwater. We have been blessed with natural resources, and the cost of water is less than in many parts of the Cotton Belt.
At this time of year, we have plenty of soil moisture. We have had freezing rain, sleet, snow and a winter mix. It will be a while before farmers can even think of field preparation. At least the rains and the warmer weather this next week should melt the remaining frozen snow.
With a shorter growing period, we don’t have as much of an opportunity to recover from adversity, but our producers usually have good yields to show for their labor. Most growers are optimistic about this growing season.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT VARIETY
Many management decisions impact final cotton yields, but there is probably no decision as important as choosing the varieties to grow on your farm. Most cotton variety trials will have 200 to 300 pounds in lint differences between the best varieties and the lower yielding ones. Management decisions such as planting date and nitrogen rate may also have an impact on the choice of herbicides. However, good management usually requires a small amount of tweaking each year and not a wholesale change in the way cotton is grown.
I think most producers would like to have more yield and decide to make minor changes in fertility, planting date or irrigation that can help. One of the areas that new producers get hurt with is applying too much nitrogen on the crop. Vegetative growth of cotton does increase with higher nitrogen rates, but this does not translate into higher yields after a certain point. Many studies across the Belt show that nitrogen levels in the soil plus what is applied should not exceed 100 pounds per acre by much or yields will be decreased.
As nitrogen rates pass 150 pounds per acre, yields may often be as low as no nitrogen being applied. Where those high rates are being applied, split fields to see if lower rates produce higher yields with less vegetative growth and less cost.
MAKE SMART PREPLANT DECISIONS
Cotton planting is just around the corner in Louisiana and now is a good time to review a few key practices to help everyone get off to a great start in 2014. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar. If a field is planted too early, your cotton crop may suffer a stand loss and cold temperature stress, which reduces yield potential.
Germination can begin when mean daily temperature is 60 degrees at seeding depths, but growth will be slow at these temperatures. A soil temperature of 65 degrees at a depth of four inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast following planting is best. Also, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be above 50 degrees for the following five days. During the critical germination period, soil temperatures below 50 degrees can cause chilling injury to germinating cotton.
Emergence will generally occur after accumulation of 50 to 80 DD60s or heat units after planting. Planting should be delayed if the five-day forecast predicts the accumulation of fewer than 25 heat units after planting. The minimum plant population in the final plant stand should be no fewer than two healthy plants per foot.
Creating a pest-free seedbed is critical to avoid problems from cutworms and spider mites. Pre-plant, burndown herbicide applications should be made at least four weeks prior to planting to ensure that no green vegetation is in the field for pests to survive. It is equally important to eliminate weedy host plants on field borders to reduce insect pest problems later on that might move into adjacent cotton fields.
OPTIMISM FOR 2014 COTTON ACRES
As I write this on Feb. 14, Georgia’s cotton acreage will likely remain stable or slightly increase in 2014. Based on the high attendance at our winter meetings, there is substantial optimism for cotton in south Georgia as we move into the 2014 season. Many producers in this area are suggesting that their cotton acreage will remain stable, and some are actually indicating that they will slightly increase cotton acreage.
Final decisions will be made as more farmers learn the mechanics of the new Farm Bill. A lot can happen between now and planting time. However, the outlook for cotton remains positive.
Much of Georgia’s Cotton Belt was blessed with significant rains all throughout 2013 and again in early to mid-February. Therefore, soil moisture is sufficient at this time. Hopefully, this will continue into planting to give our producers a good start. Many producers have made their variety decisions by this point, but it is still important to consider the most yield-limiting factor in some fields, as some of these factors may influence which variety to plant. Although water is the most common yield-limiting factor (in which variety response to episodic stress may influence variety decisions), nematodes have become more of a problem in some fields due to the loss of Temik.
DON’T FORGET WEED CONTROL
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates we are still in the grips of drought in much of western Oklahoma. We will soon be heading into some important make-or-break rainfall months, March through June. After three consecutive years of disastrous drought in the far southwestern corner of the state and the less-than-desirable moisture situation as of this writing, many producers are still wondering what to plant in the summer of 2013.
A considerable number of Oklahoma producers have adopted limited or no-till production techniques. When growing no-till cotton, herbicides are essential to replace tillage as the primary weed management tool in these systems. Confirmation of glyphosate-resistant horseweed in Oklahoma magnifies the importance of tankmixing additional chemistries. According to a recent cotton producer survey, 46 percent of producers indicated that horseweed is the most difficult weed to control on their farm, followed by pigweed at 31 percent.
Studies conducted in Oklahoma have shown that effective control of horseweed can be achieved by including dicamba or 2,4-D with glyphosate to obtain good weed control, especially with some species. It cannot be overstated that weed size at application is critical for success. Research has shown that excellent horseweed control was observed when applications have been made at the rosette stage (flat or prostrate, prior to bolting or vertical growth). It is important to take note of the plant-back restrictions required for both dicamba and 2,4-D.
Following a dicamba application of up to 0.25 pounds per acre of active ingredient, planting cannot occur until 21 days after a minimum accumulation of one inch of rainfall or overhead irrigation. In addition, dicamba is not recommended for preplant use in areas that receive less than 25 inches of annual rainfall. For 2,4-D, Oklahoma studies have shown that planting may occur 30 days after application of up to one pound per acre of active ingredient without concerns of crop injury or yield reduction. As always, producers should read and follow label directions.
TIMELY RAINS STILL NEEDED
As of Feb. 17, there continues to be optimism by many cotton producers for 2014, and acres are still expected to have a double digit increase. However, the previous 30-plus days have provided less than 25 to 50 percent of normal precipitation for virtually the entire state of Texas. Most of South and East Texas have good subsoil moisture, but some rain over the next few months would provide sufficient moisture for germination.
The Rolling Plains still has a couple of months to accumulate some moisture, but northern Rolling Plains rains are extremely dry while the southern Rolling Plains is in better condition. The earliest planting began in the Rio Grande Valley in mid-February, and most planting will be in full swing by the end of February. As planting gets underway, we need to remember the cool spring of 2013 that led to a lot of replanted cotton because 2013 was on the heels of several warm springs. Soil temperatures need to be over 60 degrees at four inches, and there needs to be a favorable five-day weather forecast of high temperatures exceeding 75 degrees. Seed quality should also be considered because each seed lot and variety can be quite different. Seed with a high cool/warm vigor rating should be planted first before moving to the seed with the lower cool/warm vigor rating.
The seed companies or distributor can provide the producers with the cool/warm vigor rating, but the producer will have to request the information. Although I seem to mention this nearly every issue, I want to continue to emphasize the importance of rotating herbicide modes-of-action, including the use of ppi, preemergents and soil-residual herbicides.
IT’S TIME FOR THE TRANSITION
March often serves as a transitional month for cotton production in Mississippi. Burndown applications will continue to be applied during March as weather conditions during the first few weeks of February have made it challenging to get out these applications. A good deal of land preparation has been completed although some land preparation will also occur this spring. Corn and soybean planting will keep producers busy between now and cotton planting time; however, we tend to get into hurry up and wait mode as we approach cotton planting season.
As planting time approaches, it is essential to take some time and give equipment a thorough examination. A planter is one of the most vital pieces of equipment on a farm and should be treated accordingly. Spending more than $100 per acre to plant cotton but doing so with equipment that is not properly maintained is a dangerous proposition.
As everyone knows, cotton is finicky when it comes to seeding depth, seed-to-soil contact, soil moisture and other factors that can occur during and after the planting process. A properly maintained and tuned planter will take some of the stress out of an already stressful time of the year.
EARLY VERSUS LATE-MATURING VARIETIES
In a lot of years we don’t really see much difference between the performance of our early versus late-maturing varieties. Therefore, I think many of us have been lulled into not paying a lot of attention to the maturity of individual varieties. That was not true this year. If you look at the variety tests, you will notice that early varieties dominate the top-yielding positions. I was amazed when I calculated DD60s for this year that we accumulated an average number of heat units. The excessive rain and associated cloudy weather really delayed maturity.
Many producers were happy with the performance of later maturing varieties this year, while some were not quite able to mature them. I don’t think we should overreact by abandoning our later varieties based on one year’s experience.
These varieties have performed very well for us in the past. For the most part, they performed well this year if planted during the first half of our planting window. I think the important take-home message is that we need to go with early varieties if we are planting past the middle of May.
LACK OF TIMELY RAINS STILL SERIOUS
In the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions, some producers are optimistic of the approaching 2014 cotton-growing season. While some have seen decent amounts of winter precipitation that has been beneficial for land preparation and soil moisture for spring planting, others have seen little help from Mother Nature. In fact, it seems the last snow event was so dry that when the flakes hit the ground they actually sucked what little moisture there was out! (I joke, of course, but it is still quite dry in some areas.)
Long-term weather forecasts are mixed with the general consensus being that we are going to continue to see below-normal precipitation. However, the latest forecast maps from NOAA indicate an equal chance of being above or below normal for most of 2014. In other words, it’s anyone’s guess. Although there is no way to know exactly what the planting season will bring, one thing that is sure is that cotton will be planted, and producers prepare as best they can.
Of the factors that influence final yield, variety selection is among the most important. In order to assist with this decision, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension personnel provide variety performance results from multiple locations and multiple production systems. This information can be accessed on the Lubbock website at http://lubbock.tamu.edu.
As producers in the region strive to minimize the spread of this resistance, it is highly suggested that they continue to use multiple herbicides with different modes of action in the process. Interested parties can find a recent publication outlining a four-step program for managing this problem at the following link:
CAN REMARKABLE YIELDS BE REPEATED?
Getting cotton planted and growing was a problem in much of Alabama last year due to continuous rainfall. A cool fall and an early freeze in northern Alabama also damaged upper bolls and reduced cotton yields. However, there were still areas where cotton yields were outstanding. Looking at the cotton lint yields at the Tennessee Valley Station in northern Alabama, most all cotton varieties were averaging between three and four bales per acre. Even given that these small plots generally produce higher yields than whole fields, these results were unthinkable just a few years ago. By the way, these cotton plots were unirrigated.
What caused these outstanding yields? New cotton varieties and insect control technologies surely deserve some of the credit. Very good in-season rainfall and very low plant bug pressure helped tremendously. Rotations with corn and soybeans also have reduced reniform nematode populations to very low levels in many fields.
This cotton never got stunted by too much by rain, and heavy fruit set kept the plants from producing much rank growth. Growth regulator applications were needed and were very effective where applied. We may not be able to repeat these yields every year, but the results indicate we now have many of the tools needed to get us there more often.
BEWARE OF TARGET LEAF SPOT
Winter production meetings have included discussions on traditional issues like variety selection, soil fertility, weed control and insect management. In southern areas of Alabama, new concerns exist about what the severity of Corynespora “target” leaf spot will be in 2014. Plant pathologists at Auburn University and the Univer-sity of Georgia are working in conjunction with Cotton Incorporated, Georgia Cotton Commission and Alabama Cotton Commission to better define and predict when this disease will hit the crop.
Jenna Platt, an undergraduate in the Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Department at Auburn University, presented 2013 research on the susceptibility of cotton varieties and fungicide management at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.
Included this year in our discussions has been the use and maintenance of precision vacuum planters. While the foundational principles still apply to our production, we are now working with more precise tools that need to be checked and maintained each season.
ECONOMIC INCENTIVE FOR PIMA
A lot of interest has been generated recently by strong ELS prices resulting in many producers considering Pima cotton production for the 2014 cotton season. A relatively low current stocks-to-use ratio, coupled with the water shortage in the major Pima-producing regions of California, is likely to result in strong ELS prices for the foreseeable future.
Average upland cotton yield for Arizona has hovered around the 1,500 pounds of lint per-acre mark. At 75 cents per pound, a gross return of $1,125 per acre can be realized. Average ELS lint yield for Arizona has been around 980 pounds of lint per acre, and at a current price of $1.78 per pound, a gross return of slightly more than $1,700/acre is a potential reality.
So, there is a definite economic incentive to Pima production for the upcoming season. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering ELS production, including the fact that there are currently no commercially available varieties that contain a Bt gene for worm control. This is less of a factor for consideration since the success of the pink bollworm eradication program.
However, fields should still be monitored for lepidopteran pests. The selection of varieties containing herbicide tolerance is much less than the current offering of upland varieties. The only available herbicide technology is glyphosate tolerance in the form of the Roundup Ready Flex product from Monsanto. This technology is available in both Monsanto/Deltapine Pima and also Dow/PhytoGen Pima varieties.
PRODUCERS HOPE FOR BETTER YEAR
The 2013 South Carolina cotton crop was one of the most difficult crops for producers to manage in many years. Record rainfalls occurred throughout the state during most of the cotton-growing season, with 25 to 30 inches of rain occurring during the months of June, July and August alone. Too much rainfall, coupled with increased cloudy weather and reduced heat units, resulted in increased fruit shed and significant difficulties and delays in all management practices (delayed planting, delayed weed control applications, delayed sidedress nitrogen applications, delayed plant growth regulator applications, delayed defoliation and delayed harvest) throughout the season.
These weather problems resulted in a highly variable crop, with parts of fields having short, stunted plants with no yield potential and other parts of fields having tall, rank plants with delayed maturity. Waterlogged soil conditions also caused apparent nutrient deficiencies from too much water (especially nitrogen, potassium and sulfur deficiencies) and/or poor root growth.
According to the latest USDA-NASS January report, South Carolina producers only averaged 680 pounds per acre on 254,000 harvested acres in 2013. This low state average yield was extremely disappointing to our state’s cotton farmers, especially following our state record yield of 955 pounds per acre in 2012. Although yields were down last year, farmers are predicted to plant approximately 248,000 acres in 2014, according to the latest National Cotton Council survey.
As we move into the planting season, it is always important that we learn from the experiences of previous growing seasons. Although there is nothing we can do about the weather, using good production practices and being timely with our management decisions can often be the difference between harvesting a good crop versus being untimely and losing money.
Making proper variety selection decisions is often the first and potentially the most important management decision growers make each growing season. It is up to cotton producers to do their homework to make sure the varieties they are planting on their farms each year are adapted to their area.
DROUGHT WILL AFFECT 2014 PLANTING
The past year saw a reduction in the total acreage of cotton in New Mexico. However, farmers worked hard to get the best out of the season despite the ongoing challenge of limited water availability. Many farmers still spent considerably on pumping irrigation water from deep wells due to reduced water allotment from the irrigation districts. Some producers reported yield increases and generally the average yield per acre went from 1,061 pounds per acre in 2012 to 1,200 pounds in 2013. At the Mesa Gin, upland cotton bales ginned were 19,532, while 7,079 Pima bales were ginned.
It is not yet clear how producers will respond in terms of cotton acreage in 2014. With the ongoing drought still a factor, it is likely that cotton acreage in New Mexico will be similar to what was planted in 2013.