Producers Optimistic About Harvest

Mike Milam

The remnants of Hurricane Isaac brought some welcome rainfall to southeast Missouri. While this drops our area out of the worst drought category, we are still listed as extreme. The good news is that we are projected to have above-normal temperatures and less rainfall during harvest season. Harvest has begun, and many fields have been defoliated. Producers are ready to finish this season. The higher temperatures should facilitate the defoliation process.

According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Sept. 9, we are 55 percent open bolls, which is five days ahead of last year and three days ahead of normal. Cotton condition was 10 percent very poor, 30 percent poor, 40 percent fair, 18 percent good and two percent excellent. Not as well as we had hoped, but we had some pretty brutal conditions this year.

We have had high units, but the upper-end temperatures probably did more harm than good. Irrigation made the difference this season between success and failure.

We had better planting conditions this season except some planting was delayed because of too little soil moisture for germination. For a while, it seemed that it was too dry for our resistant pigweed crop, but the little moisture we received really helped weeds to get a good start.

Some producers went forward in reducing the seed bank; others lost last year’s gains. Producers will have the winter to search for strategies for next season.

David Wright

Harvest season in the Southeast is hectic with both peanuts and cotton getting ready at about the same time. Peanuts are normally harvested first since the vines can deteriorate if not kept sprayed with a fungicide. Therefore, some of the mid-season cotton varieties may be open and ready for picking at the same time peanut harvest is underway. Many producers have made a point of being able to harvest both crops at the same time to preserve yield and quality of both crops.

After all of the work to produce the crop, harvest is critical since hurricanes and tropical storms can damage a cotton crop that has been defoliated or make soil conditions too wet for harvest equipment to stand up.

If there is a delay in harvest early in the season, it can prolong getting the crop out since days get shorter, and soils do not dry out as fast. Having equipment tuned up and ready to go when the crop matures leads to less stress and a quicker harvest.

John Kruse

We are in the heart of the cotton harvest in Louisiana, with a great deal of defoliation and picking activity underway. Hurricane Isaac gave everyone a good scare, and our estimates are that overall it probably caused a seven-to-eight percent crop loss. Considering the damage potential of hurricanes as they pass through our state, we feel fortunate. There is no doubt some producers were much more affected than others, particularly those in the southern part of Louisiana, such as Pointe Coupee Parish.

However, this storm had distinct bands of wind and rain, so one parish had much more crop damage than a neighboring parish. Most producers waited until after the storm to apply their first application of defoliant, so it seems the entire harvest season will be more synchronized than is typical. The weather since the storm has been cooperative for the most part, although afternoon thunderstorms are still popping up in scattered locations, causing delays.

Despite our challenges this year, most cotton producers are optimistic about their yield potential and expect to have a very respectable yield, although it will likely not be a record. Looking back over the season, we had a good planting season with adequate soil moisture but then had to battle intense thrips pressure for awhile.

Plant bug pressure was lighter than normal, but spider mites and aphids kept the applicators pretty busy. Palmer amaranth appeared to be causing trouble on a more widespread basis, but most agree the battle is not lost.

We had an outbreak of Alternaria leaf spot in the central part of the state that was quite severe, and more than a few producers experimented with fungicide to see if it would make an economic difference.

Many bemoaned the market price for cotton lint compared to some other commodities, but hopefully this will change before next planting season.

Charles Burmester

The cotton crop prospects for Alabama have improved considerably since the severe drought and high temperatures experienced in late June and early July this year. Rainfall in many areas has been normal to above-normal since early to mid-July. Cotton has responded by rapidly adding vegetative and fruiting branches.

Even severely stunted June cotton is now closing the row middles in most fields, and many fields received a late-season growth regulator application.

Some open cotton has been reported, but overall this crop will be late maturing. The lush late season growth can also present some problems such as boll rot and foliar leaf diseases. A recent tour of northern Alabama did indicate some of these problems in fields. Alabama has the potential for a good cotton crop this season, but we will not know for sure until it opens, and we get it picked.

Gaylon Morgan

As of Sept. 17, the vast majority of the South Texas and Blacklands cotton is out of the field. We still have a small percentage of irrigated and later-planted cotton in the Brazos Bottom that will be harvested this week. Cotton yields have been good to very good, both dryland and irrigated, in the Upper Gulf Coast region with some three-plus-bale cotton.

The best way to describe the Rolling Plains is that it’s a below-average crop but with some isolated areas having decent cotton. The irrigation capability between farms and regions and scattered showers all season has created the diverse crop in maturity and yield potential.

Reports from one-to-three bale yield potential for irrigated cotton is common but is dependent on the irrigation capability and the scattered showers this summer. As a whole, the Southern Rolling Plains’ cotton is at about 50 percent open boll, and recent rains will help finish out some of the late-planted irrigated cotton.

It is estimated that the majority of the dryland cotton crop in the Central and Northern Rolling Plains is about one-fourth bale or less, and more than 40 percent will not be harvested. The remaining percentage of dryland cotton will likely be harvested, despite the low yield. However, exact acres of abandoned cotton will be dependent on the crop yield estimates by adjusters that began Sept. 15.

In South Texas, it is time for producers to kill cotton stalks and destroy any weeds that will deplete the soil moisture this fall. Also, producers in the areas with glyphosate-resistant pigweeds should make sure to destroy (using a non-glyphosate herbicide or tillage) any plants remaining after harvest and prevent any additional pigweeds from developing seed this fall.

Darrin Dodds

Cotton harvest began in early September, and early reports indicate that respectable yields are being harvested. Although early planting put us about two-to-three weeks ahead of normal, several factors have contributed to putting us back into our usual harvest window. One of these factors has been the weather, which continues its roller coaster journey through 2012.

Although some damage was reported from Hurricane Isaac, the majority of cotton acres in Mississippi was spared from potential damage as the storm tracked farther west than originally anticipated. In addition to Isaac, we experienced cooler-than-average temperatures for much of August and early September, which slowed maturity of this crop as we approached harvest.

The big question as we put the finishing touches on 2012 is regarding planting intentions for next year. Given commodity prices for grains, the general consensus is that cotton acres will go down in 2013, although it is anyone’s guess as to how far. Regardless of potential changes in acreage, preparing for next year’s crop should be toward the top of your priority list.

Soil preparation, soil and/or nematode sample collection and evaluating variety trial data are but a few of the tasks that will help start the next cropping season on the right foot.

Preparation now is the foundation for success in the future.

Keith Edmisten

As we get into the latter part of the defoliation season, there are several things that people should keep in mind. One is that the cooler weather is less likely to promote regrowth, and therefore higher rates of thidiazuron for regrowth control will not likely be economical. Late-season regrowth is even less likely to be of concern where nitrogen was used judiciously because residual nitrogen should be low due to the amount of rain and heavy boll set.

We usually have a good window of opportunity to defoliate cotton in the first two weeks of October in North Carolina. Producers should take advantage of warm weather during that period to finish up defoliation and boll opening. The weather in North Carolina following mid-October generally does not support additional yield gains and is often too cool for favorable defoliation.

In addition, there is always the possibility of frost after mid-October, which can desiccate leaves and cause unopened bolls to rot. Thankfully, the crop is compact this year, and producers will be less tempted to try to make a top crop into late October as compared to the past two years.

Guy Collins

The week of Sept. 10 brought some much needed sunny and drier weather, allowing widespread harvest to begin for early planted cotton in southwest Georgia. As I write this on Sept. 16, yield potential across the board is still quite good. The Sept. 1 yield estimate from USDA-NASS is 934 pounds per acre, and hopefully we will meet this estimate.

However, the cloudy, cool, wet weather resulted in some losses associated with boll rot and hardlock when bolls began to open in the earlier planted crop and also caused some square shed in the later planted crop. Stinkbugs, whiteflies and target spot have also been an issue on into September in some places. Despite the recent challenges, there is potential for high yields in many places. Hopefully, good harvest weather will allow producers to capture this yield.

Critical harvest-aid decisions will also help capture these yields. These decisions are often difficult due to the strong influence of crop condition and the prevailing environment on the performance of any harvest aid. Significant regrowth was observed in September, which greatly influences product selection. Regrowth issues could easily continue if soil moisture and temperatures support it.

Producers should keep in mind the influence of temperatures and crop condition on product performance as well as using appropriate application volume. The results from the 2010 and 2011 UGA Cotton Defoliant Evaluation Program (found at is a good resource for these decisions, as well as consulting your local county agent.

Randy Boman

The 2012 crop year has been “quite a ride” for Oklahoma cotton producers. 2012 has been “better than 2011” with only 57 days of high temperatures of 100 degrees or greater through Sept. 15 at Altus. One year ago, we had reached an epic 99 days of those temperatures. According to the NASS September crop report, planted acres for 2012 are at 305,000 with projected harvested acreage at 175,000. Bale production was also estimated at 170,000, with just under a bale- per-acre yield from these acres. Although we had a good-to- excellent start, June, July, August and the first two weeks of September cotton heat units were at 13, 13, 9 and 9 percent above normal, respectively.

The oppressive mid-season heat and lack of rainfall hurt a lot of cotton. Much of the dryland crop essentially melted down – as well as considerable marginally irrigated acres. As of this writing, we are optimistic that good-to-excellent yields will be obtained from the better irrigated cotton.

A big followup concern from the cotton perspective is grain prices relative to cotton, plus the two back-to-back years of grief meted out on summer crops in the region. Ginning infrastructure and input providers have taken a big hit. We will likely see a lot of tough economic decisions made, and assuming timely arrival of fall rain events, a shift of a lot of cotton acres to wheat. Only time will tell.

Bob Hutmacher

The wrapup of the 2012 growing season will likely bring some very good yields in many fields. Several fields have late-season losses associated mostly with water stress and our high temperatures experienced in August. In quite a few locations, plant evaluations done in September final plant mapping have provided evidence that in other fields water stress likely played a significant role in the level of square and boll loss associated with August high temperatures.

In general, pest pressure was lighter than typical, and that helped with a lot more even fruit distribution within most plants. This should set us up for an easier-than-usual defoliation as long as good weather conditions hold and as long as producers take care to avoid too-high application rates with prevailing warm temperatures.

In a few areas, late-season aphids and silverleaf whiteflies showed up, requiring some vigilance in pest control right up until most leaves are desiccated by harvest-aid applications. At this time, just prior to harvest in many SJV fields, it is always a good idea to take a last look at weak areas of fields, particularly if poor growth resulted in low yields.

Identify if some management practices can be changed during winter or field prep to improve growing conditions, whether it be addressing fertility or salinity issues, water penetration problems or water availability.

In these times, it might be more cost-effective to sideline the worst-performing areas where you didn’t see good yield performance even this year (for later attention), and concentrate on where your additional inputs, deep tillage efforts or other time and money spent will do the most good.

Before you put away field notes on problem areas of fields for the year, you might also make sure problem weed species and weedy areas are documented to improve future weed management activities.

As expenses for nearly everything keep going up, it might help if you took a little time to identify specific field areas where targeted, more intensive weed control efforts could pay off.

Mark Kelley

The cotton harvest season has arrived in the Texas High Plains. The first bale of the season rolled off the scales on Aug. 27 at the Ocho Gin in Gaines County. However, the majority of the High Plains cotton crop remains in the field, and harvest will not be in full swing until early to mid-October. Recent rains and cooler temperatures have slowed the maturation of bolls in the upper portion of the plants for those crops under high irrigation capacity and for later planted crops.

However, the rains also permitted some producers who were “nursing“ the crop through the boll fill stage to terminate irrigation. For the producers who discontinued irrigation earlier, and for those with decent dryland cotton crops, harvest-aid decisions have been made and, in some cases, carried out. In the High Plains, harvest aids are applied most often in two applications. The first application consists of a boll opener/defoliant tankmix followed by a termination application in seven-to-10 days to desiccate any remaining leaves on the plant.

In the case of low-yielding dryland crops, producers may opt to apply a single high-rate application of desiccant to reduce input costs or wait until a killing freeze. Cotton lint quality this season will be a mixed bag with a majority of the crop producing good-to-excellent quality in terms of length, strength and micronaire. However, some of the later planted and longer season irrigated crops will depend on temperatures in the coming weeks to remain in the upper 80s to low 90s to finish out bolls located in the top of the plants.

Randy Norton

With harvest beginning in earnest across Arizona, I am optimistic about this year’s crop. Limited heat stress during this summer, with the exception of the first two weeks of August, has resulted in a cotton-friendly summer. While a lot has gone into preparing this crop for excellent yield and fiber quality, let’s not forget to make every effort to preserve that through the harvesting process.

Contamination in cotton from foreign sources such as plastic grocery bags, torn module tarps, etc., is a perennial problem. Make every effort to avoid any of these sources of potential con-tamination. It is also important to keep your cotton harvester well maintained and adjusted properly to reduce downtime and to ensure the highest harvest efficiency.

Harvest time is also the opportunity to collect important data with respect to yield. With cotton yield monitors becoming more common, we have the opportunity to collect some critical information that can feed into management decisions for the upcoming year.

Technology, including variable-rate controllers, allow for site-specific management of cultural inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides and plant growth regulators. Calibration of yield monitor equipment is important to ensure that data collected by the unit accurately reflects what is occurring in the field. The University of Arizona has the resources available to help calibrate yield-monitoring systems and can provide those services at no charge to you as a producer. The Arizona Cotton Growers Association, along with Cotton Incorporated, has provided funding to help assist in these projects. Contact your local county Extension agent if you are interested in these services.



Related Articles

Quick Links

E-News Sign-up

Connect With Cotton Farming