MISSOURI COTTON HARVEST IS COMPLETE
For all practical purposes, the 2013 cotton has been harvested. There may be a few isolated fields that haven’t been harvested, but these would be on the heavier, wetter soils that are prone to flooding. More importantly, the modules have been taken to the gins. I haven’t seen a module truck on the road for at least three weeks. You can always tell when harvest is in full swing because we have to get out of the way of these trucks.
Harvest was relatively smooth, with only a few weather events to impede progress. It always seems that a few rains will slow progress and keep the farmers from finishing up. It looks like that we had 250,000 acres planted with an estimate of 241,000 harvested acres. I am looking forward to seeing the final yield statistics from USDA since earlier projections were so good. However, these projections were made prior to the July and August rains that took a toll on our crop.
I suspect that acreage will decline again in 2014. Our producers have done a good job of meeting the challenges of production, and I expect them to rise to the occasion again next year.
PRODUCERS LEAN ON THE EXPERTS
Cotton producers had a challenging year in 2013. Early dry weather followed by two months of high rainfall in July and August made management decisions difficult. Many of our producers rely on advice from consultants, county Extension faculty and farm supply agronomists to make many decisions.
There is a good network of people who have experience with fertility, weed and insect control as well as other issues in cotton production. These years of experience help producers consider options when they have to focus on things like marketing and harvesting of corn or wheat while in the middle of growing the cotton crop.
We have been blessed with a good relationship in the ag community with university scientists, ag suppliers and consultants who help producers through new problems such as weed resistance in Palmer amaranth and other yet unknown challenges. We look forward to the new season and hope for higher prices to maintain acres for rotation and for a profitable crop.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2014.
POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR LOUISIANA
Hopefully, cotton acres bottomed out last year in Louisiana and are on the increase in 2014. There is optimism that cotton acres could increase by 25 percent due to lower corn prices and a record-yielding cotton crop in 2013. Average lint yields for Louisiana finished on the north side of 1,300 pounds per acre. Following cotton harvest, abundant rainfall was received in the later part of November, setting us up for ample soil moisture going into the spring planting season.
Variety selection is a key component in the planning process for the upcoming year, and now is an excellent time to review the past year’s results. Review as many public and private company tests in your area before making a variety decision. In 2013, the LSU AgCenter conducted 13 cotton variety trials throughout the state. If you are a Louisiana cotton producer or consultant, make sure you get a copy of the final results before making variety selections.
Beginning in January, our winter production meetings will be conducted throughout the state. These meetings are an excellent way to stay abreast of latest research findings and the new technologies that are on the horizon. Hope to see all of you there.
WET WEATHER AFFECTING YIELDS
Cotton harvest continued into December for southwest Georgia. However, only a few fields remained by mid-December. Yields remained variable depending on planting dates, but many fields performed better than expected. The extremely wet weather in 2013 was certainly abnormal and likely limited yields in some fields, but the drier, sunnier weather in the early fall likely helped bring this crop around to some extent.
Cotton variety selection is probably on many producers’ minds as they begin planning for the 2014 season. The UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program and the Statewide Variety Testing program (OVT) show promising and competitive varieties for Georgia producers in 2014.
The UGA Cotton Variety Performance Calculator is a very valuable tool for producers to use to evaluate variety performance across a broad range of environments and years. The calculator can be found on the Georgia Cotton News website: www.ugacotton.com. Variety performance will be discussed thoroughly during the winter county meetings as well as the UGA Cotton Production Workshop at the Georgia Cotton Commission’s Annual Meeting on Jan. 22 at the UGA Tifton Conference Center.
DROUGHT LINGERS IN SW OKLAHOMA
As we move into January, hopefully producers have their cotton harvesting operations wrapped up. Gins in some areas will be processing well into 2014 due to the high production. However, much of traditional cotton country in southwest Oklahoma is still in the grips of exceptional drought. As of this writing, quality arising from the 2013 crop has been very good to excellent with respect to most fiber properties.
Because of the drought and failure of the last three summer crops in some counties, deep sampling for residual nitrate-nitrogen can be important. In many fields that were fertilized over the last couple of years, there should be a considerable amount of residual fertility, which should be evaluated using soil testing. Additional nitrogen provided from mineralization also will be important in many fields that have had successive failures. Finding this residual fertility can certainly be one way to reduce some input expense.
We are pleased to announce that the inaugural Red River Crop Conference will be held on Jan. 28-29 at Altus, Okla. This is a joint effort between Extension educators and specialists from both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, with plans to alternate the location of the conference between Altus and Childress, Texas. To download a brochure, go to www.ntokcotton.org or www.cotton.okstate.edu.
WATER REMAINS BIG ISSUE IN STATE
Many California cotton producers have had some generally good to even excellent experiences the past two years in terms of yields, with some very outstanding yields in many fields in 2012 followed by more variable but still good to very good yields in 2013. As we go into the early winter, the big question mark for most San Joaquin Valley producers is the uncertain irrigation water supply situation.
While any difficulties with the 2013 production season are still on your mind, it is useful to think about which fields had the most severe growth and yield problems and use that information to help decide where alternative varieties with better vigor or conversely, more manageable vegetative growth, would best fit your operations.
Basic yield results of the University of California trials will be available by early to mid-January from your UC Farm Advisor or on the UC cotton website: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu, including fiber quality tables for the included varieties. If you have fields either confirmed or suspected of having significant Fusarium race 4 inoculum as an issue, it is recommended that you pay particular attention to the relative Fusarium race 4 susceptibility ratings of varieties shown at that same website.
In reviewing data from some university trial locations and field calls last year, including some that were drip irrigated with very high yields, it was evident that there were a number of fields that could benefit from increased efforts with fertility management decisions.
IMPROVED OUTLOOK FOR COTTON IN 2014
Looking into 2014, there is much more optimism from cotton producers across Texas than in the past few years. Although some cotton production regions remain in the severe to extreme drought categories, the area affected is smaller than it has been in three years. Most cotton production regions in Texas will likely increase acreage primarily as a result of lower grain prices. Specifically, in the East, South and Rolling Plains, I am hearing estimates of more than 10 percent increases in cotton acres.
The cotton variety results can currently be obtained at cotton.tamu.edu for South and East Texas. Variety results from the Rolling Plains and High Plains will be posted soon. Although fertilizer prices have dropped some the past few months, good soil nutrient management will remain a critical part of economical cotton production, and soil sampling should be the backbone of any nutrient management program.
NEW YEAR, HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Mississippi producers should be proud as they delivered a state record cotton yield in 2013. Current estimates place the state average yield in Mississippi at 1,188 pounds per acre, which eclipses the old record (2004) of 1,024 pounds per acre. However, a short memory can often be a producer’s best friend as 2014 will undoubtedly bring a new set of challenges. I have often heard of the mythical “normal year”; however, I have yet to witness one.
Given that you are likely reading this issue of Cotton Farming in early January, burndown applications are four to eight weeks away. Burndown applications used to be fairly straightforward; however, glyphosate-resistant Italian ryegrass and horseweed have complicated the decision-making process. In addition, henbit has proven difficult to control over the past few years. Failure to adequately control these and other weed species with burndown applications can have implications further into the growing season.
Italian ryegrass can be problematic from a stand establishment standpoint whereas henbit can harbor spider mites that can migrate onto seedling cotton. Getting 2014 started on the right foot is the first step toward a successful growing season.
GOOD QUALITY BEING CLASSED
Cotton harvest is getting close to being complete for most of the region. Wintry precipitation during the last few weeks has slowed progress but should be close to the finish line by the end of next week. Quality has been good from bales classed so far at Lubbock and Lamesa classing offices, with the exception of higher than normal bark incidence. Variety trial results are being compiled with most locations harvested. Yields have been greater than or at least what was anticipated. As we finalize trial results, producers will be provided information to assist with variety selections for 2014.
BIG DECISIONS AWAIT COTTON PRODUCERS
With the holidays over and the new year upon us, our thoughts begin to turn towards another year of cotton production. Arizona’s cotton acreage in 2013 was approximately 165,000 acres. In visiting with producers across the state, I have found that many will be planting slightly fewer cotton acres in 2014. Softer prices for cotton and concerns over water availability in certain regions of Arizona have led producers to look at alternative options.
Obviously, predicting what will happen with cotton acreage in Arizona in January can be unreliable because a lot can change between now and when the planters enter the field. Significant winter precipitation and snow pack in our watersheds would go a long way in alleviating producers’ concerns over water availability for any crop this year.
Also, in visiting with producers, I have experienced an increased interest in Pima cotton and variety availability. Pima prices have remained strong and at current levels well above $1.50/pound this becomes a viable economic option.
2013 WAS DIFFICULT TO EVALUATE
As I am analyzing data and trying to figure out what we learned this year, one thing is certain. We had a tremendous amount of variation. We always have to deal with a fair amount of variation with the multiple soil types that are present in most of our fields, but the excess rain exacerbated that this year. It also reminds me of the tremendous challenges our producers went through. Thankfully, the cotton turned out better than most folks had predicted.
What do we learn in a year with such extreme variability? The first thing I think of is that variety comparisons, whether on-farm or in OVT, will not be as reliable as in most years. This is particularly true in on-farm comparisons where there was no replication. Even where the varieties were replicated, some of the data is not going to be very good (reliable or reproducible) due to the levels of variation. At this time, we are determining which locations and/or replications have low enough levels of variations to justify keeping the data.
There will be a shortage of good variety data available from this year, so we will have to rely on past years’ information and try to obtain as much information from this year as we can, including data from neighboring states.
COTTON ACREAGE MAY INCREASE SLIGHTLY
Given 2013’s unique growing conditions (cool/wet start and early fall), producers should evaluate performance over multiple years, especially for newer varieties with limited testing. I encourage producers to look at data from neighboring North Carolina when making variety decisions. Virginia cotton producers should expect the Official Cotton Variety Testing Results to be released as an Extension publication in late January. This publication will be available at http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/.
Overall, 2013 was a very productive year for Virginia cotton producers given the weather. Looking forward to the 2014 season, I believe cotton acreage will hold steady around 76,000 acres and may increase slightly depending on grain prices. The annual Virginia Cotton Production meeting will be held Feb. 13. This will be a forum for producers and Extension personnel to exchange research findings and ideas for the upcoming year.