The Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending May 8 shows that we have two percent of our cotton planted. This is 23 days behind 2010 and 21 days behind normal. With about 600,000 acres in the Mid-South region flooded, planting will continue to be delayed. Our prayers go out to all of the producers who have had problems throughout the area.
With favorable conditions this week, planting has increased. So everything is not bleak. With 12-row equipment, a lot of acres can be planted very quickly. It is uncertain if we will get our projected 350,000 acres of cotton planted, but it certainly is not impossible.
The year that many are comparing this season to is 2008. We were late getting the cotton planted, and we did not end with the number of heat units that we thought that we would need to mature the crop. Let’s look back at cotton planting in 2008. The April 27 date showed five percent planted; May 4, 19 percent; May 11, 53 percent; May 18, 78 percent; and May 25 was described as planting virtually complete and seven days ahead of normal. So how did that work out? The yield was a record 1,106 pounds per acre.
With the high prices, I suspect that farmers will continue planting well past the recommended planting date. It really doesn’t matter what has happened to date. It all depends on what happens the rest of the season.
Contrary to much of the Cotton Belt, the Deep South has been dry most of the season. Insect injury seems to be worse in years when cotton growth is slowest. It will be important to protect squares during the month of June to set and mature an early cotton crop. Plant bugs and stink bugs have become more of a problem with square injury and fewer spray applications, using cotton varieties protected by Bt proteins.
Good scouting is always important for managing growth, weeds and insects and can result in high yields if managed properly. Keeping cotton growth under control has advantages for controlling insects.
Applying growth regulators too late requires higher rates and is often less effective once the crop is too tall. With cotton prices near an all-time high, producers should make an extra effort to protect the crop.
Almost all of the cotton has been planted, with some producers debating whether to plant behind wheat. The wheat crop matured a little earlier than normal this year, providing this opportunity to double-crop with cotton. Stable prices above a dollar per-pound of lint may convince some to increase their acres.
Standing cotton has suffered to some degree from a combination of cooler-than-normal temperatures and widespread thrips infestations. Spotty rains are helping most cotton stay ahead of the overall drought situation, but Louisiana soils are still dry and getting drier. The irony of the drought is that we are struggling to keep the Mississippi River behind the levee.
The opening of the Morganza Spillway above Baton Rouge diverted a tremendous amount of water from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya River Basin, flooding more than three million acres. Of that, about 18,000 acres was cropland planted to a mix of sugarcane, soybeans, corn, milo and cotton. The Spillway opening did not provide relief to producers farther up the river near Vidalia and Lake Providence, who lost a combined estimated 13,000 acres of cropland to flooding when older, privately maintained “ring” levees were overtopped by the rising river.
The ring levees were older structures on the river side of the main levee system operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. They were well maintained and functioned as designed until this historic flood that was simply higher than the old levee system could hold back. As the flood crest passes and the river begins to subside, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the mainline levees will continue to hold as they become more saturated and sand boils crop up, potentially undercutting the structure.
Most believe the system will hold. The potential acres that could flood if the mainline levee breaks is anyone’s guess, but a lot of prime farmland could go under. As we all pray for rain west of the levee, we all pray for a quick decline in river flows east of the levee.
As I write this on May 16, the only word that can describe the cotton situation in south Georgia is “dry.” We have been dry for quite some time now, and the storm systems that moved through the state on May 14 provided little relief, if any at all. Hopefully, by the time you read this, things will be much better.
The established crop is growing well in most places, although there have been several reports of higher-than-normal thrips damage in early planted cotton. The dry weather has forced dryland planting to a halt in some places until we can get some reprieve with our soil moisture deficit
Although cotton planting (both irrigated and dryland) is only five percent behind schedule at this point in time, the dry weather will undoubtedly shift some proportion of our dryland planting to slightly later-than-normal planting dates. Cotton can typically be planted up to June 15 or so in most places in south Georgia, especially when earlier maturing varieties and management tactics that prevent delayed maturity are used.
However, it will be critical that 1.) timely rainfall helps establish optimal stands for the later planted cotton, and 2.) the emerging late-planted crop be protected from insect pests. Although no one wants to replant and should avoid it if at all possible, we will lose some of this flexibility if dry weather persists to the end of our planting window.
With the flooding in many areas to our east and the drought covering most of western Oklahoma and north Texas, it appears we are off to a difficult start in the region. As of May 16, high temperatures and winds, drought and fire potential continue to plague southwestern Oklahoma. Overall, temperatures have been up and down, with record high temperatures encountered, then, a few days later, followed by near record lows.
We do have some good chances of badly needed rainfall in the forecast as of this writing. Very little cotton has been planted as of mid-May. Based on Altus Mesonet records, it has now been about 180 days since the last one-inch or greater rainfall event has occurred. The overall situation is dire, and, at this time, substantial rainfall is necessary to allow the establishment of the 2011 cotton crop.
Many producers with groundwater and center pivots have opted for pre-irrigation in order to provide timely stand establishment. The 2011 NASS estimate for planted acres in Oklahoma is 326,000. Based on NASS data from 2000 to 2008, the irrigated acreage averaged about 80,000 with most of that in the southwestern part of the state. If we assume that most of the new acreage is non-irrigated, we may have about 200,000 to 250,000 dryland acres at risk due to extreme drought conditions.
It appears that the irrigated acreage also will be under drought pressure. All irrigation systems, including the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, are essentially supplemental to rainfall. The irrigated acreage is at risk for considerably lower-than-normal production due to short water availability and will be off to a late start unless rainfall is obtained quickly. We need rainfall soon to preserve the production capability of these dryland and irrigated acres.
The Lugert Reservoir is currently about 47 percent of capacity. There is little, if any, water flowing into the reservoir at this time. Sizable rainfall and runoff into the North Fork watershed will be necessary to provide adequate in-season irrigation.
The vast majority of Texas remains in a terrible drought. The Blacklands, Coastal Bend and Upper Gulf Coast were fortunate to receive some rain in mid-May, and that will go a long way toward making an average crop. This rain was needed for established cotton and will allow much of the acreage in the southern Blacklands to get started.
The other cotton production regions received some small scattered showers but remain categorized as extreme to exceptional drought. Cotton in the Rio Grande Valley is approaching peak bloom with some stressed dryland cotton, and irrigated cotton yield potential is well below normal despite multiple irrigations already.
In the High Plains and Rolling Plains, producers are slowly planting irrigated acres as they can apply irrigation to establish the crops. These producers are spending a significant amount on irrigation just to get the crop started. The dryland farmers are still waiting for planting moisture but need three to four inches to replenish the depleted soil profile.
As if we need any more evidence that no two years are the same, the 2011 growing season has proven to be predictably unpredictable. Historic river flooding in the lower Mississippi Valley, fueled by above-average precipitation in the Middle Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys from January through May, has proven to be catastrophic for many in the Mid-South.
While there are those who are suffering from the effects of too much water, producers in south Mississippi have been forced to slow and/or stop planting activities due to lack of moisture. In addition, 2011 marks the first year that many can remember planting cotton in mid-May while wearing a jacket.
Although we got a late start on planting due to adverse weather conditions, the speed with which we can get a crop planted is nothing short of amazing. More than 50 percent of our total acreage was planted in a seven-day period during the second week of May.
The challenges we have faced thus far will likely not be the last for this year; however, the tenacity of cotton and those who grow it will hopefully pay dividends later in the year.
Cotton plantings have struggled through April and May in northern Alabama. Heavy rains delayed most early season planting in April. The late April tornadoes also dumped heavy rains and destroyed several farming operations across the northern region of Alabama. Cooler-than-normal temperatures have persisted past the middle of May, resulting in some replanting of early cotton fields due to poor stands and seedling diseases
Cotton planting is continuing into late May in most areas under less-than-ideal temperatures. Thrips pressure is also increasing on much of the young cotton at this writing. To say the start of the 2011 cotton crop has been a struggle would be considered an understatement at this time.
Many producers will be growing cotton without the benefit of Temik being used as an in-furrow treatment for thrips control this year. Producers also need to keep in mind that one of the main benefits of Temik was that it provided a longer period of thrips control than seed treatments.
Early foliar applications to control thrips are often beneficial. These applications should be made at the cotyledon to one-leaf stage for maximum benefit. As we move into June, most of the cotton at this point in the season should be large enough and growing fast enough to outgrow thrips damage.
Foliar applications made at this stage will have little benefit in terms of thrips damage and may trigger other insect pests such as spider mites and aphids.
Seedling cotton is very sensitive to excessive rainfall or flooding. Heavy rainfall in the spring cools the soil, reduces soil oxygen content and increases the pressure from seedling disease pathogens. Waterlogged conditions for 24 to 36 hours will lead to anaerobic conditions where the constant supply of oxygen to the young root system will be cut off.
After 36 hours of waterlogged conditions, young roots may die, eventually leading to the death of seedling plants. Most cotton is grown on soils that are well drained and prevent constant saturation of water. However, given the sequence of recent events, most producers will have some replanting to do.
A big consideration is soil type and moisture. If the soil type is one that dries quickly, replanting decisions must be made as soon as possible and carried out before moisture falls out of the beds. Lately, this hasn’t been an issue. If plant distribution is fairly uniform in fields on productive soils, good yields can be made with low plant populations, perhaps in the low 20,000 plants per-acre range, or as low as 1.5 plants per row-foot with no or few skips.
At this point in the season, it appears that half of the state’s cotton will be planted late because of flooding in the northeast region. Ironically, the southern area continues to deal with a serious drought. These weather conditions will put extra pressure on producers to employ good late-season management strategies on PGR applications, water and fruiting schedules.