Looking back on this past cropping season, Missouri producers have a lot for which to be thankful. In spite of all the rainfall and flooding, producers were able to get the crop planted. Well over half of the crop was planted past the optimum planting period. Some was even planted in early June. We had a high number of heat units and excellent harvest weather to get the crop out of the fields.
While our crop was later than in 2010, we were earlier than the long-term average. At this time, we are uncertain about the final yield, but many producers were disappointed that the earlier expectations were not met. Missouri producers were unable to plant as much cotton as was projected due to the rain and flooding conditions. In Southeast Missouri during this time of the year, fields are saturated, and some flooding is taking place.
Producers are looking ahead to a new season with many concerns about the long-term forecast of rainfall in the Deep South. We have come out of the 2011 season with record low rainfall and about 30 inches below normal. Many producers were pleasantly surprised with yields from the past year wondering if the same thing can happen again. Some of our farmers have irrigation wells and lakes that have dried up or are at very low levels.
New cotton varieties have performed well under adverse conditions but need adequate moisture to get stands and early growth. Other producers have not fully decided how many acres of crops they will grow this year with peanut prices being potentially higher and a better profit potential than cotton. Producers will decide early in 2012 what crops they will grow – depending on peanut contracts, and if the market for cotton holds near a dollar a pound.
The 2011 season brought about many challenges, yet many successes, for Georgia cotton producers. Average statewide yields remained above 800 pounds per acre (as of Dec. 1 NASS report), as was the case in several consecutive preceding seasons, which is a true testament to Georgia’s farmers, their commitment to cotton and the release of superior varieties. There were numerous reports of exceptional yields, especially in irrigated fields. Fiber quality of Georgia cotton, which has noticeably improved since the loss of DP 555 BR, was superior in 2011.
As we move into a new year, variety selection seems to be a priority for many producers. I would encourage everyone to observe as much variety performance data as possible when making decisions. It is important to observe multi-year data when possible and to pay close attention to stability and consistency of cotton varieties.
Although the price of cotton lint has slipped to some degree from the “dollar plus” range that it held for so much of last season, many producers in Louisiana are planning to continue to plant cotton on the same number of acres or slightly greater than last year. The majority of producers in our state are on some kind of crop rotation, typically with corn, and many will switch those acres in order to continue to gain the benefits of a good rotation plan.
The official variety trials and on-farm demonstration trials displayed the fact that producers in Louisiana have several solid candidates from which to choose. A definite shift has occurred from the dominance of full-season varieties a few years ago to mid-season to mid/full-season varieties this past year.
One concern I have in variety selection for our state is that we have had two years in a row of very hot, very dry weather patterns, and the varieties producers are choosing have performed well in that type of environment. I am not sure what will happen if we return to a pattern of frequent afternoon thunderstorms that lower the accumulation of heat units and stretch out the growing season.
With all but a small fraction of the 2011 cotton crop out of the field, now is a good time to sit back and review what went well and what might need to change as we approach the 2012 season. Did the varieties that you selected to grow on your farm perform as you had expected? Now is the time to review testing results from the 2011 season from university and seed company trials. Results of these trials are being distributed at meetings and through mailings, so keep an eye out for them.
Pest pressure was again relatively light across Arizona. Did you have any problems that should have been handled differently? Discuss the season with your PCA and review how decisions were made. There was considerable money to be made with cotton prices at historically high levels. We observed new products introduced into the marketplace that came along with claims to enhance crop productivity. I know of several producers who utilized some of these products.
Did you utilize any of these products and were the results as advertised? What about your fertility program? Was soil testing a part of your fertility management decisions? I would recommend periodic soil testing to help improve the efficiency of your fertility management program.
Visiting with producers last week, I saw a lot of uncertainty about the 2012 crop in Texas due to drought conditions and prices. In the Rolling Plains, some areas are actually ahead on precipitation compared to this time last year. It is all relative. In the Blacklands, the precipitation has been adequate to keep the winter wheat alive but not enough precipitation to bank much soil profile moisture.
The Coastal regions and Rio Grande Valley are probably in the worst condition for soil moisture because of the proximity to planting and no soil profile moisture. Despite the lingering prospects of another challenging year in Texas, there are some basic management strategies that we must keep in mind.
Specifically, I am referring to a sound weed management program. With poor growing conditions last year, I observed a lot of cotton fields with heavy weed pressure. This was likely due to a lack of herbicide-activating rainfall for the preemergence herbicides, but also folks trying to cut input costs, which included preemergence herbicides.
Another holiday season is in the rearview mirror, and before we know it cotton seed will once again be going into the ground. As mentioned last month, variety selection is one of the most important decisions made each year. Although many variety decisions have already been made, it is important to view as much data as possible when making these decisions. Over the past month, more and more variety trial data have been released.
Even if you have already made a decision in regard to which variety you want to plant, take the time to review all data possible as you still have time to switch to a different variety if necessary. Selecting a variety can be challenging as we have more good varieties available than ever before. However, further complicating this decision is the fact that you are no longer selecting just a variety. You are selecting a total package, which includes a given variety and the associated trait technology package, as well as a seed treatment package.
Winter is a great time for reflection on the lessons learned during the previous growing season. What a ride 2011 was for Oklahoma producers. In spite of the rough year, at least one producer produced 2,000 pounds of lint per acre. It was a very significant exception. This occurred with more than eight gallons/minute/acre going through a center pivot. There is no doubt that others are envious of that most significant accomplishment.
Winter meetings are coming soon after the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, and we will be covering many important topics at that time. Over the next few months, producers need to assess soil fertility needs by sampling, and, in my opinion, especially deep sampling for residual nitrogen.
With the preplant and perhaps some in-season nitrogen applied and the worst drought ever, it will be a good idea to see what kind of residual is out there. We were fortunate to obtain some badly needed rainfall during the last few months. This has provided producers an opportunity to get some kind of winter cover on many of the fields left blank by the treacherous summer.
With 2011 closing, I think I can safely speak for many folks in our region – good riddance. We look forward to starting fresh in 2012!
As the 2011 cotton production season in the Texas High Plains draws to a close, producers in the area are already making plans for 2012. With variety selection and seed acquisition high on the list of priorities, producers are anxiously waiting for variety demonstration reports from Texas AgriLife Research and Extension, as well as industry results. With most, if not all, plots harvested and ginned, this information should be available soon.
In addition to booking seed, some producers in the area have worked their fields where rainfall has occurred recently. There have been some dryland production fields that were re-listed (bedded up) for the coming season. Irrigated fields, in most cases, have either been left as is following harvest or shredded. In areas where reduced tillage production practices are utilized, some producers were planting small grain cover crops.
In preparation for the 2012 growing season, producers may be well advised to conduct deep soil sampling to determine the presence of residual nitrate-nitrogen. It is an understatement to say that producers in the region are cautiously optimistic that 2012 will be better than 2011.
Cotton is still being ginned in many areas of the state, which is usually a very good sign for an Alabama cotton farmer. With only about 130,000 acres of irrigation on all crops in Alabama, we are very dependent on timely rainfall each season. Cotton is grown in most areas across the state, and there will usually be a drought somewhere during the season. This year the southern part of the state experienced a severe early season drought combined with very high temperatures.
Historically, when the cotton yield averages above 750 pounds of lint in Alabama, we have had a good year. It looks like we may be very close to that 750 mark this season. There were many ups and downs in 2011, but in the record books, it will be a good year for Alabama cotton.
There was a lot of concern about early season cotton growth with the loss of Temik this past year. Many producers decided to use starter fertilizers in an effort to improve seedling growth in the absence of Temik. Although this might be a good idea, producers need to be careful about placement of starter fertilizers.
We recommend that starter fertilizers be placed at least two inches to the side of the seed and two inches below the soil surface to maximize the probability of response to starter fertilizer and minimize injury to cotton.
Some producers decided to place starter fertilizer in the furrow. This is very dangerous as cotton seed is sensitive to ammonia. Several of these producers lost significant stands because of ammonia injury. In research, we have seen as little as two gallons of 10-34-0 kill cotton when applied in-furrow.
This practice is very dangerous. If soil moisture conditions are right, you might get away with it. If the conditions favor ammonia evolution, you can lose an entire stand. There is no rate I would recommend to be used in-furrow. If the rate were low enough to be safe, it would not likely result in any positive response.
With the new year upon us, it is a good time to pause and take inventory of where we are and how happy we are with our cotton production practices. Were we satisfied in 2011 with our variety selection, fertility program, weed management program, insect control/scouting program, seedling disease control, growth management and fiber quality? If the answer to these questions is yes, you are ready for 2012.
If the answer is no to one or more of these questions, winter is the time to find answers to your questions and make adjustments accordingly for a better 2012. A great place to start finding answers is the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Orlando, Fla.
If you cannot make it to Beltwide, there are many regional and local meetings taking place this winter, and they are great opportunities to learn about the latest research results from your state Extension specialists. Your state Extension service is a resource for unbiased answers to your questions.
I hope everyone had a productive and prosperous 2011, and I, for one, am looking forward to an even better 2012.
2011 was a year that most cotton producers in Arkansas are ready to forget. Unrelenting weather patterns brought a spring filled with wind, sandstorms, flooding and cooler-than-normal May temperatures. This resulted in late-planted cotton and a race to maturity with hopes that September temperatures would cooperate.
We now know the end of the story. A cooler-than-normal September would prevail, and our crop would not ever reach its full potential. Looking back, there is not one particular piece of management we could have done differently. 2011 was simply a tough year to grow cotton in Arkansas. Looking forward to 2012, we need to focus on factors that we can control like variety selection. Each year this is the most important process and decision that is made to start a new production year.
As an Extension specialist, I evaluate the performance and management of numerous current and experimental varieties in an attempt to identify the top performers. The more I evaluate, the more I realize that there is not a “bulletproof” variety that will equally perform across multiple soil types and environments.
The key is to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and select a minimum of four or five varieties to plant where they have the highest probability of performance.