Early Harvest Reports Positive Across Belt

Mike Milam

According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Oct. 14, 47 percent of the cotton has been harvested. This is one day behind last year and two days behind normal. Cotton condition was 10 percent very poor, 24 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 29 percent good, and two percent excellent. Yield has varied so much between the dryland and irrigated cotton. However, I have had reports of better-than-expected dryland yields.

Hurricane Isaac probably did more good than bad. Rainfall has been sporadic, but it has delayed harvest in many fields. Much of our prime cotton-growing area is still rated as extreme, according to the Drought Monitor.

We have had respectable heat units, and overall we have had a good harvest season. Defoliation is continuing, but the cooler fall temperatures have also slowed down the boll opening in late-planted cotton. The cooler temperatures have created a more comfortable harvest season. This weekend, as I drove around looking at harvest progress, I noted that there were more modules than I expected to see. Maybe that’s an indication of hope for better yields.

It will be interesting to see how much cotton will be planted next year in our area. I expect to see more corn and soybeans. It’s hard to compete with the higher prices. We will still have challenges with Palmer pigweed next year. Some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done.

David Wright

The 2012 growing season was a mixed bag for Florida cotton producers. Some areas had good rain the entire season, some too much and some not enough. Cotton harvest is just getting in high gear at this time since many areas were dry at planting, and planting was delayed into May and early June. Yields were good from those fields already harvested but are not exceptional as many fields were in 2011.

Some of this is due to more hardlocked bolls, and a few fields had plant bugs that were not timely addressed, resulting in missed bolls. Several new varieties were planted this year, and producers will have a chance to see how they performed in a year with better-than-average conditions. With current prices, producers need varieties that produce high yields to make cotton a viable crop to rotate with corn and other commodities.

John Kruse

The cotton harvest has finished in Louisiana for all practical purposes, and it appears we had a good year. Certain areas of the state, such as the northwest corner (on Red River soils) and northeast corner (on Mississippi River soils) did well overall, but other areas had some reductions in yield potential from issues ranging from potash deficiency/leaf spot, irrigation troubles, thrips and plant bug damage and frequent storms during the picking season.

Many fields that used to have modules of cotton on the turnrow now have round bales of cotton, and the transition has been slow but steady over the past two years. The number of acres planted to cotton in Louisiana next year is expected to be down again unless there is a price rally over the winter.

LSU AgCenter weed scientists strongly suspect that Louisiana has glyphosate-resistant Italian Ryegrass and are working to confirm it. Additionally, henbit is becoming an increasingly aggressive weed, although it is not suspected at this time to be glyphosate resistant. Louisiana has recently experienced mild winters, allowing cool season weeds to grow more rapidly and for longer periods of time. These weeds make spring planting more difficult by interfering with seed-to-soil contact, particularly in a stale seedbed tillage system.

A few weeds – such as swinecress – may produce alleleopathic effects on corn seed or other spring-planted crops. Keeping a field weed free all winter does expose more soil to off-season rainfall that can contribute to erosion. This is one reason that it is so critical to leave crop residues on the soil surface, so that the residue can intercept the rainfall and break the energy that it has to erode the soil.

For an effective fall/winter herbicide program, contact your county Extension agent, and be sure to discuss what crop you plan to plant in the spring to avoid plant-back restrictions.

Keith Edmisten

We are likely to still be harvesting cotton in November this year with the late crop. Some producers may even still be defoliating. Should we have a frost, remember that cotton tissue must be alive for defoliants to work. This is true for both herbicidal and hormonal type defoliants. If the leaves are dead due to frost or by desiccation from prior defoliation attempts, the defoliants will not work on dead leaves.

Defoliation is dependent on manipulating plant hormone levels either directly by applying hormonal defoliants or indirectly causing plant hormonal changes due to plant injury responses to herbicidal type defoliants.

The crop was late this year for several reasons. First, we started with wet and cool weather that delayed planting for many, and then slowed down early season development. We were dry in most cases in June, which further delayed the development of fruiting nodes on the crop. From early bloom on, we had plenty of rain, which allowed the cotton to grow and develop new nodes very well. Due to the dry weather in June, we did not have a lot of fruit load and the development of fruiting nodes and subsequent bolls continued longer than normal. The wet and cloudy weather in September also delayed boll maturation.

While I guess no year is exactly typical, this one year was certainly different than any I can remember. The factors discussed above really stressed maturity more than any year I can remember since 1992.

Darrin Dodds

Cotton harvest in Mississippi should be in the home stretch as November comes calling. The past two years we have had nearly perfect weather for harvest activities and soil preparation. 2012 has been somewhat more challenging as periodic rain showers have slowed harvest. Many producers have been coming in immediately after the pickers run and cutting stalks and performing tillage operations. Given the uncertainty of the weather, performing tillage operations as soon as possible after harvest is a wise move.

Although the weather has been somewhat challenging, yields have been excellent. There was a large amount of concern throughout the growing season with respect to yields; however, this crop is proving once again why you can’t count it out. The statewide average yield is currently estimated at 1,012 pounds per acre which, if it holds true, will be the second highest yield on record. The Mississippi record average yield was 1,024 pounds in 2004.

As I have written before, planning now will help you be successful in the future. Soil sampling, nematode sampling, examining variety trial data and developing a pest management plan are but a few of the tasks that need to be done over the winter. Developing a firm, yet flexible game plan now will help you when next season rolls around.

Randy Boman

The 2012 crop year continues to provide significant challenges to the Oklahoma cotton crop. The early freeze/frost across much of western Oklahoma on Oct. 8 negatively affected later maturing cotton in some areas. However, many fields had already reached adequate maturity due to moisture stress and the hot August and September temperatures. Some areas encountered only “cosmetic” damage, while others lost some of the top crop producers were nurturing toward harvest.

This resulted in some difficult harvest-aid decisions. Harvesting is progressing in many areas. Early harvesting results indicate a range from poor-to-fair-to-good yields in surviving irrigated fields. Cotton quality based on classing of the Oklahoma crop at Abilene, Texas, is a mixed bag. More than 50 percent of the early crop is color grades 11, 21 or 31, with a considerable amount with light spot color grades. Leaf grades have been 50 percent 1, 2 or 3, with an additional 30 percent leaf grade 4.

Uniformity is averaging about 80 percent. The extreme heat and drought conditions experienced in 2012 took their toll on staple. More than 50 percent is staple 35 or longer, with about 50 percent at 34 or shorter.

Strength has averaged more than 30 grams per tex thus far. About 12 percent of the bales classed as of this writing had bark contamination. Recent rainfall events have allowed producers to plant cover crops and winter wheat on failed acres.

Bob Hutmacher

Despite some water limitations and a lot of August/September hot weather in much of the San Joaquin Valley, we have been seeing some very good cotton yields in many of our fields this year. For a change, this year was for many parts of the valley a lower pest pressure, easier-to-manage and higher yield year. As you work through harvest numbers and evaluate performance of the 2012 crop across your fields, trying to make decisions about 2013 cropping plans that might include cotton, it may be even more important than in the past to sort out your production and field selection strategies.

Hopefully many producers still want cotton in the mix, so with that in mind, are you going to target putting cotton into some of your weaker ground where cotton yield potentials might be more moderate, and which might not perform as well with some other crop choices such as vegetables, alfalfa or forage crops? Or, do you plan to put cotton mostly in stronger ground where you have a history of attaining high yields with a higher level of inputs?

While we may have a great winter of rain in the valley and snow in the mountains, the likelihood is that there will continue to be competition for and rising costs for irrigation water, and crops that can take some “stress” or use poorer quality water, like cotton, may have a more solid place in rotations on some of the rougher ground. Of course, an improved price for our consistently high-quality cotton is what is really needed. However, I’ll offer an opinion. In evaluating possible strategies for the SJV, we still should broaden our thinking even more to evaluate production practice changes that could address water and production input costs and limits and changing pest situations associated with cotton no longer being the dominant annual crop in many areas.

For some producers, intense tight management of inputs based on drip irrigation but still with high yield goals is a workable fit, while others are going with reduced input management, shorter-season approaches that might mean lower water needs and reduced time for exposure to late season insect pests.

What cotton varieties, growth habits, plant size, yield targets might work in a more compressed, shorter growing season? What tillage, fertilization and deficit irrigation strategies might assist in reducing multiple production costs?

Mark Kelley

The 2012 harvest season is well underway in the Texas High Plains. As a result of an earlier-than- normal freeze event occurring on Oct. 8 across much of the region, with some locations dropping into the upper 20s for several hours, boll maturation was brought to an abrupt end. The abnormal weather event occurred prior to harvest-aid applications to some area cotton fields.

For those fields that had reached maturity, the freeze aided in defoliation of the crop. However, late-planted fields or fields where irrigation was terminated later in the season, the freezing temperatures resulted in stuck leaves and unopened bolls in the upper portions of cotton plants. Many producers of fields with several unopened bolls are applying paraquat materials in an effort to dry down the plants and force boll opening and leaf desiccation and prepare the crops for stripper harvesting.

From those cotton acres already harvested, recent reports from the USDA-AMS classing offices in Lubbock and Lamesa indicate a total of 128,955 bales classed so far this season. For the 85,591 bales classed at the Lubbock office, color grades were mostly 21, averages for micronaire, length, strength and uniformity were 4.2, 34.3 (32nds of an inch), 29.0 (g/tex) and 79.7 percent, respectively. Leaf grades averaged 3.1, and some bark content was reported.

At Lamesa, 38.4 percent of the 43,364 bales classed were 21 color grades, and 18.5 percent were 31. Micronaire averaged 4.3, length averages were 34.4, strength averaged 29.9 grams per tex and percent uniformity averaged 80.1. Leaf grades at Lamesa averaged 3.15.

Randy Norton

Cotton harvest is well underway in Arizona for 2012, and we have so far seen a mixed bag of results. We will likely end up off our 2011 average high of just over 1,500 pounds of lint per acre, but it also won’t be a disaster. Increased insect pressure and intense heat stress during the first part of August are contributing to lower yields in 2012 compared to 2011.

Even though this year will likely end up near average in terms of lint yield, there is one thing that I think will not soon be forgotten about the cropping season of 2012. The 2012 season marks the year when glyphosate-resistant pigweed was discovered in cotton fields in Arizona. We have watched our colleagues deal with this pest across the Cotton Belt for the past several years and have hoped that it would never enter our state, but it is here. It is not something that we should take lightly either. The existence of glyphosate-resistant weed species is going to demand our attention so that the problem does not spread out of control to the point where weed control costs begin to erode our profit margins.

We can learn much from those who have dealt with this problem in other areas, and we must address the fact that it is here. The attitude that this is “not a problem on my farm” will lead to complacency and will likely result in it becoming a wider spread problem on your farm and across the state.

Gaylon Morgan

The Upper Gulf Coast’s harvest of the last fields was delayed out until October due to several rain events. Fortunately, the yields remained good, but lint quality will likely suffer due to the additional weathering. The Rolling Plains, especially the Southern Rolling Plains, received some significant rainfall this fall. These rains were welcomed but did little to nothing to help the 2012 cotton crop. However, this is a timely rain for the producers in a cotton-wheat rotation. Harvesting of some dryland and limited irrigation areas of the Rolling Plains began in early-to-mid October.

Harvested fields have had below-average yields, while 60 to 75 percent of the dryland cotton was disastered out. Irrigated cotton yields are going to be closely correlated to the level of irrigation capacity available this summer with yields expected to be well below to slightly above average for the Rolling Plains.

Charles Burmester

Cotton harvest is proceeding slowly across many parts of Alabama. Late maturing cotton, cool temperatures and rainy cloudy weather have all contributed to a slow harvest through the middle of October. Defoliation and boll opening have been slower than normal due to these conditions. The good news is that yields appear to be approaching 700 to 1,000 pounds in many dryland fields.

If we can get the final bolls open and the cotton out of the fields, we expect a very good cotton crop. Many of these cotton fields will be planted to wheat this fall, so good weather is critical during the next few weeks.

Tom Barber

The Arkansas cotton harvest has been finalized, and for many producers the results are in. The 2012 season, like many others, provided numerous challenges – the most memorable being the drought. As agronomists and Extension specialists, we oftentimes talk about averages for one situation or another. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen many “average” years in regard to growing conditions or pest issues. The last five years have represented more extremes than they have averages, at least in the Mid-South.

For this reason, spreading risk in regard to variety selection is key to remaining profitable in the cotton business. Now that harvest is wrapping up, I am hearing the good and bad on variety performance, and it seems there is more bad than good. I still do not believe we have a cotton variety that will perform consistently across a range of environmental and pest stresses.

DP 0912 B2RF and ST 5458 B2RF have been planted on the most Arkansas acres over the last three to four years, but even they are not consistent in some situations. Spreading the risk by planting a minimum of five to seven varieties across a farm seems to be the best answer right now.

On a positive note, there was some success in 2012 with new Liberty Link and GlyTol Liberty Link varieties in relation to yield and management of glyphosate-resistant pigweed.

John Idowu

Farmers in New Mexico are looking at this cotton season as an average one. Last year was very tough due to lack of water and extreme temperatures that were experienced in many areas of the state. However, this year, the water situation has improved, although the drought condition still persists. For example, in Dona Ana County, which is a major cotton production county, irrigation water allotment last year was four inches.

This year, farmers received up to 10 inches of water, which is a great help. However, this is still far short of 36 inches that should be available to producers in non-drought years. Underground water pumping costs have decreased this season, and this has helped some farmers.

Pima cotton appears to have more boll retention this year relative to upland varieties. Heat and drought still caused a lot of fruit drop in the upland varieties, preventing a possible above-average performance. Insect and disease pressure were very light. The crop generally looks good and barring any last minute challenges, yields should be consistent with the state average.

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