The Missouri cotton crop is finally starting to look like cotton. We have been too wet and too dry. According to the Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending on June 12, we are at two percent squaring. This is 13 days behind last year and nine days behind normal. We still have seep water and some soils that are too wet. Most of the cotton that has a good stand was planted after our recommended planting dates.
Some of the June-planted cotton needed rainfall to break the crust and to provide enough moisture to grow. We already have center pivots running, and they will probably be used extensively this year. With the windy conditions, there are plenty of drift complaints.
At the Delta Center at Portageville, we have had 578 heat units from May 1 through June 15. This compares with 708 from the same period last year. The 2009 and 2008 cotton crops had 483 and 564 heat units respectively during this time period. In 2008, Missouri had a record yield of 1,106 pounds per acre. A much higher forecast for yield was made in 2009, but all of the rain during harvest reduced the yield to 930 pounds per acre.
We will need to apply growth regulators to reduce the size in many fields and, more importantly, to increase the plant efficiency and earliness. At this point, we have a lot of season left to work with.
Producers have had a tough season to get a stand of cotton and had added weed control issues due to the drought. Many producers have had stand problems due to dry soil conditions and herbicides splashing on young cotton seedlings along with heavy thrips feeding. Most growers elected to go with the current cotton stands even if they were less than satisfactory due to the uncertainty of getting any rains before it was too late to plant again.
The last date that we recommend planting in Florida is the third week of June even though cotton can be planted in July in the Deep South and still grows and fruits well but will not open normally in most years due to cool weather and frosts. Up to this point, producers have faced more weather challenges than in most years.
Cotton is a Southern crop and will withstand high levels of stress and still has the potential to produce good yields if we have good weather conditions in July and August.
The new cotton varieties that have replaced Deltapine 555 will be severely tested this year.
The record high waters coming down the Mississippi River did not overtop or cut through the mainline levees in Louisiana, and as the waters recede, many are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief. We lost several thousand acres to the flood on ground protected by private levees. As the waters recede, some are debating whether to plant late soybeans, but, at this stage, no one is considering replanting cotton.
The good news on the east side of the levee did little to relieve the growing frustration over the lack of water on the west side of the levee. Many producers statewide had to begin watering their cotton crop earlier than they could remember. One producer in the central part of the state was perplexed that his “good ground” cotton was behind his “heavy ground” cotton, until we started checking moisture by depth.
The relatively dry winter did little to recharge subsoil moisture, and now that topsoil moisture from the spring rains is drying up, there is precious little water for good root development. Evidently the heavier ground had a higher plant-available moisture-holding capacity than the loamy “good” ground. After this cotton producer started irrigating, the crop responded well. I have received other calls from producers in a quandary about which crop to water, as both corn and cotton are in critical phases at this time.
We are in the early bloom phase, and if we can get a change in weather patterns and start receiving the occasional thunderstorms that our crop historically relies on, we could still manage to have a good year.
Dry and hot weather persisted to nearly the end of the normal planting window in Georgia this year. Luckily, most of the cotton-growing region received some rainfall around June 15, with more than two inches reported in many places. This rain saved some of the later-planted crop and initiated final replanting for acres that did not get a decent stand during the first planting.
Although 2011 cotton planting progressed fairly consistent with previous years, a larger proportion of the crop emerged later than normal due to the prolonged absence of any noticeable rainfall. This has definitely been a challenging year with regard to establishing acceptable stands. There have been numerous reports of producers having to irrigate three to four times just to get this crop out of the ground.
Continuing rainfall throughout the summer and/or irrigation will likely be critical for the success of this late-emerging crop this year. It will also be important to manage this late-emerging crop to maximize retention and development of earlier-set bolls. This crop may be slightly less forgiving than normal if additional delays are encountered. Therefore, it will be critical to scout thoroughly to avoid any additional losses due to insect pests such as plant bugs and stink bugs.
As of June 16, Texas remains in a very tough situation with the dry, hot and windy conditions. The cotton throughout South Texas and the Blacklands is progressing very quickly due to 25 percent above normal HU accumulation and arid conditions. In the Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend and Upper Gulf Coast, the cotton harvest is expected to be three to four weeks ahead of 2010 and even includes the irrigated cotton.
In the Southern Blacklands, most of the cotton is struggling with a substantial portion that never emerged. The Northern Blacklands has moderate yield potential due to timely rains but will need some rain soon to meet the current yield potential. The dryland crop in the Rolling Plains and High Plains will likely be a near complete loss. On irrigated fields, the irrigation capabilities are being stretched to or beyond the limit with record heat and high winds.
Weather conditions in 2011 have been similar to the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, give it a minute and it’ll change.” Although I have not been in the cotton patch nearly as long as some of my colleagues, I suspect there are not many around who can remember planting cotton in May wearing a heavy coat.
To that end, the 2011 cotton crop in Mississippi has faced challenges from day one. We have been challenged by cool weather, hot weather, flooding, lack of rainfall, sandstorms and hail among other issues. Given the challenging conditions, the fact that more than half of our crop is in good-to-excellent condition as we head toward the end of June speaks to the resiliency of cotton and those who grow it.
Irrigation systems have been put into use in several areas of the state as some producers have gone four to six weeks without rainfall. In those fields where irrigation has been initiated, the timing between irrigation applications may be stretched out to some degree compared to irrigation applications made to blooming cotton.
Looking back to the start of the year, some of us relearned a lesson. There was a lot of interest in pop-up fertilizers due to the shortage of Temik. Many thought this might help the cotton avoid some thrips injury. Unfortunately, some put starter fertilizer in-furrow with the seed instead of a standard two-by-two placement and, in many cases, there was severe injury and seedling death. The lack of thrips control with the loss of Temik might make starter fertilizers more attractive, but starters should not be placed close to the seed. Even at rates as low as two gallons of 10-34-0, I have had stand losses that resulted in severe injury losses 50 percent of the time over the years. Cotton seed is very sensitive to ammonia, and, if soil moisture conditions favor amnia evolution, you can see severe problems. Using low rates of starter in-furrow is a practice with little-to-no rewards and tremendous risk.
It looks as if we are going into July with the crop pretty close to on schedule and with little excessive rain to promote excessive growth. Pix is a tool we should use to help us manage the natural growth regulator until the boll load takes over. The closer we are getting to July, it looks like boll load may be all many fields need to control growth. Last year we saw a lot of interest in using Pix past early bloom. We have never had a test where applications made after early bloom have had any detectable economic benefit.
Most of the crop across Arizona is well into the bloom cycle and setting up for a good crop. Very little insect pressure has been experienced thus far. Mid- to peak-bloom is a critical developmental stage for establishing a high-yielding crop. Every effort to minimize stress at this time will protect the developing base of a successful crop.
Monitoring for insect pressure, particularly lygus and whitefly pressure, is critical for effective crop protection. Fertilizer applications of nitrogen (N) should coincide with maximum N uptake by the crop, which is during the period of first square through peak bloom. Applications of fertilizer N past the point of peak bloom have been shown to increase crop vigor to the point where delayed maturity may result in making the crop difficult to terminate and prepare for harvest.
Soil moisture status is also critical to monitor through the primary fruiting cycle. Water stress experienced this time of year will cause the crop to shed squares and small (one to three-day old) bolls. Managing the limited irrigation resource that we have in 2011 is critical to effectively avoid significant water stress.
San Joaquin Valley cotton fields in early to mid- June ranged from about 10 to 20 days behind what we think is a more normal rate of development seen in many years. Much of the delay in growth and leaf area development has been related to repeated spells of cool, wet weather occurring in April and May.
Cooler temperatures alone slowed growth but also tended to provide conditions where thrips populations persisted for longer than typically seen in the SJV. In quite a few fields, leaf and terminal damage from thrips was much worse than “normal.” Warmer weather, beginning in late May and early June, has promoted higher growth rates, and plants should make up some lost time, allowing for good potential for at least moderate yields in many locations.
Early season spider mite populations have been relatively light in most locations, but, by early to mid-June, lygus populations were starting to build in some parts of the SJV. Many producers have delayed first irrigations relative to typical first irrigation timing. In most fields, delayed irrigation starts have probably been a good idea – considering the delay acknowledges that plants used less water during a milder spring.
The late start will have most of us assuming that we need: (a) good, tight management of water, nitrogen and insect pests early season to try to retain early season and mid-season fruit; and (b) some cooperation from September/October weather to allow maturing out fruit in this later-than-normal year. Holding early and mid-canopy fruit will be the key in fields reaching potential for good yields in a year like this one.