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My Turn: Keeping The Faith

Crop Season Inches Closer To Finish Line

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Mike Milam

According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Aug. 14, we now have one percent open bolls, which is slightly behind last year. The cotton condition is rated three percent very poor, four percent poor, 33 percent fair, 55 percent good and five percent excellent. This is much better than many of us expected earlier this season with the late planting and the cool, wet conditions. However, the crop has nearly caught up and has made remarkable progress.

I have been seeing potassium deficiency in many fields this year. According to research data developed at the Delta Center, late foliar applications of potassium can make a difference in filling the last bolls. It all depends on the weather conditions for the remaining season. The National Climate Center has predicted above-normal temperatures through October with an equal chance of having above, below or normal rainfall.

Although bacterial blight has not been around for a long time, we did have a small number of fields that had symptoms. Other than staying out of the fields while it is wet, the only things that producers can do are to continue irrigation and applications
of insecticides.

Our heat units have been good, with our May 1 through August 1 readings for 2011 of 1,624, exceeding all of the past nine years except last year, which had 1,732. However, much of our cotton was planted during late May. Defoliation and harvest are right around the corner.

David Wright

Every year in farming is different, and there are those years that always stand out to producers. 2011 will be a year that most producers will remember for being dry and having to replant cotton as many as two to three times. It was also a season with very high expectations due to the high price of cotton. Producers were warned that this would be a dry year due to La Niña with impacts receding by April.

However, drought conditions continued until the middle of July, leading to different ages of cotton in the same field. The wetter areas of many fields had normal age cotton followed by cotton that came up later, to cotton that came up in July when several rain events occurred. This has made a very difficult crop to manage with part of the field one age and the other part another age. Defoliation decisions will be difficult as well.

Much of the younger cotton is still blooming and will not make harvestable yields, while other parts need to be defoliated and picked. Experience in Florida has been that cotton planted in July will grow off and fruit well and look good, but there is a high probability that the bolls produced will not make harvestable yields. This is caused by slow growth in October, resulting in the potential for frost on unopened bolls.

I am sure many producers will not like the reason that this season will be remembered.

Guy Collins

The cotton crop in Georgia looks much better than it once did in most places. The early season drought took its toll on some cotton in a few areas. However, most cotton that achieved an acceptable stand during our normal recommended planting window has now developed an acceptable boll load with good yield potential. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate in September and through the fall to allow our producers to capture this yield potential.

The status of cotton that emerged toward the end of our recommended planting window (which ends on June 15) varies widely as I write this on Aug. 15. Managing this crop for a shorter season is critical to its success, which includes appropriate insect and PGR management. Continued rainfall through much of September will also help develop and retain some of the earlier set bolls, which will contribute the most toward the final yield of the later maturing crop.

In most years, we can typically harvest bolls that bloom by Sept. 5-15 in south Georgia, depending on fall weather. The last effective bloom date varies from year to year and strongly depends on the weather throughout the fall and when the first frost occurs. A long, warm fall with a late frost would be ideal for this year’s crop, especially for later-planted fields.

John Kruse

The Louisiana cotton crop is moving into the later stages of development. The rapid buildup of heat units we experienced this season since May, combined with the widespread planting of mid- and mid-full varieties compared to mostly full-season varieties in the past, has resulted in defoliation activity sooner than most producers expected.

As the bolls open up and leaves thin out, an assessment of the state’s overall cotton crop continues to be that it will be average to slightly below average in yield. Producers did a good job managing the crop they had this year, but the drought took its toll on many dryland fields.

There are certain areas, such as the northeast corner, including East Carroll and Madison Parishes, where the cotton was able to catch some timely precipitation and continue to advance, but then there are other areas, such as the lower Louisiana Delta and Red River valley, where dryland cotton grew less than everyone hoped.

Irrigated cotton looks very good and should help bring overall yield averages up. Most of the crop is past the need for insect applications. Looking back over the season, we had intense thrips pressure in May that coincided with cool temperatures, followed by relatively widespread outbreaks of leafhoppers. Early season plant bugs were light, but their numbers built as the season progressed, as did brown stink bugs.

The hot, dry weather and the corn harvest correlated with spider mite infestations. Many producers reported widespread potassium deficiencies during boll load, but it was not clear if the problem was severe enough to affect yield. I have also seen some fungal disease-induced defoliation, but, as of this writing, Louisiana has not observed bacterial leaf blight like our neighboring states have.

Randy Norton

With slightly more than 260,000 acres of cotton in the state, there is quite a range of crop potential and development. Most of the cotton I have seen across Arizona looks like it is setting up for an average to slightly above average year in terms of yield. Insect pressure has been relatively light again so far, and heat stress has been moderate.

As we approach peak bloom and begin sliding down the back side of the fruiting curve, we will begin to see the crop mature. A good measure of crop development and progression through the fruiting cycle toward cutout is Nodes Above White Flower (NAWF). This is calculated by finding the uppermost, first position fresh bloom and counting the total number of nodes above that node to the terminal of the plant. At peak bloom, that value should be between six and eight.

As we approach cutout, we need to begin to make decisions regarding termination of the crop or when to apply the final irrigation. Once the crop reaches cutout, a decision needs to be made as to which fresh blooms will be carried out to maturity for harvest. Keep in mind that approximately 600 heat units (HU) (86/55 degree thresholds) are required for a fresh bloom to mature to a harvestable boll.

Good crop moisture status is critical during this time period in order for the boll to mature and for proper fiber development. In the late summer/early fall, 600 HU may take up to 21-28 days, depending on your local growing region. So, for example, a flower set on Sept. 10 in the low desert will take approximately 26 days (Oct. 7) to mature. Proper soil moisture status should be maintained during this period for proper boll development. More information on crop management techniques for late-season cotton can be found at

Darrin Dodds

Although much of the 2011 cotton crop in Mississippi got off to a late start, we are finally beginning to head into the homestretch. Defoliation applications were made on some of the earliest cotton during the second week of August. While this constitutes a small portion of our crop, irrigation termination and cessation of insecticide applications took place on a large portion of the crop during the second and third weeks of August.

The crop as a whole appears to be average to slightly above average; however, the picker will tell the tale. Given the challenges faced by those in Mississippi as well as others across the Cotton Belt, we are fortunate to have the crop that we do. By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, some pickers will be running; however, we will likely be on the front end of the picking season. Many, including myself, have our fingers crossed, hoping for a harvest season similar to that of 2010. A favorable picking season, coupled with good prices, would put a smile on the face of many who have faced the challenges that 2011 has brought.

Gaylon Morgan

Despite a challenging year, cotton producers in the Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend and Upper Gulf Coast have been pleasantly satisfied with the dryland and irrigated yields, considering the extreme heat and drought conditions of this season. Dryland cotton yields were highly variable with some three-plus bale/acre yields on five inches or less of in-season rain, while other areas were pleased to harvest one bale/acre yields.

Where adequate irrigation was available, the south Texas irrigated yields were quite good. As reported previously, any dryland cotton beyond the coastal regions has suffered drastically from the drought and heat. Basically, the only dryland cotton is in the Blacklands, but expected yields will likely be 200 to 400 pounds.

On irrigated cotton in the High Plains and Rolling Plains, the irrigated cotton crop has been a very expensive crop to keep alive and has progressed very quickly. I am hearing yield expectations of about 50 percent of normal yields on most irrigated cotton. Scattered rain has occurred in various places in the High Plains and Rolling Plains over the past month and were welcomed by those who needed to receive precipitation. However, these showers are not expected to boost the 2011 yield because the cotton has already reached cutout.

At this point, we are just hoping for some rain to replenish the soil profile for the 2012 crop.

Tom Barber

A new weather data collection system for calculation of accumulated heat units is in place in every cotton-producing county in the state, and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is offering the first mobile application of such a program, which can be easily downloaded to any mobile device for easy, convenient access. The new DD60 system automatically collects weather data from an Intercept Weather Station and uploads it to the mainframe computer every morning so that producers, agents and consultants have access to the latest information needed for making termination decisions.

To visit the DD60 Web page from your computer, click the following link: From this page, you will be able to access both former and updated DD60 information. To visit the updated page and link it to your mobile device, click the link that states, “New option beginning August 17, 2011: DD60 accumulation using data from Intercept Weather Stations via the Arkansas Plant Board.”

To create a permanent link to the page from your mobile device, scan the QR code on your computer screen from your smart phone’s code reader (instructions on downloading a QR code reader are available at the bottom of the page). Once the code is scanned, open the page in your browser and add it to your home screen. This will create an icon from which you can launch the DD60 program information.

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