According to the Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Aug. 8, Missouri cotton is 26 days ahead of last year and 18 days ahead of normal. The condition is rated as four percent very poor, 22 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 44 percent good and four percent excellent. Irrigation will be the deciding factor this year, and I believe that it is safe to predict that we will have an earlier crop in 2010.
Our last effective bloom date is around Aug. 15. However, this will not have much meaning in 2010. The non-irrigated cotton was blooming out the top in late June and even with a few rains it will not have a significant recovery. Much of the irrigated cotton has a good boll load and has already reached cutout well before normal. It is unlikely that much fruit will be added to the irrigated cotton due to boll load. I have tagged blooms on Aug. 15 and rarely get more than one to two to set.
A look at the DD-60 data shows why we are so early. During May 1-July 15, the 1,322 heat units were the highest in the last eight years. If we extend this to Aug. 1, we also have the highest in eight years. If we extend the Aug. 1 data to Aug. 15, we will still have more than four of the last eight years.
That means defoliation and harvest are just around the corner.
The past couple of weeks of temperatures at or near 100 degrees and limited rainfall in much of the state are maturing the cotton crop very quickly and negatively impacting yield in many Texas cotton production regions. However, this heat and dry weather were welcomed by cotton producers in the Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend and Upper Gulf Coast where conditions have been too wet.
In the Rio Grande Valley, harvest should be near completion, and harvest in the Coastal Bend is well underway. The yield potential in these two regions is 1 to 2.5 bales with these yield expectations for both dryland and irrigated fields. In the Upper Gulf Coast, producers made a lot of insecticide sprays mid-season for fleahoppers and late-season applications for stinkbugs to protect the crop.
Despite their efforts to manage fleahoppers, many fields have two crops – the lower crop with open bolls and the upper crop with many immature bolls. This has led to producers having to make some tough decisions on harvest-aid application timing and whether to wait on the top crop. In the Blacklands, the cotton has been maturing rapidly due to the onset of dry and 100-plus degree temperatures.
Cotton is a traditional Southern crop that is suited to high temperatures and can withstand periods of drought and still make a good crop. 2010 has been one of those roller coaster years where there have been wet and dry periods that can delay management as well as crop growth and boll loading. As producers prepare to defoliate and pick cotton, we must realize that a big part of the cost of growing cotton is in defoliating, picking, mowing, labor, hauling and ginning.
Some budgets report that 40 to 45 percent of the cost is still to be incurred just prior to defoliation. There is not much that can be done to reduce costs associated with harvest except to have a solid defoliation program that will open bolls as quickly as possible to insure that the majority of the crop is harvested in a one pass operation and that the crop is harvested within two weeks of defoliation.
Additional trips to defoliate or for a second picking are very expensive and seldom worth the cost since later maturing bolls often have immature fibers and can be low quality with little yield.
The cotton crop in southwest Georgia has progressed more rapidly than normal. July was hotter and drier than usual, especially toward the end of the month. As a result, most of our dryland cotton reached cutout (nodes above white flower equal to 3 or 4) somewhat prematurely and completely ceased blooming soon after in some cases.
Irrigated cotton still looks decent, as well as some of the later planted cotton that did not have a heavy boll load or was not approaching cutout during the hot and dry time and got some rain later to pull it through.
Although several dryland fields have developed a good boll load at the bottom of the plant, the true testament for the “rebound capacity” of some of these newer varieties will be told from fields that received rain during August. In the past, DP 555 BR could recover from hot dry spells and continue to set bolls during a wetter August and develop a strong top crop. Only time will tell for the newer varieties.
As a consequence of the July weather, a compressed or compact fruiting crop resulted in most dryland fields. Boll opening seemingly began much earlier than normal. Several fields had cracked bolls as early as the last week of July, which was primarily observed in early planted cotton. However, bolls in several fields planted in mid- to late-May began to open in early August. For Georgia, substantial boll opening in early August poses risks of boll rot, yield loss and quality deterioration as August is typically a wetter month.
Defoliation and harvest will also likely be earlier than normal this year. If warm and wet conditions persist during September, producers need to be concentrating on managing regrowth, especially for fields that cut out early and had a poor boll load.
Louisiana cotton producers are learning the growth characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of many new varieties planted this year for the first time, as older but popular Roundup Ready varieties are phased out. Two issues that are evident this year are differences in growth habit and differences in nutrient use, especially potassium.
Growth habits of some new varieties were quite different from what producers were accustomed to in the full-season varieties of the past. Some got off to a fast start from germination to early bloom but then settled down during bloom and boll set.
The weather factor is what complicated the situation. Large sections of Louisiana’s cotton-growing areas suffered under an early drought, with seasonal thunderstorms laying down a checkerboard pattern of rainfall. This resulted in some fields suddenly receiving adequate moisture just as they reached reproductive phases, leaving producers wondering if the aggressive growth might have come earlier if the moisture had already been present in adequate amounts.
The whole season has been a learning session in growth regulator management, but there are likely more lessons to learn if next year’s weather patterns change. Symptoms of potash deficiency have increased this year over a widespread area, with certain varieties more obvious than others. This is an issue we will study next year, as we don’t want producers robbing themselves of potentially higher yields over an issue that can be managed. Overall, if we can harvest the cotton and not suffer late-season rains, our producers can bring in a good crop.
As alluded to in this column last month, the smell of cotton defoliants in the air has coincided with the return of students to Mississippi State University. While some of these early defoliation applications were undoubtedly made to dryland cotton that has suffered from lack of rainfall most of the growing season, by the time this magazine is in your hands, some of our better looking cotton will be defoliated and pickers will be running.
Although temperatures have been above average for most of the growing season, August arrived with record temperatures in several areas of Mississippi. Excessive temperatures have caused shedding problems in the upper canopy in a large portion of this crop. Hurricanes and excessive rainfall have caused problems in many areas of our state over the past couple of growing seasons. Given the tough conditions we have faced for what seems like the duration of the growing season, we are about due for a favorable harvest window.
While adverse growing conditions and pest pressure have certainly reduced yield potential, the 2010 crop appears to be above average. Although we are not out of the woods with regard to weather, we are quickly headed toward the finish line. Based on our experience with the weather last year, I will take an above average crop in the picker compared to a state record crop on the plant any day of the week.
The Arkansas cotton crop is winding to a close at a rapid pace. Record high temperatures for many days in July and August have left us with a variable but above average crop if everything goes right this month. Delayed or erratic irrigation and nitrogen/potassium uptake have resulted in many fields with variable cotton of all sizes, which will make defoliation applications difficult to say the least.
Heat unit accumulation for the season since May 1 is currently 500 heat units ahead of a 30-year average for Arkansas. If you assume a 25 heat unit average accumulation per day, that puts Arkansas almost three weeks ahead of schedule for the 2010 growing season. Will this affect yield and quality? Yes and yes. The extreme high daytime and more importantly nighttime temperatures will greatly affect the upper third boll production on this crop. We will be lucky to harvest 30 percent of the upper bolls this season.
Fields irrigated early and on a strict schedule have handled the heat better than others, but shed of the top crop is occurring on these fields as well. Harvest aid applications were started on Aug. 12 for non-irrigated fields, and at least one-third of our crop will be defoliated the first week of September.
Decisions regarding harvest-aid selection will be important if the heat wave continues into September. Reduced rates of most products will be necessary to prevent leaf stick under 100-degree temperatures.
The 2010 season is quickly coming to an end in Arizona. Most of the crop has experienced a good season after the bumpy start associated with cool early season temperatures. Insect pressure has been relatively light again in 2010. We have seen reduced amounts of pesticide being used to control worms and other more selective chemistries to control whitefly and plant bugs that have allowed us to a large degree conserve our beneficial populations that have helped keep insect outbreaks at a minimum.
As most of the crop is approaching or at cutout, irrigation termination decisions will soon need to be made. Keep in mind that approximately 600 heat units (HU) are required for a fresh bloom to develop into a harvestable boll. During this time of 600 HU, adequate soil moisture is needed to ensure proper fiber development. In mid- to late-September, 600 HU equates to approximately three weeks. So, for example, a fresh bloom set on Sept. 10 will need good soil moisture through the end of September.
Depending on weather conditions, an irrigation event on Sept. 20 would likely complete the development of that boll and would be the final irrigation. Development of a top crop will obviously require additional irrigation, but the number of heat units required to mature a set of fresh blooms is the same regardless of when that bloom is set. However, it will take more days to mature them as we move further into the fall as HU accumulations drop off dramatically after mid-September.
Boll maturation tables for various locations in Arizona can be found at http://cals.arizona.edu/azmet/Boll_Maturity_2009.pdf.
More information on this and other topics can be found at http://cals.arizona.edu/crops.
High Plains cotton has been on a roller coaster during the summer. We had extensive rainfall, which provided considerable relief during early July. This resulted in a poorly rooted dryland crop in many areas in heavy rainfall counties. Quite a bit of “yellow” cotton appeared by mid-July. Most of this cotton was dryland, which was not fertilized with nitrogen prior to the rainfall events.
During the first two weeks of July, most High Plains producers were kept out of the field due to the high moisture situation, and this resulted in late nitrogen applications, especially to the extremely wet dryland areas. Lack of subsequent rainfall and perhaps compromised root systems due to previous water-logged conditions have resulted in considerable acreage of stunted dryland cotton in several southern counties.
Irrigated fields were somewhat delayed in development due to cool, wet conditions through mid-July. Fruit retention issues arising from the environmental conditions were concerning.
However, on the whole, the High Plains outlook is very bright for a good-to-excellent crop harvest in many areas. The August NASS report indicated we had very low abandonment this year in Districts 1N and 1S. This estimate indicated that we planted about 3.78 million acres with about 3.65 standing. Per-acre yields indicated 1,005 pounds for 1N. If this materializes, it would be the second highest per-acre yield on record – set in 2007 at 1,082 pounds. The 731 pounds for 1S would rank as the third highest yield on record with previous records in 2007 at 819 pounds and 2005 at 757 pounds.
Production forecasts indicate that we may produce close to six million bales in these two districts. This would be the largest crop in terms of bale production ever produced in the region if it is realized. It is attributable to the large standing acreage and good yield prospects. With much of the cotton in the region hitting hard cutout by mid-August, if an excellent September is encountered, fiber quality, especially maturity as reflected in micronaire, could also be good. We are a long way from having this crop in the module. Only time will tell.
Very hot dry weather has caused cotton to mature rapidly across many areas of Alabama. Some cotton will be defoliated or even harvested before September arrives this season. This can cause quite a few defoliation problems, including poor defoliation results on tough mature leaves and rapid cotton regrowth occurring if heavy rainfall occurs before harvest.
I would advise farmers to begin defoliation slowly and see which products are producing the best defoliation results. Regrowth under these situations can often occur rapidly, and we do not want to make a second defoliation trip across this crop.
I have been informed that the phosphate-type defoliants (Def 6, Folex, etc.) are in very short supply. This will cause a switch to other defoliation products, especially the PPO inhibitors (Aim, ET, Blizzard, Resource etc.). We plan to conduct on-farm defoliation trials to determine which defoliants or combination of defoliants work best.
Overall, the cotton crop in North Carolina has been hurt by lack of rainfall in July and August. The crop has primarily been dependent on scattered thunderstorms. A lot of the cotton that will be ready for defoliation and harvest first should occur in the areas that had the least rain associated with these spotty storms in many areas.
It is very likely that these areas that are affected by drought and ready for defoliation and harvest first may not have been the areas you originally planned to defoliate and harvest initially due to planting date, variety and special arrangement. This means that in order to get started early on defoliation and harvesting you will likely have to alter your plans. This, of course, is not unusual.
As you decide where and when to start defoliation, remember that a drought-stressed crop is typically set on fewer fruiting branches, often on four or five fruiting branches. In those situations, you can easily be at nodes above cracked boll of four or fewer well before you reach 60 percent open bolls.