We are only a few days later than normal, and defoliation has picked up, and we will be well into harvest when this article appears. We had all of the setbacks early in the season, but the weather has been excellent for the remainder since then. On Aug. 30, we had 2,213 heat units at Portageville from May 1, which is one of the highest numbers for the past eight years. The projection for temperatures from the Climate Prediction Center is far above normal temperatures and below average rainfall during harvest season.
Our entire cotton-growing area is now considered abnormally dry, which really didn’t reach this stage until after boll opening. The USDA projected yield from the Sept. 13 Cotton and Wool Report shows an additional increase of 57 pounds per acre to bring our projected yield to 1,092. While this is somewhat surprising, I know that we have some really good cotton.
2011 is a year that helps remind producers why cotton is grown in the droughty soils of the Southeast. There have been several records broken for high temperatures and low rainfall amounts throughout the year, and yet cotton that was planted and germinated timely may make a good yield. Many fields were either planted late or germinated late and still bloomed in August with mid-July to mid-August rains. These fields fruited up fast and will be harvested on time or early due to high heat units. The high nighttime temperatures have resulted in very little hardlock, and some fields could make near record yields.
There is a lot of defoliation going on in early October with a high percentage of open bolls as compared to some years. This is a year where producers started out with high expectations but will be remembered for high cotton prices, wet conditions and floods in the northern part of the Cotton Belt and drought in Texas, the High Plains and the Southeast.
The majority of August and September has been relatively hot and dry in south Georgia with a brief cool spell in early September. As I write this on Sept. 14, we are near the end of our range for last effective blooming. However, in order to retain and develop recent blooms or younger upper bolls, additional moisture is needed especially for the later planted crop.
For cotton planted during late April through mid-May, the hot and dry August has accelerated boll opening and has also helped many fields avoid problems associated with boll rot and hardlock compared to years past. Some early planted fields were harvested as early as the first week of September, and several early planted fields were defoliated by mid-September. Weather permitting, harvest of early planted cotton will likely be largely underway by the first week of October.
The UGA Cotton Defoliant Evaluation Program was launched in 2010 and is currently in progress for 2011. The report can be found atwww.ugacotton.comand contains helpful information for harvest-aid decisions.
Louisiana cotton producers are very busy defoliating and picking cotton, and so far the weather has cooperated for the most part. We recently had to hold our collective breaths as Tropical Storm Lee came up from the Gulf of Mexico and passed over the eastern half of the state, but, for the most part, we sustained little damage.
Most folks concluded it could have been a lot worse. We had quite a bit of cotton that got stretched out, but only about one to five percent actually fell off the plant. The dry conditions earlier in the year may have contributed to shorter, more compact plants that were not as vulnerable to wind whipping, and varieties currently grown in Louisiana in the past couple of years are not as big and lush as dominant varieties grown previously.
Despite the drought we experienced most of the year, I am hopeful that our state will still produce a statewide average yield that is similar to last year.
The 2010 cotton season in Arizona set a record by bringing the highest average lint yield at slightly more than 1,500 pounds of lint per acre. As of this writing, only a portion of the Arizona crop has been harvested for the 2011 season. Early planted cotton in the southwest region (Yuma) of the state has been harvested with mixed results. Results from the Univer-sity of Arizona Upland cotton advanced strain testing program in the Yuma area produced yields ranging from 700 pounds to slightly over 1,700 pounds.
We will begin harvesting our variety evaluations soon, which will provide performance data for all the cotton-producing regions across Arizona. These results will be available at www.cals.arizona.edu/crops as soon as they are summarized.
October will be a busy month for cotton producers in Mississippi. Although modules began to appear on gin yards in early to mid-September, the majority of the harvest will take place in October. While the 2011 crop has faced challenges from day one, as a whole we will likely see an above- average crop if Mother Nature cooperates.
Even though this crop is not yet in the books, it is never too early to begin planning for next year. One of the first places to start is with a nutrient management strategy. If you have not soil sampled in the past two to three years, doing so this fall will help guide you down the right path. In addition to potassium, phosphorus and other nutrient needs, pH levels should be given adequate attention. Potential improvements from fertilizer applications may be negated if pH levels are not corrected.
As of mid-September, Texas is finally receiving a few scattered showers to go with our continued record heat. These showers are too late to help any of this year’s cotton. However, if there is any hope for a crop in 2012, we will need all the moisture we can get. Cotton harvest is winding down in the Blacklands with a few late-planted irrigated fields remaining. The dryland yields were very low with much of the cotton not worth harvesting.
There is some irrigated cotton in the river bottoms that has yielded quite well. In the Rolling Plains, cotton stripping has begun. Maybe five percent of the planted dryland acres will be harvested. Some of the irrigated cotton is expected to be below average with about 1.5 bales to 2.0 bales per acre. On the High Plains, only irrigated cotton exists, and some harvest-aids are being applied in preparation for harvest.
The high temperatures and drought conditions across central and south Alabama during August had a direct effect on the final yields that will be coming in this month as picking gets into full swing. While some fields received late July and early August rainfall, the September rainfall came too late to save the top crop for most producers.
We saw several fields that appeared in September to be 65 percent open. However, when we went into those fields and counted open bolls, it was already near 100 percent. The squares, fresh blooms and small bolls that had not been shed during the drought were shed when the Gulf moisture provided three-plus inches of rainfall in September.
We have already begun to harvest our on-farm variety trials and will post the results of the OVT and on-farm trials at www.alabamacrops.com as soon as everything has been processed.
Arkansas cotton producers look to harvest 660,000 acres in 2011. According to the latest crop report from the USDA Agriculture Statistics Service, average yields could be 1,014 pounds per acre, resulting in a 1.4 million bale crop. This will be the highest bale production in Arkansas since 2007. Unseasonably cool temperatures in September and scattered rain showers delayed defoliation of earlier planted cotton and caused some issue on a scattered basis of hardlock and boll rot.
A large majority of Arkansas producers began harvesting the last week of September. Gin weights will tell the story on final cotton yield, but overall I think Arkansas will harvest an average crop. The cotton planted in the early-to-mid May planting window will yield well.
A large portion of our crop was planted later than normal in late May and early June. This later crop will probably be lighter than we had hoped because of the cooler temperatures in September.
Overall, the 2011 season has turned out better than many thought possible after the early season struggles with rain, cool temperatures and high winds.
The 2011 summer heat wave finally broke on Sept. 4 but returned with temperatures over 100 degrees once again. It appears Altus may get to 100 days of 100 degrees, but unfortunately the Grandfield area has already hit that milestone. Based on an Associated Press article, Oklahoma apparently set an all-time national record for the highest statewide average monthly temperature.
Exceptional drought conditions also dominated this year’s crop. It has been a difficult year to say the least. Nearly all of the dryland cotton in the southwestern corner of the state has failed. After looking at numerous fields, it is evident that a considerable amount of irrigated cotton will yield less than desired.
It appears to me that the “make or break” situation that occurred was whether there was sufficient irrigation capacity/quality to enable the crop to “canopy over” and set up a micro-climate of higher humidity during the treacherous run of July and August drought and temperatures. Producers who have fought a hard battle with the elements this year should remember that from a soil stewardship perspective it is important to leave an acceptable amount of crop residue in the field.
To assist producers with making harvest-aid decisions, a publication has been placed on the ntokcotton.org Web site.
I have been saying for some time that it seems that Alabama’s 2011 cotton crop seems to swing from one extreme to another. In northern Alabama, a wet spring delayed planting. Extreme tornadoes followed in late April, followed by extreme temperatures and drought in June, followed by good early August rains – only to be followed by another severe heat wave and drought until most areas received 6-10 inches of rainfall from Tropical Storm Lee in September.
Surprisingly, the cotton that has survived all these extremes seems to be about one to two weeks delayed in maturity, but yield potential is still good in many areas. We enter harvest season guardedly optimistic and hoping the next extreme is a good harvesting season.
A lot of producers are waiting on a top crop due to the dry weather that caused shedding of the top crop. We almost always have a good window to defoliate cotton in the first half of October. After the middle of October, we may or may not have a good window to defoliate cotton, so producers might want to keep that in mind and keep a close eye on the weather forecasts.
If you are playing the odds, we normally don’t make much cotton after the middle of October, and probably the wisest thing to do is go ahead and defoliate cotton at that point.
We have been using a lot of thidiazuron in September as the regrowth has been heavy, and there has been a lot of potential for more regrowth. As we move into October, the potential for more regrowth is greatly reduced, and we will likely not need to use as much thidiazuron.
After a fairly complicated production year, with a lot of late plantings, persistent lygus in some areas, and lots of late season mites in other areas, a warm and extended fall could sure help mature some late-developing bolls and provide a boost in yields. Weather so far in September has been very warm, hopefully helping mature out later developing bolls and providing potential for some good yield surprises and fewer less desirable outcomes.
Yields are expected to be highly variable across the San Joaquin Valley, with what looks like some fairly good yield potential in Acala and Pima fields that missed heavy lygus pressure. Lower yield potential exists where lygus pressure was severe and persistent, and yields will also be reduced where producers aggressively delayed irrigations and fertilizer applications due to concerns over how to force earlier maturity in late-planted fields.
Many fields have some large gaps in fruit set, most associated with pest pressure, with some additional losses due to later season high temperature damage and/or water stress associated with irrigation delays. It will be important for producers to assess how big a late, top crop there is and whether it is worth it to seriously delay the beginning of harvest-aid applications.