There is more optimism going into 2010 than the past couple of seasons with producers ready to put a difficult year behind them. Prices for cotton are sure to bring an increase in acreage for the year. Producers also have a better handle on what they will plant since a lot of industry-wide effort went into variety testing and especially for the Deep South that had been growing DP&L 555 for the past several years on almost all acreage.
There was enough seed produced and bought of 555 to grow about one-third the normal acres, so there will be several new varieties out in the field with the old standard this year. From variety test results, it looks like there are several varieties with new transgenic traits that will compete and maybe beat 555 with better fiber properties.
This will be a good year to look at a lot of new offerings in side-by-side comparisons. Producers may be more concerned with controlling resistant Palmer amaranth than what varieties they grow. That struggle was evident all across Southern states late in the season when resistant weeds were the only weed in the field growing with the cotton. We still have a good arsenal of residual herbicides, and producers will take this into account and find a way to solve their problems.
Cotton harvest in Missouri and the ginning season finally concluded in late 2009. While the yield and grades were less than expected, the USDA projection of 949 is about 200 pounds less than earlier projections. Excessive rainfall and wind can really ruin a harvest season. The projected yield is better than the average for the past 10 years at 868 pounds per acre. So, available technology and management practices have given Missouri producers a fighting chance to stay in the game.
The Missouri Boll Weevil Eradication Program began its diapause program in August, 2001, and average yields since then are 929 pounds per acre. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri studied this program. Its economists have shown a return of $5 for every dollar invested by producers and landowners. So, the yield was not that bad by historical standards.
We have better technology than we had 10 years ago, and we would expect that the yield would trend upward. These technologies include chemicals, fertilizers and additives, varieties, seed treatments, GPS, remote sensing and equipment.
The general feeling about cotton in Georgia is good, and many producers seem to have intentions to increase production in 2010. Much of this is likely based on the excellent yields we were graced with in 2009, cotton prices and the relative attractiveness of cotton to perform on our dryland acres compared to other crops. However, the acreage devoted to cotton may be tied to the availability and price of peanut contracts along with prices of other commodities.
For producers who may plant cotton in Georgia, it’s time to start planning for 2010. One of our biggest challenges will likely be controlling glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. New research in Georgia has been devoted to exploiting the weaknesses of this weed, including its shallow emergence depth, short seed life in soil and the significant light requirement needed for germination.
In conservation tillage, heavy residue crops can be used to block sunlight for germination and greatly improve Palmer amaranth control in any herbicide system. In conventional tillage, control can be improved by deep turning the soil or with the use of a yellow herbicide preplant incorporated. More information on this research and important herbicide management programs can be found on the UGA Weed Science Web site at http://mulch.cropsoil.uga.edu/weedsci/.
Christmas has come and gone as has the NCAA national championship football game and deer season, which means it is time to turn our thoughts to spring burndown activities. Generally speaking, mid-February to mid-March is the optimum time for burndown applications in Mississippi. Weed control efficacy after mid-March may be reduced due to increased weed size at the time of application.
Although we have known for some time that the Mississippi Delta had areas infested with glyphosate-resistant Italian ryegrass, recent research indicates that this pest is more widespread than initially thought. Control during the spring months often requires a tankmix of multiple herbicides and/or two herbicide applications.
In addition, several counties in the mid- to north Delta have populations of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Based upon observed populations in 2009 as well as lessons learned from adjoining states, 2010 has the potential to be the year that this pest rears its ugly head to a degree that we have not yet seen. Control will require application of multiple residual herbicides throughout the growing season and some luck with the weather.
For those still wrestling with variety selection, close examination of variety trial information from several sources will pay dividends at picking time. As we all know, 2009 was an extremely difficult growing season. As such, variety trial data from 2009 should be closely examined to determine the effect of weather on the results. By examining data from multiple sources, you can get an idea of which variety consistently performed well.
Even if one variety tended to dominate all of the trials that you examine, it is still wise to plant several varieties on your farm in order to spread your risk.
In 2010, I expect to see some increase in cotton acreage in Alabama. If reniform nematodes have been a problem in the past, I would try to plant the cotton following corn. Corn is not a host for reniform nematodes, and one to two years of corn should have the reniform populations down to low levels in 2010. We have seen cotton yields increased up to 25 percent following one year of corn in severely reniform-infested fields.
In our long-term conservation tillage research in Alabama, having wheat in the rotation with cotton also has been very beneficial in increasing cotton yields. Besides the rotational effect, the fibrous root system of the wheat can be very beneficial in reducing surface soil compaction on the following cotton crop. Keeping cotton in the crop rotation will also benefit corn and wheat yields in the following years.
Over the past several years, verticillium wilt has been noted to cause yield loss and aggravate micronaire quality issues in many fields in the Texas High Plains. This disease pressure continues to build. It is known that higher irrigation amounts can increase incidence of this disease. Although it is important to set the stage for production of as many pounds as possible, excessive irrigation or late-season rainfall may result in higher verticillium pressure.
It is also thought that excess nitrogen fertility can exacerbate this disease problem. In many years, high-yielding fields north of Lubbock typically “run out the clock” with maturity. There is good indication that nitrogen management is important. Therefore, producers should fine-tune management by planting varieties that perform well under verticillium pressure and by deep sampling irrigated fields for residual nitrate-nitrogen to a depth of 24 inches.
The amount of residual nitrate-nitrogen present in the soil should be subtracted from the overall nitrogen requirement for the next crop. Crop rotation is beneficial in fields with low verticillium inoculum density. We also have a significant number of acres in the region with root-knot nematode pressure, and in many of these fields fusarium wilt is also an issue. Knowing the specific disease present in a particular field is important when searching for varieties that may do better than others under these conditions. This should likely be considered on a field-by-field basis. Based on plant pathology research trials, many of the varieties that perform well under verticillium wilt pressure may not necessarily be the ones that perform well when fusarium wilt is encountered.
The latest information on varieties tested in 2009 can also be found at http://lubbock.tamu.edu.
As we look ahead to planting decisions for the 2010 season, the forecast for Georgia cotton producers is optimistic. In most places, the 2009 crop yielded and graded fairly well for the most part, despite the adverse harvest weather. Although some cotton has yet to be harvested as I’m writing this on Jan. 11.
The general consensus from most everyone I’ve talked with is that acreage will likely increase somewhat, but there are several factors that could influence these decisions between now and planting, as we saw in 2009. There is also a great deal of uncertainty among Georgia cotton producers and the Southeast in general when trying to decide which varieties will replace DP 555 BGRR.
Provided that acreage remains stable, there will likely be more than half a million acres planted to newer varieties in 2010 in Georgia alone. Although 2009 left a lot to be desired in terms of dryland variety selection, producers should study variety information at county meetings and contact their county agent to discuss variety performance in their area. Discussions with other producers who have similar soils and production systems are also a valuable tool. In 2010, it will be important that producers spread their risks by planting several varieties.
We have seen glyphosate-resistant weeds spread in the state. We are to a point that if you do not have resistance, you should still manage your cotton as if you did. This may help delay the occurrence of resistance on your farm. It appears that it is inevitable that you will get resistance if you rely heavily on glyphosate and do not use other modes of action in your weed control plan.
Resistant Palmer amaranth is not like the old days when we were dealing with cocklebur and sicklepod. There were some salvage options for those weeds. There are no salvage options for Palmer. Because there are no salvage options, it is very important that producers deal with Palmer control up front.
Pre-plant and pre-emerge herbicides are keys to dealing with resistant Palmer and avoiding or delaying the occurrence of resistance. We are also worried about potential resistance to the PPO herbicides and advise that producers use only one PPO per year and use three modes of action in their weed control system.