Producers have had a difficult time doing any field work this spring as well as having ruts and other issues to deal with from a wet fall harvest. Little cover crop was planted due to wet conditions, and winter weeds will need to be dealt with as early as possible in in April. The real issue in many fields will be resistant weed populations.
Residual herbicides will need to be used along with glyphosate and 2,4-D to control winter weeds prior to planting, and then residual herbicides will need to be used at planting and at layby. Weeds can be controlled using conservation tillage in much the same way that producers did prior to the introduction of Roundup Ready crops. Hooded sprayers are effective with older residual herbicides against most of the problem weeds.
Fields can quickly go from being too wet to too dry when extensive tillage operations are done. Therefore, do as little tillage as is necessary to get fields in shape for planting. Generally, with cover crops or winter weeds, killing cover crops/weeds five weeks in advance of planting is a good idea for moisture conservation as well for reduction in insect pests that could damage young cotton seedlings.
As we move toward the beginning of another growing season, optimism surrounding cotton is higher than in the past several years. A recent report from the National Cotton Council suggests acreage will increase in the Mid-South by 8.4 percent and 19 percent in Mississippi.
After three years of acreage reduction, an upswing in acreage is a welcome sight. Although predictions can prove to be inaccurate, all indications point to significant increases in cotton acreage in Mississippi in 2010.
The arrival of April brings anticipation to plant cotton. While many may be eager to get in the field and plant, the beginning of planting season should be approached with caution. As always, do not plant into less than optimum soil conditions. Cool soil and air temperatures and moisture extremes at planting and early in the growing season can have lasting impacts upon your crop.
As we prepare to plant cotton over the next few weeks, producers need not forget the significant investment they have in seed and technology. At-planting costs represent a large proportion of the total production costs for Georgia cotton producers, and this substantial investment is made at a time when we have no idea what challenges the season may bring, much less what our yield potential will be.
Therefore, to offset these risks we must do all we can to protect this investment. First and foremost, seed quality and cool germ test ratings should be the primary focus for producers, especially when planting during the early (cooler) portion of our planting window. If seed quality is suboptimal, producers should adjust their seeding rates accordingly to avoid stand loss. Second, producers should pay close attention to the weather forecast on the desired planting date and the week following, in addition to soil temperatures.
As we head into this planting season, cotton producers have several concerns. The greatest concern now facing our producers is the glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. While it is not that abundant yet, it is here and it is easily spread. There are pre-plant and pre-emerge options and post-directed sprays. The field can also be rotated to LibertyLink to reduce the potential.
Since a single plant can produce a half million seeds, it is important to get the suspected plants out of the field with hoeing early on or big-weeding before the plants go to seed. Producers need to be prepared for feeding by tarnished plant bugs and stink bugs. This last fall, the red-banded stink bug was located for the first time in southeast Missouri. The majority of them were found in Dunklin County. Although they traditionally are a problem later in the season, they do have the potential to damage squares and small bolls.
As the new cotton and feed grains specialist for the LSU AgCenter, I would like to thank everyone for the warm welcome to Louisiana. As I get around to meeting producers, consultants, agents and others in the cotton industry, it appears that cotton producers are more optimistic about a stable lint price than they were in the recent past. A new cotton mill opened this winter in the southwestern part of the state, and many are hopeful that this will lead to increased demand for Louisiana cotton.
Producers are coming into the 2010 planting season with good soil moisture. There was some speculation that late winter and early spring rains would delay corn planting to such an extent that corn acres would switch to cotton acres. It certainly caused delays in burndown applications. Cotton acres will likely be level to or slightly greater than last year’s acres unless the delays caused by the weather convince producers to make some last minute switches from corn to cotton.
The rainfall that plagued last year’s harvest and cover crop planting has continued into this spring and affected the planting preparations for the corn producers in our state. Rainfall continued through early March along with cooler temperatures, forcing some of our producers to begin operations later than usual.
If we continue to have a wet start to the spring, we may see more cotton acreage than first predicted but that remains to be seen. In visiting with producers, there does not seem to be a lot of excitement either way on the new season, and their final decisions will be based on how the commodity markets went in March.
Another area of concern this season is which cotton variety will step forward and replace DP 555BR in central and south Alabama. This is the last season for planting this variety, and there are many excellent candidates waiting in the wings to take over. However, the real question is which of these varieties can withstand dire environmental stresses during the season and still yield in the end. This question will not be fully answered for at least a couple of years.
Cotton acres in Arkansas will increase this year based on increased prices and reduced corn acres due to wet and cool environmental conditions that delayed field work. Unfortunately for many Arkansas cotton producers this year, glyphosate resistance will become a harsh reality across many fields and farms. What seemed to be localized problems last year will at least double this year.
When Roundup Ready cotton was first introduced, weed control options were often not discussed until after a field came up to a full stand of cotton. Current resistance issues will force producers to make timely weed control plans and decisions for a successful weed control program in 2010.
In fact, the most important management decisions will be early season decisions for Arkansas cotton production. Variety selection, effective burndown, residual herbicide strategies, insect and disease protection all must come together in an effective management plan for a productive start in 2010. The most effective program for weed management will begin with the successful burndown. It will be extremely important to start with a clean field in 2010.
In-season pigweed control for Arkansas cotton producers should begin with a residual herbicide prior to planting or at planting. Keep in mind that anytime you disturb the bed or knock off the top to get to moisture, the residual protection has been lost on top of the bed and another application of a preemerge herbicide will be necessary.
The only way to manage populations of glyphosate-resistant pigweed in Roundup Ready Flex cotton is to overlay protection with residual herbicides. This plan should be developed prior to planting the first seed, and effectiveness will depend on timeliness of application and rainfall for activation.
Arizona has experienced an interesting late winter and early spring. Conditions remained dry through most of the winter until the month of February. Several El Niño events resulted in tremendous snowfall in the mountains and significant rainfall in the deserts. This will go a long way in improving the conditions of our watersheds and ground water levels.
These precipitation events, although welcome in our dry desert, not only delayed planting but also compromised early planted stands, leading to a limited amount of replanting in late March. The decision to begin planting can have significant impacts on the rest of the season.
With the cost of planting seed continuing to rise, replanting must be kept to a minimum by planting under conditions that are optimum for the success of seedling emergence and stand establishment. Seedbed preparation is critical to achieving proper germination. Good seed to soil contact improves the ability of the seed to absorb water and remain hydrated throughout the germination process. Make sure that soil is tilled properly to achieve a smooth, firm and as clod-free as possible seedbed for planting.
Another component that is critical to proper germination is soil temperature. Optimum soil temperature at seeding depth is 60 degrees. Soil temperatures of 60 degrees will typically be reached when low air temperatures remain above 48 degrees overnight, and maximum air temperatures rise above 80 degrees during the day.
The clock is ticking down toward the start of the 2010 growing season. Tractors are finally back moving in some fields across Georgia repairing washes, cultivating land and pulling cotton stalks. For the most part, producers remain optimistic and hopeful that 2010 will be a successful year. Along with many important decisions to be made and tasks to be completed before planting, cotton producers in Georgia should be sure to keep weed control and soil fertility high on their list of priorities.
Regarding weed control, April is the month in which most burndown applications are made in conservation tillage. In areas with populations of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, especially in fields without irrigation or in conservation tillage programs, combining residual herbicides into burndown applications could increase season-long control. Applications of preemergence herbicides at planting are very effective, but need timely rainfall or irrigation for activation.
In 2010, Georgia producers will likely plant more than 500,000 acres in a different variety than DP 555 BR, the most widely planted variety in recent history. Many of these new varieties have shown excellent potential in Georgia.
However, some of the new varieties tend to set fruit lower in the plant canopy and in a relatively short amount of time compared to DP 555 BR, and this difference in fruiting pattern may affect the significance of potash fertilizer requirements.
I heard that lower than normal temperatures were predicted this year up until June due to the El Niño effect. I looked up the effect of El Niño on April and May temperatures for North Carolina though, and temperatures during this period are usually warmer than usual during El Niño years followed by a drier than normal summer.
Nevertheless, I would bet that we will have some challenging weather during the planting season regardless of El Niño, and weather will have an influence on getting an acceptable stand of cotton.
Getting a good stand starts, of course, with the seed. There are two germination tests conducted on cotton seed. The standard germination is what is included on the bag with the seed. This test tells you very little about how seed will perform under adverse conditions. The cool germination test is conducted at 64.5 degrees and is a much better indicator of how seed will perform under adverse conditions.
This information is not included with the seed, but producers can find the results for their seed lots through the seed company or often through their distributor. Producers should be cautious about the planting conditions when planting seed with a cool germination value below around 65 percent.