Monday, March 20, 2023

Tips To Promote A Successful Stand

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda
Texas A&M

Harvest activities have come to an end in the Texas High Plains, and fieldwork has picked up. As we continue planning for the upcoming season, one of the most important decisions our growers have to make relates to variety choice. Fertility, insecticide and herbicide programs have some flexibility and can be adjusted during the growing season to address specific challenges as needed. But variety choice is usually a “one-time” decision that affects crop management and ultimately, yield potential for the season.

It is important to base variety selection on yield potential, fiber quality package, maturity, disease resistance/tolerance and technology traits needed (e.g. insect and herbicide). Seedling vigor, warm/cool germination values and overall seed quality affect the germination process and stand establishment. That information should be used to assist you in determining when to plant, not necessarily what to plant.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) Trial results for the Southern High Plains and the Texas Panhandle are available at Growers should take advantage of this information to help guide their decisions.

I also want to remind everyone about mandatory auxin training for 2019. If you have not attended a session, there is still time to do so. AgriLife Extension is offering three auxin training sessions in the Texas High Plains — April 2, 10 and 12 in Perryton, Levelland and Lubbock, respectively. Be sure to get in touch with your local Extension office for more information.

Galon Morgan, Texas
Galon Morgan,

Despite a colder-than-normal early March, cotton emerged the first week of the month in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Going into the second week of March, cotton planting was in full swing in the Coastal Bend. At the time of this writing March 11, soil conditions in the Upper Gulf Coast remain wet.

Any additional rainfall will definitely delay cotton planting for a large number of growers in this region where cotton acres are expected to increase considerably.

Farmers in the Blacklands typically start planting in early April. Soil conditions are slowly drying, which may allow seed to get in the ground in a timely manner. Throughout the Rolling Plains, deep soil moisture conditions are generally good, but a rain around planting time — early to mid-May — will definitely be needed.

XtendFlex and Enlist acres will be up again in 2019. Auxin training to apply the labeled dicamba and Enlist products, respectively, has been well attended. We should avoid over reliance on auxin herbicide technologies for weed control and continue to use multiple herbicide modes of action to delay development of herbicide resistance in cotton weed species.

Because of seed costs, shaving seeding rates remains a common theme. When shooting for lower seeding rates, growers need to gather as much information as possible. Pay attention to the cool and warm germination tests results from the seed company/distributor to better gauge the seed quality.

Next, adjust the seeding rate accordingly while taking into account soil conditions and weather forecast at planting time. There is much less margin of error when using low seeding rates.

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

As we enter April, planting is on everybody’s mind. It’s likely there will be some cotton planted in parts of Oklahoma by the end of the month. And if you are planting in April, it’s probably because you grow cotton in areas of the state with a shorter growing season. Getting off to a good start is critical to avoid delays in maturity or the dreaded replant.

There are several factors to consider when planting to ensure a rapid start, including variety selection, soil and air temperature, and moisture. If starting early but conditions are not the best, or if in a historically difficult field, a more vigorous variety will typically have an advantage. Vigor is generally linked to seed size, which is reflective of seed oil content.

Larger seeds typically have higher oil content and more “horsepower” to get out of the ground.

Temperature is also key so take into account the five- to eight-day forecast for highs and lows. If a multi-day cold snap is forecast three days out from planting, it may be best to hold off until favorable conditions over several days are likely.

Moisture is important, particularly in the seedbed. Planting into moisture allows the seed to begin the germination process and emerge more rapidly.

We often have to compromise on at least one of these factors when planting, especially for dryland cotton. The moisture situation last year was a great example in many parts of Oklahoma of there being no good time to start. The Oklahoma

Mesonet is a great resource for looking up conditions and forecasts across the state. It can be accessed at

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

It appears the groundhog was incorrect, and the Bootheel will not have an early spring this year. The 2018 season was successful for most growers, and the hope of a trade deal has the outlook for cotton optimistic. As I write this on March 1, planting conditions are unknown. However, considering the cool and wet winter, fieldwork is behind schedule and fields are quite soggy.

When you do get ready to plant, here are a few important considerations to keep in mind if planting in less-than-ideal conditions. For example, soil temperatures lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit at mid-morning at the 2-inch depth are not optimal. Another example of less-than-ideal conditions is when fewer than 35 DD60s are forecast for five days.

Today’s technology has simplified calculating the DD60 forecast, and several free tools are available to producers. To access a Beltwide DD60 planting calculator that gives a county by county DD60 forecast, go to: However, no Missouri weather stations are present in the Mesonet so you will have to manually input 2-inch soil temperatures.

North Carolina State University cotton specialists Drs. Guy Collins and Keith Edmisten developed another free tool. It is available at The Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator was developed for North Carolina. But since it is based on Google Maps, you can zoom in to an individual field anywhere in the United States to get a DD60 planting forecast.

[adinseter block=”2″]My recommendation if you are forced to plant cotton in less-than-ideal conditions is to consider high-vigor varieties. The 2018 varieties are ranked in this PDF: Lower vigor varieties should be planted later when conditions have improved. It’s also advisable to increase seeding rates 10 to 15 percent and plant more shallow (½-inch) to ensure the best chance of getting a stand.

Planting larger-seeded varieties is advisable since they tend to have more energy reserves to cope with stress related to sub-optimal germination conditions. It also is a good idea to use seed treatments to help protect the young plants. Finally, consider applying in-furrow insecticides if cover crops have not been terminated before planting.

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

The first step toward a successful season is establishing a healthy stand. Cotton does not tolerate difficulties encountered during its first weeks of growth nearly as well as most of our insect pests and weeds.

Although we planted very few acres of cotton in April last year, above-average temperatures the entire month of May resulted in one of our fastest crops to reach first flower. History generally tells us the earlier we plant, the better we do. Just remember that early planting does not equal earliness.

Optimum planting conditions include a mid-morning 68-degree soil temperature at 2 inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast. Regardless of the calendar date, park the planter if heat unit accumulation (DD60s) is predicted to be 15 or fewer for the five-day period after planting. We often see good results when 25 or more heat units accumulate during this time.

It is important to start with the best quality seed to increase the chances of getting a good, uniform stand if conditions are less than optimum. Remember that as seed size decreases, the importance of having good soil temperatures increases. There are many signals or signs that people use to indicate the right time to plant. Getting off to a good, quick start will pay dividends all season long if we do it right the first time.

Dan Fromme, Louisiana
Dan Fromme,

Cotton planting is just around the corner in Louisiana, and now is a good time to review some key practices to get off to a great start in 2019. It is always best to plant according to soil temperature and not the calendar. If a field is planted too early, the 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 Fahrenheit at seeding depths, but growth will be slow at this temperature. A soil temperature of 65 F at a depth of 4 inches for three consecutive days and a favorable five-day forecast following planting is best.

Also, nighttime minimum temperatures should be forecast to be more than 50 F for the following five days. During the critical germination period, soil temperatures below 50 F can cause chilling injury to germinating cotton.

Emergence generally occurs after accumulating 50-80 DD60s — or heat units — after seed is in the ground. 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.

It’s critical to create a pest-free seedbed 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 no green vegetation on which these pests can survive is in the field. It is equally important to eliminate weedy host plants on field borders to reduce insect problems later on that might move into adjacent cotton fields.

For additional information on when to plant cotton, visit Once you have reached the website, go to crops>cotton>agronomy.

Best of luck in 2019!

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

Historically, Mississippi cotton growers started planting in mid- to late April. However, over the past six or seven years, weather conditions have not allowed a tremendous amount of planting prior to May.

Weather has been a pressing issue since last fall. Many fields still bear the ruts from harvest and will require a good deal of field preparation prior to planting the 2019 crop. To make matters worse, the forecast into May is predicting above-average precipitation.

Mississippi growers are predicted to plant the largest cotton acreage since 2006. Our farmers have produced the highest yields on record in our state over the past seven years. In some of those years, cotton was not planted until mid- to late May or even into June in some cases.

While we have fieldwork to complete in order to plant this crop, we are not pressed for time — yet. Everyone is feeling the pressure to complete fieldwork, and we get backed further into a corner with each thunderstorm that passes through. Above anything else — be safe this spring. We will get this crop in the ground, and nothing is worth you not being here to see it this fall.

Mark Freeman, Georgia
Mark Freeman

As we get closer to planting, there are several factors to consider for establishing a successful stand. Early in the season, soil temperatures play a significant role. Low temperatures will negatively affect germination and seedling vigor and increase the risk of seedling diseases, which can affect final plant stands.

The optimum planting date will vary year to year. It is best to wait until 4-inch soil temperatures reach at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit for three days and the forecast shows a trend for warmer weather.

Other important aspects that affect stand establishment are seeding rates and seed placement configurations. In Georgia, plant populations of at least 1.5 to 1.75 plants per foot are needed to maximize yields. In our soils, seeding rates as low as 2 to 2.5 seed per foot can be successful. However, seeding rates may need to be adjusted on a field-by-field basis to account for environmental circumstances that can affect germination and viability.

Hill-drop seeding can also affect stand establishment compared to singulated seeding in tough conditions. Research has shown that when equal plant populations occur, there is no yield difference between hill-dropped seed and singulated seed.

However, in some soils and soil conditions, hill-dropped seed may increase germination and affect yields by ensuring plant populations reach those needed for maximum yields.

Variety selection can also play a role in how successful our stands are. In particularly tough environments where establishing an adequate stand is often difficult, planting a larger-seeded variety may produce better seedling vigor than planting a small-seeded variety. For more information on these topics, visit or contact your local University of Georgia Extension agent.

Jared Whitaker, University or Georgia
Jared Whitaker,

In the fall of 2018, cotton leafroll dwarf virus was confirmed to infect cotton in 14 South Georgia counties. This virus is vectored by aphids and associated with cotton blue disease.

Symptoms include leaf curling, reddening and drooping of leaves and subsequent distortion of leaf growth above the nodes where reddened leaves were first observed. We’ve also seen upper internode shortening with discoloration to deep green along with subsequent lack of fruit retention.

Although the virus was widespread across the state last fall, there were very few, if any, documented cases of yield losses in Georgia cotton fields that could be associated with cotton blue disease.

The University of Georgia cotton team is working diligently to obtain as much information as we can to relay what we know to producers. At this point, the extent to which the virus affected the 2019 Georgia cotton crop cannot be scientifically determined. But we have found the virus in ratooned cotton stalks from 2018 and in henbit over the past couple of weeks.

There may be two ways for us to potentially limit our exposure: remove the 2018 cotton stalks and control winter weeds well in advance of planting. Both of these approaches are already endorsed and encouraged practices and may ultimately be helpful in breaking the green bridge for the virus.

If you have any questions on this or other issues, contact your local UGA county Extension agent and visit the UGA cotton webpage at

Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame

As Virginia producers begin burndown applications ahead of cotton planting in May, it’s imperative to start weed free. In addition to managing weeds mid- to late April, it’s time to start terminating winter cover crops such as cereal rye, winter wheat, crimson clover and hairy vetch.

For the latter two cover crop species, terminate at peak bloom to minimize the amount of nitrogen “locked up” in the seed.

Also, hairy vetch can become a weed, so timely termination will ensure minimum seed production. With these two legume species, a large amount of nitrogen can be fixed and available to the following cotton crop. For example, in 2017 and 2018, a crimson clover/hairy vetch mix contained 170-plus pounds of nitrogen per acre in the above-ground biomass at termination in late April.

The nutrient release pattern from cover crops can vary and depends heavily on rainfall and soil temperatures for degradation. Adding cereal rye to the mix slows decomposition of cover crop residues and provides a soil cover/mulch for added weed control. However, cereal cover crops can increase the demand for nitrogen in the cotton crop that follows. High carbon:nitrogen ratios in residues result in immobilization of N, especially in a large cover crop biomass.

Overall, using legume cover crops or cereal rye/legumes reduces the need for applied N. Lint yields with legumes receiving no nitrogen fertilization have been higher than cereal rye-only cover crops with 120 pounds of applied nitrogen per acre.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

Although we were able to fertilize a little wheat during a cold snap in early March, we’ve had a difficult time getting much else done. Rain has complicated, if not prevented, rut repair, terrace touch-up and tillage.

Several additional prolonged showers today — March 9 — and another likely chance of rain mid-week will probably continue to keep us in the shop. In the coming weeks, we hope to have a chance to terminate cover crops; tillage radishes failed to winter-kill in a few areas, and the time to remove those from the system is upon us.

Seed supply has been a common concern over the past few weeks as quality measurements have come back as less than ideal. I suspect many farmers will still be shuffling through variety decisions April 1.

Pay close attention to seed count and germination this year. I’ve spent a little time talking about plant populations during winter meetings since we typically plant more seed than is necessary in Tennessee. But this will be a tough year to back off seed count if you’re planting a lot of marginal cold germ or seed size.

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten,
North Carolina

Dr. Guy Collins and I have developed a cotton planting conditions calendar. You can select your farm or an individual field and get real-time planting conditions projections for the next three days. The link for the calendar is on the Extension Cotton Portal (

The projections are based on forecast temperatures for your area with warnings when cool nights or potentially excessive rains are predicted during germination.

Planting conditions often vary greatly during North Carolina’s optimum planting window. If the calculator predicts less-than-desirable conditions, there are precautions you can take if you need to plant during this time. For example, avoid planting too deeply to reach moisture, use larger-seeded varieties, plant seed with a high cool germination, avoid in-furrow fertilizers and use hill-drop planting techniques.

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Planting is a critical stage of the cotton crop following many weeks spent choosing the right variety for each field. Farmers must calibrate equipment for seeding rates and planting depth and make decisions about nematicides, starter fertilizer applications, weed control, desired planting date, rotations and more. They must also contend with weather conditions.

Terminate cover crops in a timely manner where conservation tillage is used. Try to prevent the soil from drying out, and reduce insect populations — such as cutwoms — before planting. Farmers also need to consider resistant weed populations.

A big rain followed by hot, dry weather can pack soil and reduce stands. Most growers have lowered planting rates to the point that a 30 to 40 percent stand loss might lead to a replant decision. However, cotton is a resilient plant and seldom needs replanting. Populations as low as one plant per foot can produce good yields where stands are uniform, but the plants may require more time for fruiting.

Even with the best preparation and planning, there will be new challenges to face this season.

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