We’re Off And Running

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Very little cotton was planted in April this season in Arkansas. Most of our April cotton was planted the last two or three days of the month when planting conditions went from poor to very good. They continued to be very good through May.

The first 40 days in the life of a cotton plant sets the foundation for yield and fiber quality potential for the season. This includes the period from planting to squaring. Our crop emerged quickly, and with good conditions for growth we should expect to see squares 35 days after planting.

Pest management issues are generally the greatest concerns for our young crop. However, as we move into June, other factors including fertility and soil moisture stress become more critical. In dry years, consideration for irrigating pre-squaring cotton may arise especially if new node production slows to five to six days. We generally do not irrigate cotton during this time in the Mid-South.

Research demonstrates the importance of avoiding stress once squaring begins. Irrigation water management is our next big challenge. There are many programs, tools and practices available that producers can use to help improve irrigation water-use efficiency. Everyone who uses collapsible poly tubing should be using computerized hole selection.

We want to go into squaring with a plant developing a new node every 2.5 to three days and have square retention greater than 80 percent. This will put us on track to having nine to 10 nodes above white flower at first flower. Contact your county Extension agent for more information. brobertson@uaex.edu

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

April was cool and wet in the Missouri Bootheel, which slowed fieldwork. Some cotton planted at the end of April in less-than-ideal conditions should be closely observed. Because we’ve had issues surrounding seed treatments, Missouri producers with early planted cotton should keep an eye out for slippage in thrips control and be prepared to make foliar applications if populations exceed thresholds.

With cool weather and low soil temperatures present at the end of April, early planted cotton cannot afford to run out of steam while trying to fight off cold and thrips damage. Replant decisions must be made quickly as well. I hesitate to replant in late May because cotton can tolerate lower population stands as long as there are not excessive 2- to 3-foot skips.

Regardless of whether planting was in April or May, early season management is crucial for Missouri cotton growers. Prompt early season control of insects, such as thrips, as well as later applications of plant growth regulators will help ensure the crop is timely.

Residual herbicide applications will be needed to prevent early season weed pressure. Even with the changes in the 24(c) Special Local Needs labels for FeXapan, XtendiMax and Engenia with the deadline being pushed back to June 10, residual herbicide applications can reduce early season pressure and help preserve the technologies. Growers must be mindful of off-target movement and make sure mandatory training has been completed.

Wet, cool weather during April delayed corn planting so cotton acres may increase. After a good year in 2017, there is a lot of optimism surrounding Missouri cotton. We are all hoping for a successful and safe start to the 2018 season with more cooperative weather as the season progresses. meeksc@missouri.edu

Galon Morgan, Texas
Galon Morgan,

The 2018 season has already presented its fair share of challenges for cotton farmers in South and East Texas. Cotton has been flowering in the Rio Grande Valley since early May. Insect pressure has been low across much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and irrigated fields are looking good. Unfortunately, many of the dryland acres have been zeroed-out, and the remaining fields have a low yield potential.

The Coastal Bend started strong but endured high winds and blowing sand in April that really set the crop back. Many fields were replanted while other farmers stuck with the remaining damaged crop. The Coastal Bend is in a moderate drought as cotton is beginning to bloom. Some precipitation by late May will be critical to obtaining moderate yields.

The Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands have struggled to get adequate stands, even after temperatures warmed. Seedling diseases have been widespread, which is leading to some tough replanting decisions. The Southern Rolling Plains caught some rain the first week of May, and planting was in high gear by mid-May to capitalize on the soil moisture.

Unfortunately, the Central and Northern Rolling Plains have not received measurable rainfall and are in a moderate to severe drought. Some of the irrigated ground was getting planted the second week of May, but high temperatures and winds created challenges for the irrigated ground as well. gdmorgan@tamu.edu

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,

The first week of May brought ideal temperatures for planting with good soil moisture. As I write this on May 6, many North Carolina cotton growers have completed their first full week of planting, and a larger-than-expected proportion of our acres were planted during that time.

Much of the state experienced a much-needed rain this evening, as soil moisture was beginning to deplete. With continued good temperatures, I anticipate another busy week of planting. Many farmers are well ahead of schedule regarding the percentage of acres planted compared to this time last year and the year before. Although not much cotton has emerged yet, we are off to a good start.

The areas that missed rain this evening will need moisture soon, as temperatures are expected to remain relatively warm.

Time will tell the story of how successful planting will be in 2018. There have not been any major delays yet due to weather, and no need for replanting at this time.

plant bugsBy the time you read this, post-emergence herbicide applications, as well as foliar applications for thrips, will be underway. June is historically the time when lygus insects begin. We cannot stress enough the need for thorough and frequent scouting for this insect pest. Timely applications and rotation of chemistries is ultimately the best approach to managing these insects.

Poor scouting or delayed applications can be very costly.

Growers should also pay attention to weather forecasts when making pre-bloom plant growth regulator decisions. Pre-bloom PGRs need only be applied when soil moisture is sufficient for vigorous growth and there is a strong likelihood that rains will continue. Remember, we are never more than four to five days away from a drought, especially on sandy soils.

Therefore, pre-bloom PGR applications should be avoided if the weather forecast is unclear or fickle or if rains are unlikely.

If needed, pre-bloom PGR applications should be focused on fields with a history of rank growth, especially for varieties with a propensity for aggressive growth. guy_collins@ncsu.edu

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

The majority of the 2018 Mississippi cotton crop was planted April 30–May 15. While some acres remained to be planted after May 15, most of these were either too wet or too dry to finish. The planting season, albeit compressed, went as smoothly as any in recent memory.

The biggest concern coming out of May was lack of rainfall following application of pre-emergence herbicides. Contingency plans had to be developed where they did not get activated. Isolated weather patterns also created issues; however, most of the crop is up and off to a good start.

June is a transitional month for Mississippi cotton. Early in the month, our cotton moves beyond the stage where thrips are an issue. By the end of the month, it nears bloom when tarnished plant bugs are not uncommon.

Where pre herbicides were not activated due to lack of rainfall, timely weed control will be needed. Nitrogen fertilizer applications and laying collapsible poly tubing in furrow-irrigated fields will also be critical in June. Accomplishing these tasks over the next four weeks will put you in the best position possible to maximize yield. dmd76@pss.msstate.edu

Randy Norton
Randy Norton,

Crop uptake of N begins to increase rapidly as the crop approaches first square and continues to increase until the crop reaches peak bloom. N uptake then begins to taper off through the remainder of the primary fruiting cycle.

Research demonstrates the window between first square and peak bloom is when fertilizer N applications should be made to maximize N use efficiency.

The amount of fertilizer N to apply can be determined by using a simple yield goal approach. Observations show about 40-50 units (pounds) of N are needed to produce 1 bale (490 pounds) of lint. So an expected yield of 1,500 pounds of lint requires total N of about 120-150 pounds.

Keep in mind not all of this N has to come from fertilizer. There are other sources of N available in the crop system that can provide some of what is required by the crop. The two main sources are residual N in the soil from previous crops and N supplied through irrigation water.

Residual soil N can be determined with preseason or early season soil test analysis. The analysis from a soil test should return a value of nitrate-N in parts per million (ppm). Every ppm in the top foot of soil is the equivalent of 4 pounds of N per acre.

For example, if a soil test comes back with a value of 10 ppm nitrate-N in the top foot of soil, this would indicate a 40 pounds N per acre credit against the total needed for the crop. For irrigation water, the value of nitrate-N (ppm) is multiplied by 2.7 to obtain the total number of pounds of N for every acre-foot of water applied to the crop.

Subtracting the “credits” for residual soil N and N applied through irrigation water from the total required by the crop helps determine the correct amount to apply through N fertilization. This amount should be applied in the first square to peak bloom window to maximize efficiency with respect to the primary fruiting cycle.

For more information on this topic and others, go to cals.arizona.edu/crops. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

The 2018 season got off to a warm start in February. Near planting, several weeks of cool days and nights persisted into the first half of May.

June is generally a dry month in the Southeast with irrigation systems running to get robust stands and early growth with good weed control. We never fail to battle weeds at some time during June before cotton laps row middles and shades weeds.

This is also the time to keep an eye on growth and use of plant growth regulators. PGRs may be needed in late June when the cotton is growing too fast. Sidedressing N and other needed nutrients is often done during this time as well. Much of the intensive management will be completed by the end of June, which is typically just prior to flowering.

Scouting is important throughout squaring and boll set to ensure early boll set and earlier harvest. wright@ufl.edu

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

As I write this in mid-May, most of the Oklahoma cotton acres are still waiting for a rain. Some areas of the southwestern part of the state were able to get cotton planted in early May due to better moisture conditions. However, a large proportion of the acres will likely be planted in the second half of May or perhaps early June.

Even though cotton’s water demand is relatively low during the early vegetative growth stages after emergence, it’s important to avoid water stress. In good years, a couple of rains may provide enough moisture to bridge the gap between emergence and squaring when the crop’s water sensitivity increases.

Although irrigation may not be on our minds in the early part of the season, pest control should be. Avoiding stress from thrips and other vegetative feeding insects is key to ensure no maturity delays and vigorous vegetative growth. Be sure to scout for thrips, particularly during the cotyledon to one-leaf stage.

If an insecticide application is necessary, the one-leaf stage is typically considered the best timing. This will provide control until the plant can reach the four- to five-leaf stage when it can tolerate the feeding without detrimental results.

Weed control is essential. Include products that target weeds present in the field and a residual product to provide control of weeds that have yet to emerge. A clean field allows developing plants to access the nutrients, moisture and sunlight without competing with more vigorous weed species. While scouting for early season insect pests, take note of the weed species present so an effective herbicide mix can be applied. seth.byrd@okstate.edu

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

As I write this May 9, a large portion of our cotton acreage in West Tennessee has been planted. With a little luck, we should get close to finishing within the next 10 days. Abnormally warm conditions have supported rapid seedling growth, and the crop appears to be off to a great start.

As we move into June, it’s time to think about applying a plant growth regulator. Several farmers have said they have a hard time slowing growth of our current varieties to an acceptable rate with PGRs. If you have had issues controlling growth in the past few years, I encourage you to begin applying low amounts of PGRs at the first square stage.

vacuuming varieties out of a planter
University of Tennessee personnel vacuum cottonseed out of planter boxes while putting in large-plot variety trials. This action prevents mixing together seed from different varieties — photo courtesy University of Tennessee

As the price of plant growth regulators has dropped and the desire for rapid canopy closure has grown, we have begun delaying PGR applications to later in the season. Unfortunately, 8 ounces applied the second week of flowering will be far less effective than 8 ounces applied at the second week of squaring. Be aware the maximum seasonal use rate of a 4.2 percent mepiquat chloride product (likely what you are applying) is 48 ounces per acre per year.

Fortunately, our current herbicide options in cotton relieve some of the pressure associated with the need for rapid canopy closure. I also believe our current cultivars are generally more tolerant to stress than their predecessors. Furthermore, delaying canopy closure and allowing more airflow into the lower canopy is hypothesized to reducing the severity and incidence of target spot and boll rot.

The take-home message is to start earlier and be more aggressive, especially if you have had issues in the past. traper@utk.edu

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