The Missouri cotton crop is looking better than I expected at this point in the season. I have seen a few pivots running, but the flood-irrigated fields haven’t had much irrigation due to timely rainfall.
I have done a minimal amount of plant mapping, but the results look encouraging. These fields are at the upper end of the target range for blooming cotton. While we don’t have as many heat units as we had last year, we have had plenty of temperatures during late June and July to drive plant growth and development.
With all of the rainfall early and the wet soils, I am seeing some yellowing in the fields. Again, this could be caused by lost nitrogen or sulphur or both. The reason can be determined by tissue tests or by applying either urea or ammonium sulfate and seeing which area responds.
The Louisiana cotton crop continues on a pace for an “average year,” if anyone can define average anymore. The weather pattern looked like it was going to change a couple of weeks ago for the better, as different parts of the state began receiving the occasional afternoon thundershower. Unfortunately, that pattern has not maintained, and we are back in a situation where we really need the rain.
Certainly some fields, including irrigated ground, are faring pretty well, but parts of the Louisiana Delta and lower Red River Valley are getting seriously dry, and you can see it in the cotton that is not even knee high and already two to three nodes above white flower or less. More than a few producers will have to decide whether to hold onto the bottom crop or take the risk of extending their production season by allowing a top crop to grow out and mature.
Many cotton fields got off to a late start due to delayed planting from the drought and poor stands or replanted fields. Typically, we will have a good boll set coming out of July and will finish setting bolls in August. However, most of the boll set will be in late July and August this year. Producers should scout cotton very closely during August to retain as many bolls as possible with management geared to retaining fruit through proper use of growth regulators and control of plant bugs, stink bugs and other pests.
Even though stands were not as good as producers would like, cotton has a tremendous potential to compensate and make good yields.
Rainfall finally came through Georgia during the latter part of June and continued through mid-July. As I write this on July 15, most of southwest Georgia has received appreciable rainfall for several days in a row. Later-planted cotton is now rapidly developing, and, hopefully, rainfall will continue so that the earlier-set bolls can be retained and harvested.
The early planted crop that happened to achieve an acceptable stand looked grim on the first of July. The majority of early planted irrigated fields began blooming, while plants were shorter than we would like and rapidly approached cutout. Many early planted dryland fields began blooming while plants were only eight to 10 inches tall and reached cutout right away.
As of mid-July, extreme heat and continued drought conditions plague every cotton production region of Texas except the Rio Grande Valley, which received some rain from a tropical storm in late June. In the Rio Grande Valley, dryland harvest was ongoing with irrigated fields soon to follow. At this time, I do not have a good idea on yields, but the expectation is near average across the RGV.
Fortunately, the tropical storm in late June had minimal impact on the cotton crop and probably helped some of the later fields. The Coastal Bend producers have begun to harvest some of the early fields, and the yield expectations are 1-1.5 bales per acre. The Upper Gulf Coast cotton development varies tremendously with some of the cotton at 60 percent open boll and other cotton at cutout. The yield expectations are as varied as the crop maturity, but the region will probably be somewhere in the 0.75-1.25 bales per acre range.
This season’s crop has undergone a series of extremes, beginning early in the season. While some areas of Alabama dealt with extremely wet planting conditions, other parts of the state began the year in extreme drought. The transition from cool, spring temperatures in May seemed to turn into blazing heat during June over a single weekend.
Heavy thrips damage, coupled with exceptional drought and heat, set the crop’s progress over the course of the early summer. The ACES agronomic crops team, consisting of specialists, regional agents and county coordinators, make many visits to discuss production options with farmers across the state. In some fields, originally intended for corn, planting gave way to cotton and soybeans, and eventually the planting season ran out.
Field tours will be held in various counties and at some experiment stations across the state during this month. For more information about dates and locations, please visit our Web site at www.alabamacrops.com.
Time is passing quickly these days, and, as we head into August, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. In general, cotton growth and development is about two weeks behind where we usually are this time of year. This is mainly due to challenging weather conditions during planting season, which caused many to plant somewhat later than normal. Lack of rainfall after planting caused many to begin irrigating early; however, irrigation will continue for some time in many fields due to the aforementioned planting delays.
Four-bract squares have been a common sight in many fields this year. Consultants and producers were seeing flared squares and reductions in fruit retention in the absence of insect pressure. Upon closer examination, many of these squares had formed a fourth bract and ultimately fell to the ground. This problem appears to be in the rearview mirror as younger fruiting structures are forming normally.
We have had dry conditions prior to bloom in most cotton-producing areas of North Carolina. It is rare to see a response to growth regulators with limited moisture prior to bloom. Growth regulators are valuable to help control growth prior to and in very early bloom. After bloom is well initiated, the boll load should control plant growth.
There has been a lot of interest in applications of growth regulators during late bloom in recent years, at least partially due to decreased prices of growth regulators. Studies in North Carolina have not shown any benefit to these late applications. The cotton plant will fill bolls before it expends any additional carbohydrates, nutrients and moisture on resuming vegetative growth. Even in tests where there appeared to be a slight visual reduction in regrowth due to late growth regulator applications, the actual weight of regrowth was not different.
The Tennessee cotton crop has suffered through multiple disasters this season. Floods, wet/cold soils, soil crusting, seedling disease, tremendous thrips pressure, excessively hot temperatures, four- bract squares, earliest outbreaks of plant bugs on record, herbicide damage, 13-year locusts in middle Tennessee, nutrient deficiency, herbicide-resistant weeds and hail have all plagued this crop.
One area of concern that can be corrected this winter has to do with nutrient deficiencies. So far, on all the nutrient calls, one deficiency stands out. That deficiency is low soil pH. These fields have sufficient micro-nutrient levels in the soil, but tissue testing indicates deficiency. Low soil pH limits plant uptake of nutrients, leading to deficiency symptoms when no deficiency exists in the soil. The addition of more nutrients will not correct the problem. Don’t forget to soil test and add lime as needed.
The months of May, June and July have been a real struggle for cotton in southwestern Oklahoma. It appears that we are in the midst of one of the worst – if not the worst – spring/summer droughts on record. I have begun calling it the Great Drought of 2011. Furrow and sub-surface drip-irrigated fields in the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District struggled from the beginning. Crop insurance adjusters have begun assessing many of these fields that had poor stands due to lack of available water in the reservoir.
Dryland cotton, if emerged, is going to need rain soon, while the non-emerged is headed for insurance adjustment. Average daily high temperature for June as recorded by the Altus-Mesonet station was 105 degrees, and only two days were in the upper 90s. Through July 17 at Altus, we have recorded 54 days of at least 100 degrees. Six of these days have also been at least 110 degrees. The drought continues to take a terrible toll on southwestern Oklahoma agriculture. Hopefully, we will get some rainfall and more normal temperatures soon.
The cotton crop in Arkansas is still late on average but is beginning to catch up thanks to high heat unit accumulation during the months of June and July. Overall cotton varieties are fruiting one to two nodes later than usual this year because of the later planting dates and high heat unit accumulation early. As we move into August, the number of questions concerning the potential of the crop and when to safely stop spending money on it are common.
We have a great amount of diversity in this crop from various in-season stresses. Overall, the crop was planted past our optimum planting dates, thus raising questions in regard to late season termination and the last effective bloom date. There comes a time in the season when we can’t count on a white flower to contribute significantly to yield and profit. This date is based on the likelihood of accumulating 850 heat units through the remainder of the season.
In Arkansas, the latest possible cutout dates using a 50 percent probability of collecting 850 heat units on the last five-year data set are: Aug. 17, northeast Ark.; Aug. 20, central Ark.; and Aug. 22, southeast Ark. Based on heat unit accumulation in 2010, the last effective bloom dates were Aug. 21, northeast Ark.; Aug. 24 central Ark.; and Aug. 28 for southeast Ark.
Recent rains in July have greatly improved the cotton situation in the northern half of Alabama. Overall, this cotton crop is later than normal but still has excellent potential. Early season plant bugs damage was more severe than we have seen in several years. There also seems to be more four-bract squares in the fields than normal. Many times these extra bracts grow into the square causing the square to abort. I expect the abnormally high temperatures in the first three weeks of June were a factor in this development.