Ready or not, here it comes. The cotton crop in Georgia is weeks ahead of schedule this year, and many producers could be picking cotton ahead of rotational partner and the crop usually harvested first, peanuts.
“Part of the difference in earliness is likely due to the fact that we have cut back on DP 555, and more of the cotton in Georgia was planted in April because of the warm weather,” says Glen Ritchie, cotton physiologist at the University of Georgia (UGA) Coastal Plain Experiment Station.
Earliness A Variety Issue
“Warmer temperatures can speed up the flowering interval, although this interval varies by which variety you are growing and which node on the plant you have,” Ritchie says.
Jared Whitaker, UGA Extension cotton agronomist, says, whereas in a normal year, you can have six to eight weeks of bloom, this year it was more like four to five weeks long. Besides being early, Whitaker says that, in general, the crop is shorter because terminal growth was shut down, but many areas offer a heavy boll load.
“When we got into bloom period, the first week of July wasn’t too bad,” he says. “In the second, third and fourth week, temperatures were really high, and our nighttime temps were elevated the latter two-thirds of the month.
“Take that and compound it with the lack of a rain event in the last half of month,” Whitaker adds. “All of these conditions slowed the terminal growth of the plant substantially.
“By the end of August we will be able to tell if newer varieties will sit there like DP 555 did during dry periods and when the dry spell was over, the terminal would crank back up and set a top crop,” he says. “We could be dealing with cotton being mature and ready to harvest when peanuts are ready. Some cotton will be harvested earlier. What the weather does in August is critical.”
Gins Getting Ready
Producer Jimmy Webb of Leary, Ga., says it has been tough keeping up with the irrigation needs of the crop.
“We looked really good up to mid-July, and then the rains cut off,” Webb says. “The rains we have gotten here in the last four days may be too late. We have really had to pump a lot of water.
“If you have been able to water and keep up, the cotton is about 300 heat units ahead from the last two years. We will be harvesting some cotton in September, I believe.”
Dusty Findley, executive director of Southern Cotton Growers and Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, says reports from gins so far range from three weeks early to on time.
“It all depends on the rainfall and heat in their areas between now and harvest,” he says. “Most gins are expecting a better harvest than last year and are working on securing labor for two shifts.”
Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.