EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT HURT MISSOURI
As we look back on the 2012 Missouri cotton crop, we had a pretty good year. While our drought conditions were described by the Drought Monitor as exceptional, we still had a better-than-average year. With our irrigation potential in the Bootheel area, we were able to overcome some of the heat and dryness effects. It is easier to add moisture than to dry out flooded fields.
For the most part, we were able to get the majority of our cotton planted in a timely fashion. We did have replanting due to dry soils, and some fields were replanted to soybeans. We had higher-than- normal heat units and a good harvest season. So, things could have been much worse due to the hand that we were dealt. Our soils are still very dry. But hopefully prior to the growing season, we can be completely free of the drought.
The major challenges for 2013 will be the resistant pigweeds and the additional costs that are needed to control them. While we have a combination of herbicide-resistant traits and herbicides, timing will be the most critical part of the equation.
Assume resistance, spray early and often, overlap residuals and prevent the weeds from producing seed. That’s easier said than done, but it did work this season in most fields. Having center pivots to activate herbicides was very helpful. We are all hopeful for an excellent 2013 cotton crop.
For more information that might help you prepare for planting, call your local agronomy specialist.
PRICES AND CROP ROTATIONS
Good rotations are the key to high yields, but good prices often determine what actually gets planted. Producers are in the position of trying to keep a good farm rotation while making a profit for the farm. Prices currently favor corn and soybeans, while infrastructure and land type or lack of irrigation favor cotton and peanuts. Producers are looking closely at cotton varieties as yield trials in 2012 saw new varieties rise to the top in county and OVTs.
Most of the new cotton varieties have higher yield potential than those from 10 to 15 years ago and seem to yield better under adverse conditions. Producers will have to maintain a high cotton yield at current prices and, therefore, look closely at variety trials near their location. There were many two-to-three non-irrigated fields in 2012. Florida is sure to see a big reduction in peanut acreage for 2013, so cotton acreage may remain stable or have a slight increase, while corn and soybean acreage will increase.
VARIETY CHOICE – AN IMPORTANT DECISION
Good news and bad news. The bad news is that our cotton specialist, John Kruse, has left us to seek out his fortune in Kansas, and you are stuck with an entomologist as a cotton specialist. The good news is that we are busy looking for a new cotton specialist and hope to fill this position as soon as possible.
The 2012 cotton crop was a good one for Louisiana with timely rains and lighter-than-normal insect pest pressure. Across the state, yields averaged about 1,000 pounds per acre. Despite high yields, cotton acreage across the state is expected to decline as much as 40 to 50 percent in 2013, depending on corn and soybean prices relative to cotton. Thus, we are expecting our cotton acreage to be somewhere around 125,000 acres; I’m pretty sure this would be the lowest cotton acreage in state history.
For those of us planting cotton in 2013, this is the time of year when we make what is usually the single most important decision regarding cotton production. “Which variety do I choose?” In 2012, the most commonly planted varieties in Louisiana (approximately 85 percent of the acreage) included ST 5288B2F, PHY 499WRF and DP 1133 B2RF.
To aid us in choosing the right cotton variety, LSU AgCenter scientists and Extension specialists have conducted and compiled the 2013 Cotton Variety Performance Trials and made it available at www.lsuagcenter.com. This publication shows yield and fiber
quality across a number of locations and soil types, and you can reference previous years’ data to get an idea how varieties performed under various conditions.
Based on these trials, you can choose a variety that was a leader in your particular area, or play the average and choose a variety that performed in the upper echelon across a number of locations to hedge environmental impact.
MAKE THE MOST OUT OF REDUCED ACRES
It is always difficult to decide what to talk about concerning cotton in the dead of the winter, especially with cotton prices so low relative to other commodities. Because of the low prices, many producers will be reducing acreage in favor of other crops. I think there are some things to consider in deciding where to plant cotton next year with reduced acres.
Producers should consider pest problems in terms of reduced cotton acres. With fewer acres, there will be less need to plant as early to get the entire crop planted in a timely fashion. This should help us avoid some early plantings in cool weather where thrips are so detrimental, especially with the loss of Temik. Not having Temik is also a blow to our nematode control strategies in cotton. Hopefully, with reduced acres, we can plant less cotton behind cotton and reduce nematode pressure.
Producers should consider looking at which soybean varieties were grown last year, and hopefully we can plant cotton following soybeans that are nematode-resistant or other crops such as corn and peanuts. This might be a good year to take fields with serious glyphosate-resistant palmer amaranth populations out of cotton and plant a crop where you have more tools to reduce the palmer amaranth seed bank.
NEW YEAR, NEW EXPECTATIONS
It is hard to believe that another new calendar year has arrived. However, in a short time, field work will start once again, and planters will be rolling before we know it. Although many have already made variety selection decisions, continual examination of variety trial data will help confirm or adjust those decisions. In many cases, final data from variety trials is not released until mid-December, which, combined with the holidays, makes January a prime time to examine results from variety trials and make final variety selection decisions.
In addition to examining variety trial data, plans should be well underway for spring burndown programs. It is no secret that glyphosate-resistant weeds are driving our weed control decisions, and effective control programs start at burndown. In addition to glyphosate-resistant weeds, henbit has been a significant problem over the past couple of years. Numerous reports of less-than-anticipated and/or failed henbit control with burndown applications have been received in previous years.
Historically, tankmixes that include 2,4-D and/or dicamba have been used in these burndown applications. This will continue even though application rates have been increasing lately in response to the aforementioned control failures.
I would also like to offer condolences to the family of Dr. George Mullendore who passed away on Nov. 13, 2012. He served as the Extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University from 1962 to 1986 and was world renowned for his knowledge and support of U.S. cotton production.
DROUGHT WREAKS HAVOC ON CROPS
Two years of back-to-back droughts have wreaked havoc in western Oklahoma. We are ending 2012 with more than 90 percent of the state in the extreme/exceptional drought categories. Although weather prognosticators in the southern Great Plains are often wrong, they are indicating a continued run of dry conditions. For the state, 2012 may end up being the warmest overall year on record if temperatures stay above normal through December.
Cotton heat unit accumulation at Altus was 61, 14, 13, 8 and 14 percent above normal for the months of May, June, July, August and September. An early freeze/frost event on Oct. 8 was a spoiler and likely terminated cotton fiber development in some later-maturing fields. However, based on excellent September maturing weather, yield and quality were not devastated as would have occurred during a more normal year. On Oct. 27, we had a killing freeze over much of the region.
Extension-irrigated variety trials conducted in producer-cooperator fields in the far southwest corner of the state and along the I-40 corridor indicated that several of the newer entries performed very well under the considerable heat and dry conditions encountered in 2012. Yields were generally a function of available water and delivery efficiency in these fields.
Test average yields ranged from a low of 800 pounds per acre in a furrow-irrigated trial to more than 1,500 pounds per acre in subsurface drip and in center pivot trials. The center pivot-irrigated official variety test with 38 entries at Fort Cobb had a test average of just under 1,400 pounds per acre. Fiber properties at most sites were remarkably good.
As producers ponder what their steps will be in 2013, there is little doubt that crop choice will be made based on commodity prices and the soil moisture situation. Based on 2012 irrigated trials, we can say that we have some excellent cotton genetics available, and these can do well in a tough year. Results from producer-cooperator fields indicated that variety selection is very important. When yield, fiber CCC loan value, ginning costs and seed/technology fees are considered, the statistically significant difference in top and bottom variety performers with respect to net value per acre averaged more than $200 across sites.
In our region, storm resistance is also important, and all tests were visually scored for this characteristic. To view results from these trials, go to cotton.okstate.edu or visit ntokcotton.org.
2012 SEASON WRAPS UP IN HIGH PLAINS
Cotton harvest in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions is at or near completion, and yield reports are mixed at best. Reports of irrigated yields as high as four-plus bales per acre have been received from areas where irrigation and rainfall were sufficient. Other locations are averaging under two bales on irrigated and less than one bale on surviving dryland acres.
The final numbers are yet to be determined on harvested acres and bales produced, but the general consensus is that 3.2-3.4 million bales will be harvested from districts 1N (Panhandle) and 1S (High Plains) for 2012. Quality reports from the USDA-AMS Cotton Classing Offices in Lubbock and Lamesa indicate color grades of 21 or better for a majority of the 2.46 million bales classed thus far this season (week ending 12-6-12). Leaf grades continue to hover around 2, but the percent of bales containing bark continues to be above normal with 18.7 percent reported from Lamesa and 25.6 percent from Lubbock.
Lubbock staple, micronaire, strength and uniformity values reported were 35.4, 3.9, 30.1 g/tex, and 79.75 percent, respectively. Similar values were reported from Lamesa for staple (35.2), strength (30.09 g/tex) and uniformity (79.96 percent) with micronaire values only slightly higher (4.1).
With 2012 all but “in the bag,” producers are looking to 2013 with cautious optimism. Although more rainfall was received in 2012 as compared to 2011, the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions are still lacking in soil moisture. Should the current weather pattern continue, a significant reduction in irrigated cotton acres will most likely occur.
Total acres planted may decline also, but not to the extent seen in other parts of the Cotton Belt. In addition to less-than-favorable weather conditions, the current market outlook could contribute to this decline.
COTTON ACRES MAY DECREASE
As I have traveled across the state during the 2012 harvest season, I have had the opportunity to visit with many producers about plans for the 2013 season. The overwhelming response from farmers is a plan to decrease their acres planted to cotton. Planted acres in Arizona have seen significant fluctuations over the past eight to 10 years. Cotton acreage in 2005 was around 230,000 acres. The next three years through 2008 saw a steady decline in acreage to 133,000 acres.
Stronger prices and the slowdown in the housing boom in Arizona resulted in a strong uptick in acreage over the next three years with acreage in 2011 topping out around 260,000 acres. Acreage in 2012 slipped to just over 200,000, and with current soft prices for cotton, coupled with stronger prices for small grains and alfalfa, we will likely experience another decline in planted acres in 2013.
If it is any consolation, Arizona will likely not be alone in the acreage reduction arena. Strong corn and soybean prices will likely result in acreage reductions across the Belt. Under the current economic situation with lower prices, it will be increasingly important that decisions related to management of the 2013 crop be made with an effort to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. The goal will be to do this without sacrificing production.
A series of meetings conducted by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension will be held across the state, beginning in January, that will address many of the topics that will help you as a producer maximize the efficiency of your production systems. Look for announcements about the meetings that will come from your local Cooperative Extension offices.
Topics ranging from the use of precision agriculture to manage inputs, to dealing efficiently with new pests, to managing for glyphosate-resistant pigweed, among many other topics, will be addressed in these pre-season meetings. Make plans to attend in your local area this winter. Specific questions you may have about upcoming meetings and activities conducted by The University of Arizona can be directed to your local County Extension offices.
LOOKING TO 2013: it’S ALL ABOUT WATER
A very limited amount of dryland cotton remained unharvested as of the first week of December in the Rolling Plains of Texas. Much of this cotton was late planted in mid-June and was able to take advantage of some of the late-summer rains. Fiber quality reports from the Corpus Christi Classing Office indicated high micronaire was the biggest economic concern to producers in South Texas.
Additionally, nearly 38 percent of the latest classed cotton from Corpus Christi has had a leaf grade of 4 or higher. Fiber quality reports from the Abilene Classing Office reported lower-average strength than normal. Looking to 2013, most of the Texas cotton production regions are currently classified in an extreme or exceptional drought. Many producers throughout the Rolling Plains planted wheat following harvested or disastered-out cotton.
High wheat prices and some fall rain allowed the wheat crop to get off to a good start; however, virtually no rainfall has fallen since and has left wheat suffering. Based on conversations with producers, Texas will likely have a substantial shift to wheat, sorghum or corn, depending on the region. Although if it remains very dry, fewer acres may shift to grain crops than initially believed earlier in the fall.
Considering our drought situation and unfavorable precipitation forecast for 2013, producers need to consider all options for conserving soil moisture and reducing input costs. Chemical fallow is one good option for conserving soil moisture instead of using tillage to control winter weeds. I am hearing a tremendous amount of interest by producers seeking additional information on strip-tillage or no-tillage systems. Many of our educational programs this winter will reflect this renewed interest in reduced-tillage systems.
A fall/winter soil sampling program is strongly recommended to identify the key deficient and residual nutrients in the soil. Following multiple years of drought, soil sampling is a good management strategy to determine the quantities of nutrients you have banked in the soil over the past couple of years.
NEVER GIVE UP ON COTTON
Most of us have heard this saying our whole life. It is hard to remember a year when this saying was truer than the 2012 Alabama cotton crop. In early July, most of Alabama’s cotton was in a severe drought. Cotton was extremely short, blooming with only about three to four nodes above bloom. This is the definition of cutout for cotton and the end of cotton growth.
It looked as if a half bale of cotton might be an optimistic yield. Suddenly, the rainfall pattern changed, and consistent rains began occurring across the cotton areas. I started getting calls on heavy fruit shed on cotton from many farmers. I explained that this was good because this is the only way the cotton can start growing vegetatively again and produce more squares and bolls.
Rainfall was excellent the rest of the season, and Alabama farmers had more dryland cotton fields producing two bales of cotton than I have ever seen. So, whoever was the first to say “never give up on cotton,” you sure were correct this year in Alabama.
EXCELLENT YIELDS IN ’12, MUCH PROMISE IN ’13
Cotton harvest continued into December for southwest Georgia. However, only a few fields remained by mid-December. Yields remained relatively high in most fields. Timely rainfall in many areas and slightly cooler temperatures during the summer are the likely culprits for our high yields, despite the challenges we experienced in 2012, which included nematodes and hardlock issues in early planted cotton.
Irrigated yields were high but fairly normal. However, dryland yields were variable as always but were noticeably higher than normal in several areas.
Several on-farm variety trials remained to be harvested in December. Preliminary yield data from The UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program and Statewide Variety Testing (OVT) show promising and competitive varieties for Georgia producers in 2013.
As always, it will be very important to position varieties in environments where they are competitive. It will also be very important to observe multi-year data when evaluating varieties, especially this year due to the widespread rains many of our trials experienced.
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 our new and improved Web site: 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, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the UGA Tifton Rural Development Center. This is an excellent event, and I look forward to seeing many producers there.