As we head into the planting season, there is good news on several fronts. First, our moisture situation is vastly improved. I had seen forecasts that showed that we would have a wetter and warmer period after the first of the year. This was accurate. According to the March U.S. Drought Monitor, our cotton-growing area now is either abnormally dry or shows no drought.
Since we have so much irrigation in southeast Missouri, last year’s drought and high temperatures did not have the impact that most of us feared. The second front is the optimism for the higher prices. I have had several producers and dealers tell me that they would not be surprised if our actual acreage is higher than the planting intentions survey.
We may see more than the 350,000 acres that were expected. As mentioned in meetings this year, farmers can afford to use more chemicals when the price is so much higher. The major drawback this season will be the glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Again, there are pre-plant and pre-emerge options and post-directed sprays. The important thing is to make sure that the plants do not go to seed.
According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, we have equal chances for normal, above normal and below normal temperatures and moisture levels. I just hope that there will be a high number of heat units to push the crop along.
The farming community is excited about 2011 with prospects for good prices for all of the traditional Southern crops. With historic high prices for cotton, there will be more cotton planted, which will help those farms that have planted too many of the legume crops over the years, resulting in high pest pressure, high input costs and less-than-expected yields.
With a large part of our crop being grown without irrigation, having adequate moisture for planting in a La Niña year is a major concern since much of Florida already is in a moderate drought. However, weather conditions are expected to be more normal as we get closer to planting time, which will really help stand development.
Many producers are gearing up to work on resistant weed populations with new generation hooded sprayers and residual herbicides. This will be a key component of management since Palmer amaranth has spread rapidly over the past three to four years in most of the cotton-growing areas.
Cover crops should be killed early to ensure adequate moisture in fields without irrigation.
With temperatures being warmer than normal in recent weeks, many producers will start planting in April if 10-day forecasts are for continued warm temperatures.
Texas producers are still expecting to plant significantly more cotton acres in 2011 than in 2010. With our current weather patterns and long-term weather predictions, Texas cotton producers may face a challenging year. The March 15 drought monitor index had more than 70 percent of Texas in a moderate-to-extreme drought with only 10 percent experiencing normal soil moisture conditions.
Fortunately, much of the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend had decent moisture for cotton establishment or had some irrigation capability. In the Upper Gulf Coast, soil temperatures warmed quickly above 60 degrees in most areas, and planting moisture has generally been sufficient for good stand establishment.
In the Blacklands, some precipitation will be needed in the next couple of weeks, or producers will be making the decision to plant into a dry seedbed or delay planting, hoping for a rainfall event. The producers in the Rolling Plains and High Plains are in desperate need of precipitation prior to planting in mid-May. Some producers are pre-plant irrigating to partially fill the soil profile, but most are waiting on precipitation.
Preparations are well underway to begin the 2011 cotton production year. The off-season agronomic meetings have wrapped up, decisions made on acres to be planted, burndown programs have been executed, supplies have been booked and producers are ready to start. Louisiana has benefited from recent rains, and the hope is that we will get more to recharge the relatively low water reserves that were expected over the winter.
The long, dry fall season that continued after the cotton was picked last year allowed most producers to prep their fields thoroughly, so most cotton land is in good shape and ready to be planted. Higher input costs continue to concern many producers and consultants, but the “dollar plus” cotton that we continue to see on the exchanges has kept the determination and enthusiasm for cotton high.
Louisiana lost a fair amount of infrastructure during the decade-long decline in cotton acres, especially pickers, so a considerable increase in cotton acres is not expected. However, more than a few producers have expressed that they plan to increase their cotton acres this year, so I expect we will see at least a modest increase that will continue an upward trend in planted acres.
A few varieties seem to be rising in popularity as producers look for a suitable replacement for “triple nickel,” and the seed companies seem to be making a concerted effort to supply the needs of the producers. One big concern everyone has in Louisiana is the slow phasing out of Temik. This is a unique product in cotton production, and there does not seem to be an equivalent replacement on the near horizon.
In general, enthusiasm remains high as cotton prices remain above a dollar per pound of lint, and producers are looking forward to a profitable year.
Spring is here, and with it that ever present urge to put seed in the ground and get another productive growing season underway. It is a nice change to hear optimism around cotton-producing farmers and communities. From the sound of things, it looks like Arkansas will be back in the cotton business in 2011. Optimum planting dates with cotton can be a tricky subject because none of us can see into the future as to what the fall and tropical storm season may hold.
There is no doubt that an optimum window exists for Arkansas producers to plant cotton in hopes of maximizing production. These dates range from April 20 to May 20 most years. If this spring proves to be warmer than normal, like 2010, then optimum soil temperatures and weather patterns may allow for an early planted crop. The 2010 crop was one of the earliest planted on record where 90 percent of the crop was planted by May 10.
If the weather cooperates, an early planted cotton crop can potentially maximize yield with fewer input costs associated with supplemental irrigation, as well as plant bug and worm pest applications. Arkansas producers spend a lot of money each year on plant bug control. Early planted cotton may not reach treatable thresholds for plant bugs and other seasonal pests as many times as later planted cotton.
Planters loaded with cotton seed will start rolling this month in Mississippi. As final preparations are being made, there are several items that should be given extra attention. One of these areas is management of glyphosate-resistant weeds. If you have even lightly skimmed Cotton Farming, or any other popular press publication over the past several months, you have no doubt read about the scourge that is glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth.
In addition to being resistant to glyphosate, many populations in Mississippi and other states are also resistant to ALS-inhibiting herbicides. This troublesome species spread into uncharted areas in Mississippi in 2010 and will likely do the same in 2011. As many experts have said at meetings over the winter months, a proactive approach to this problem is necessary.
If glyphosate/ALS-resistant Palmer amaranth emerges and gains a foothold in glyphosate-resistant cotton, your control options are greatly reduced, and the task of producing a crop with maximum yield potential just became much more difficult. Utilization of residual herbicides and herbicides with modes of action other than that of glyphosate will be useful for control of this weed species.
With cotton prices at current levels, there is interest in double cropping cotton behind wheat. If you are considering this, there are several factors that should be evaluated. Essentially, you are dealing with a late planted crop. An early maturing variety should be strongly considered. In addition, stand establishment is of paramount importance.
If planting into wheat stubble, the use of residue management attachments on your planter may prove beneficial. Attachments that optimize seed to soil contact also may be useful.
Georgia cotton producers are now making field preparations and will soon be planting the 2011 crop. In order to get this crop off to the best start possible, there are several factors that producers should consider when making management decisions. These critical decisions could have a significant impact on the success of this year’s crop.
Thrips and nematode management may become more important this year because the supply of in-furrow granular insecticide/nematicide may be limited. Our UGA entomologists and pathologists provided some insight to critical management decisions regarding thrips and nematodes throughout our winter meetings. Rapid seedling emergence and early season vigor will be essential in avoiding problems with thrips.
Therefore, close attention should be paid to seed quality especially during the early part of our planting window, soil temperatures at planting and predicted temperatures in the days immediately following planting. Producers will likely be relying more on seed treatments this year, so it is important that these treatments include a thrips and/or nematode control component.
Last year at this time we were just finishing up a very productive, late winter full of heavy snowfall in the mountains and rain in the valleys. Snow-pack levels in many of our watersheds were more than 200 percent of normal. This went a long way to help alleviate some of the scarce water situations we were experiencing across Arizona in the recent years. This year, however, has been nearly the opposite for many parts of the state.
The Colorado River watershed has received significant snowpack and will result in high flow rates down the Colorado River for the western portion of state. Reservoirs along the river will be replenished significantly as we begin to see runoff as temperatures rise, and the snow begins to melt in the mountains. The rest of the state, however, was extremely dry with most areas receiving less than 20 percent of average precipitation.
Mountain snowfall is critical in replenishing watersheds and providing runoff for irrigation in the desert valleys of central and eastern Arizona. Water supplies may be limited for the 2011 cropping season if continued dry weather is experienced as is forecasted. Management of this precious limited resource will be critical. Applying water in as efficient a manner as possible, minimizing waste and runoff, utilizing scheduling techniques and following actual crop water use can all be techniques utilized to help get the most out of the water that we have.
Early season cotton is susceptible to square shed when significant moisture stress is encountered. Minimize early season moisture stress to set a good bottom crop and establish a crop that will mature in a timely fashion and with good yield potential. Find information on scheduling irrigations and crop management techniques at cals.arizona.edu/crops.