According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Oct. 10, 73 percent of the cotton was harvested, which is 39 days ahead of last year and 25 days ahead of normal. Some of the earliest planted cotton had more than 2,600 heat units this year, which is really unbelievable. In talking with many of our older producers, they can’t remember but a few years with such an early harvest.
We have been under drought conditions from early June with very little rainfall. Harvest has proceeded at a record pace because of no rainfall, but it has been dusty. The last drought that we had in 2007 actually had less rainfall, but the heat this year was much hotter. The most damaging aspect of the heat was the high evening temperatures, which weren’t conducive for the plant’s recovery.
The Oct. 12 Cotton and Wool Outlook report projects our yield to be 1,043 pounds per acre. This is surprising. However, since we have so much irrigation capacity, it is logical that, with the heat driving the plants, available nutrients and water, we would do better than expected.
Many of our farmers are finished with harvest, and the remaining acres should be harvested quickly due to the lack of rainfall. Farmers will be making plans this fall for more irrigation and strategies to handle the resistant Palmer amaranth. Producers will remember this year, and they will be happy when it concludes.
Each growing season is different and has challenges of its own and was aptly phrased by a farmer that I overheard saying “I have been farming for 40 years, but I haven’t farmed this year.” The early part of 2010 was generally wet, which got us off to a good start with good stands.
The last two months prior to harvest were extremely dry in most of the cotton-growing areas of Florida. The years of doing hardlock research in cotton showed that hardlock/boll rot was more prevalent when evening temperatures were in the 69-72 degree range with greater than 50 percent of those that were flowering on those days being hardlocked.
The bloom period of 2010 (July-August) had nighttime temperatures in the 76-79 range with no cool nights. We would predict from this that there would be very little hardlock, and where there was adequate moisture to grow the crop there should be some very high yields. This has generally been the case.
Fields with adequate moisture made very high yields due to little hardlock/boll rot, and those areas that did not get adequate rain to make a large plant did not yield as well due to plant stress and lack of plant size.
Cotton harvest is progressing fairly quickly in southwest Georgia, largely due to the clear, sunny days and lack of rainfall that we’ve experienced recently. Harvest is about 10 percent ahead of schedule at this point, and appears to be somewhere around 30 to 35 percent completed in southwest Georgia as I write this on Oct. 15. USDA-NASS estimates our yield to be 761 pounds per acre, which will be the first time our statewide yields have been less than 800 pounds for several consecutive years. This could be attributed to the widespread planting of earlier maturing varieties this year, compounded by the hot, dry weather that prematurely ended the bloom period in many fields.
We have experienced relatively cool weather recently, which is projected to continue for the foreseeable future. We have had several nighttime lows in the high 40s to mid-50s with daytime highs in the low 80s. Many producers are experiencing difficulty opening some of the upper later-set bolls in later planted cotton and/or for bolls that may have formed when the August
Usually time and warm, sunny conditions would help this situation. However, our lower temperatures have drastically slowed or halted boll development at this point.
After numerous weather delays in harvest in the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands of Texas, clear, dry weather in late September and October have allowed cotton producers to complete harvest. This delayed harvest significantly affected cotton quality. Fortunately, yield losses from the delayed harvest did not dramatically affect yield.
Average yield reports from the Rio Grande Valley are near two bales for dryland and 2.5 bales for irrigated cotton. In the Coastal Bend, the yield average was 2.0; Upper Coastal Bend 2.0; Upper Gulf Coast 1.5-2.0 and Blacklands of Texas 1.75. The Southern Rolling Plains and Rolling Plains began harvesting the first week in October with about 10 to 15 percent of the crop expected to be harvested by mid-October.
Yield predictions for the Rolling Plains are highly variable depending on summer rains. However, above average September and October temperatures should equate to above average yields on both dryland and irrigated cotton. In the dryland cotton of the Southern Rolling Plains, the delayed boll set and negligible late summer rains are equating into average or slightly below average yields.
The 2010 harvest season will be remembered as one of the best in recent memory. Very little to no rainfall allowed harvest and subsequent field work to progress at a rapid pace. In spite of challenging weather conditions for most of the growing season, excellent yields have been reported from many areas of the state. However, dry conditions have also led to difficulty in collecting soil samples and performing some tillage operations.
As current cotton prices have approached an area not often seen, interest in cotton for 2011 is increasing. Prices are expected to remain at current levels for the short term due to predicted harvest shortfalls in other cotton-producing regions of the world.
Movement of long-term prices will depend on several factors, including world harvest this year and plantings next year. While cotton prices are very favorable, grain prices are also attractive, which will likely temper to some degree the anticipated increase in cotton acreage in 2011.
While increased prices can make the decision of what and how much of a given crop to plant more difficult, keep risk management in mind when making those decisions.
A dry fall has been very good for cotton harvesting in northern Alabama with many producers getting close to finishing harvest by mid-October in this part of the state. Cotton yields vary widely even in small communities due to the scattered rainfall pattern during late summer. Generally, rainfall decreased as our summer rain systems moved west to east across Alabama.
Irrigated cotton yields appear to be excellent. Overall, yields have been a little better than most producers expected, but the dry areas will most likely cause our north Alabama average yield to be around 700 pounds per acre.
North Alabama farmers have been fighting Roundup-resistant horseweed for several years and now are finding resistant pigweeds spreading into the area. In response to this challenge, a “Fighting Resistant Horseweed and Pigweed Conference” has been scheduled for Dec. 2. The conference will be held in the Aerospace Building at Calhoun Community College near Decatur, Ala., with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. This meeting is open to everyone, and a complete program can be seen at www.alabamacrops.com.
As the 2010 crop season comes to an end, everyone’s attention is on 2011 already. Cotton prices above $1, corn near $6, soybeans nearing $12 will make the 2011 crop mix interesting to say the least. During harvest this fall, I have urged Tennessee producers to decide early on varieties and hybrids, fill up fuel tanks, spread phosphorous and potassium fertilizer and lock in nitrogen prices for next year.
The last time grain prices rose to record levels so did petroleum-based products and fertilizer prices. The only certainty is that the American farmer will again rise to the occasion and supply the world with our much needed commodities.
Cotton harvest in Arkansas was completed by the third week in October, one of the fastest harvests many can remember. The dry weather pattern during October allowed for continuous, non-relenting harvest days that have many personnel and equipment pushed to the limit. Another benefit to the dry harvest weather has been color grades.
It is difficult most years for Arkansas cotton producers to provide cotton with a color grade better than a 4 due to scattered showers during defoliation and harvest. However, this year the average color for Arkansas cotton will likely be a 3 color grade with many bales classed as a 2.
Cotton yields in Arkansas for 2010 will be above average with many producers harvesting record yields for their farms. Hopefully, by the time this is printed most of the cotton will be ginned, and we will have a better indication of how good the 2010 Arkansas cotton crop is. Micronaire values have been high this year, and so far the classing offices indicate that the average mic for Arkansas will be somewhere close to a 4.9. If there is one thing we can take from the season, timely management decisions from planting until harvest will make or break a cotton crop.
Producers in the state of Louisiana are finishing up the year on an optimistic note. Despite all the challenges this year’s crop faced, growers stayed ahead of the game and brought in a solid crop. We were blessed with several weeks of uninterrupted sunshine during the core part of the harvest, allowing growers to be patient with partially developed fields. They could also choose an un-hurried defoliation protocol, optimizing potential yields, so most growers went with a two-step defoliation technique. Many varieties stood up well under the long, hot summer and drought conditions. Others seemed to inexplicably ‘go vegetative’ in one field, while performing admirably just down the road in another field.
Our producers had an opportunity to learn to manage these newer varieties and effectively using growth regulators turned out to be a challenge. The early-season drought left many producers and consultants concerned about applying variations of mepiquat too early in the reasonable fear that they would shut the plants down if the drought persisted. The sudden burst of rain showers mid-season pushed many of the aggressive varieties, and crop managers had to use much higher rates than they had in the past. The relatively hot June nights brought about a 4-bract square phenomenon that led to some severe square shed, but there was little that could be done about it, and some fields were still able to make a late crop.
The dry weather also led to persistent spider mite infestations throughout the cotton growing regions. Plant bugs and bollworms were unrelenting in the Delta, but caused fewer issues further west in the state. A good harvest coincided with higher prices in the market, and many growers are considering either getting back into cotton for the first time in several years, or expanding their existing cotton acres.