While the 2012 Cotton Planting Intentions for the Mid-South is projected to be down by 6.9 percent, Missouri is the only state in the region with a projected increase of 2.3 percent. Our projected acreage for 2012 is 384,000 acres. It is a miracle that we reached the level we did last year due to excessive rainfall and flooding. For producers to increase their acreage, they have to be optimistic about this year’s crop.
Missouri is blessed with good alluvial soils, and we have excellent irrigation potential. While cotton is only grown in a relatively small area in southeast Missouri, our large field size and generally favorable growing conditions are assets. Even with a near record drought two years ago, we had very good yields because of our high number of heat units. We have had a very mild winter, and we have no drought issues at the present time.
Weather is a challenge during most years. However, the Climate Prediction Center shows a higher probability for warmer-than-normal and above-average precipitation for February through April.
The primary challenge this season will be the resistant Palmer pigweed and the additional costs for its control. To be successful, it will take a variety of strategies. Control at a height of less than two inches is the most important component, and the use of overlapping residuals will be important again this year. I expect to see more hoeing to keep the escapes from going to seed.
Producers are concerned for the 2012 season. With the La Niña weather pattern continuing for the second year in a row and water tables, ponds and streams at record lows, producers wonder if they will have the moisture to plant and get a stand. Many non-irrigated cotton producers planted two to three or more times in 2011, and soil moisture is lower starting out this year than last year.
There are several cotton varieties that are performing well even under adverse conditions once a stand is established. Producers can do several things to help ensure adequate stands, including earlier planting, killing out cover crops sooner to conserve moisture and planting in fields that have heavier soils that retain more moisture. Irrigation can help in establishing stands. However, water tables throughout the Southeast have dropped over the past two years with as much as 50 inches below normal rainfall. Warmer than normal temperatures are predicted through the spring, so be ready to plant when temperatures for 10-day forecasts are warm enough for germination.
Louisiana has experienced a surprisingly high amount of precipitation over the last month to six weeks, and this has helped us tremendously with recharge. Bayous and ponds are re-filling, and the soil profile is getting a good soaking. No one can predict the future, but it does appear at this stage that we will come into cotton-planting season with decent soil moisture.
The central and southern portions of Louisiana have received more than the northern area overall. The weather has affected burndown operations, and concern is growing that we will not be able to eliminate the winter weeds, particularly henbit, which has become a major weed pest. The henbit can provide a green bridge for insect pests to carry over into the new crop year, and our entomologists are recommending a four-week period where there are no live weeds in the field prior to planting in order to break the infestation cycle.
Wet weather has also delayed fertilizer applications such as phosphorus and potassium, but we still have some time before we plant, starting around mid-April. Production meetings are wrapping up, final seed selections are being made, and equipment is undergoing repairs and fine-tuning. Most cotton stakeholders believe we will see a slight increase in acres over last year, perhaps putting Louisiana somewhere north of 300,000 planted cotton acres.
Arkansas cotton acreage will likely decrease in 2012 by approximately five to eight percent, falling to approximately 610,000 to 625,000 acres. Commodity price fluctuations through March will play the main role in whether this acreage estimate will increase or decrease further. Overall, Arkansas producers were disappointed with the 2011 cotton yields, which were about 100 pounds per acre below the five-year average due to rainfall, flooding and excessive heat.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that all years are different, and, hopefully, 2012 will provide easier management and growing conditions to help cotton farmers produce a high-yielding crop.
Two of the main concerns moving into 2012 are fuel and fertilizer prices. It is hard to believe that fuel prices could potentially reach $4.50 or more a gallon, but if they do, you can probably bank on fertilizer costs going up as well. The cost of producing an acre of cotton, and the risk involved, increases every year. With cost outlooks moving even higher, it will be more important to focus on inputs that will provide the best return for the money spent.
Stick to the basics in regards to fertility and rely on soil testing to take the guesswork out of the equation. Nitrogen is required to produce a high-yielding cotton crop, but many times we do not account for the nitrogen available from the soil. In all reality, our nitrogen rates could probably be reduced somewhat. In order to stay within a production budget in 2012, it will be necessary to focus on critical inputs and move away from products which may promise a lot but provide little.
As of mid-February, some scattered rain has occurred across much of Texas and has been appreciated by all. The first planting regions of the state – Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend – have moisture for establishing a stand but have very little deep subsoil moisture. The Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands have good surface moisture for stand establishment and decent subsoil soil moisture.
The Rolling Plains has received two to three inches over the past 60 days. However, timely rains for stand establishment in May and to keep the crop going throughout the season will be needed to produce a decent crop. The good news is that the NOAA long-term weather predictions are for average precipitation for most of Texas, beginning in late spring.
Agronomically, we need to consider the yield potential with the given soil moisture situation and adjust inputs, such as nitrogen fertilizer, accordingly. The nitrogen recommendation for Texas is a total of 50 pounds of nitrogen per expected bale of cotton from all sources, including deep soil profile nitrogen and contribution from irrigation water.
Weed management will likely be a challenge again this year, with erratic rainfall expected to activate ppi or preemergence herbicides. So, timely early postemergence herbicides with residual soil activity will be needed to minimize weed competition for limited water. Additionally, the dry fall and winter may lead to some volunteer cotton problems.
Two publications were developed to provide producers with recommendations for managing volunteer cotton in grain crops and managing volunteer cotton in cotton. These publications and the cotton variety results can be found at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/cotton/.
Preparations for planting season should be completed or well underway by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands. Regardless of whether you have completed preparations, it is well worth your time to go back and check over your planter one last time. Given the cost associated with planting cotton, a small glitch in planter operations can lead to significant problems down the road. After you have given your planter a thorough greasing and overall inspection, spend some time getting it properly calibrated.
Your owner’s manual will provide tables with appropriate settings for the desired seeding rate. However, keep in mind that this manual should serve only as a starting point. Often, settings may need to be adjusted as parts begin to wear. If your planter and tractor are equipped with a monitor system, checking the calibration is relatively easy. Simply set the monitor to seed count mode and turn the drive wheels a known number of times to simulate traveling a given distance and then calculate the seeding rate.
If you do not have a planter monitor, devise a way to catch the seed from each unit and turn the drive wheels a known number of times as before. Count the seed from each unit and calculate the seeding rate. Spending a little time checking planter calibration will help get the planting season started on the right foot.
Many producers in Oklahoma have adopted limited or no-till production techniques. Due to the lack of tillage in these systems, producers often experience an increase in winter and spring annual weed problems, including horseweed, Russian thistle and kochia. Consequently, herbicides are essential to replace tillage as the primary weed management tool in these systems.
Shane Osborne recently noted in a newsletter that two of the most troublesome winter/spring weeds present in limited tillage or no-till cotton fields are Russian thistle and horseweed. In Oklahoma, preplant burndown applications of glyphosate alone have proven very in-consistent at best when trying to control horseweed. In addition, re-cent confirmation of glyphosate-resistant horseweed in Okla-homa magnifies the importance of using additional chemistries.
Studies conducted in Oklahoma have shown that effective control of horseweed can be achieved by including dicamba or 2,4-D with glyphosate. Weed size at application time is critical for success. Excellent horseweed control has been observed when applications have been made at the rosette stage, which is described as flat or prostrate, prior to bolting or vertical growth. Secondly, it is important to take note of the plant back restrictions required for both dicamba and 2,4-D. When using dicamba, planting may occur 21 days after an application as long as one inch of rainfall has been received within that period.
In addition, dicamba is not recommended for use in areas that receive less than 25 inches of annual rainfall. For 2,4-D, studies have shown that planting may occur 30 days after application without concerns of crop injury or yield reduction.
BASF has recently released a product, Sharpen, which provides both burndown (postemergence) and residual (preemergence) activity on many broadleaf weeds. Producers who are interested in trying Sharpen need to be aware of a few important facts regarding this herbicide.
The label states that 42 days and one inch of rainfall must occur after application before cotton may be planted (for applications at one ounce per acre). In addition, it is very important that producers take note of the recommended adjuvants when using this product. The label recommends the addition of an MSO (methylated seed oil) or crop oil concentrate along with ammonium sulfate.
Substituting other adjuvants is not recommended and will definitely reduce the effectiveness of this herbicide. Producers should also take note of the restrictions on coarse soils. Other restrictions are noted on the label, and, as always, producers should read and follow label directions.
I think cotton producers will want to pay more attention to seed quality as we deal with life without Temik. The germination reported with the seed is standard germination, which is conducted at higher temperatures than your seed is ever likely to see in the soil.
Cool germination is not reported with the seed but can often be obtained through your dealer or distributor. The seed companies can provide this information if your dealer does not have it. You will need the lot number to find out this information. If you have this information, you can do a better job of matching seed quality with planting conditions. We will be more successful with the absence of Temik if we pay attention to anything that might slow down seedling development. The faster the seedling develops the quicker it will outgrow thrips damage. One of the most common things that slows seedling development in North Carolina is low pH. Producers may also want to avoid planting under cool conditions, utilize cover crops to reduce sand blasting and utilize hill-dropping on soils that tend to crust.
Recent weather events in the Texas High Plains have reaffirmed the statement “If you don’t like the weather in Lubbock, just wait a minute.” On Sunday, Feb. 12, the high was 26 degrees and there were approximately three inches of snow on the ground. By Monday, Feb. 13, the high was 61 degrees, and very little evidence of snow could be found! Although the snow and recent rain events are welcome, the Southern High Plains area is still considered to be under extreme-to-exceptional drought.
As producers prepare for the 2012 planting season, the National Weather Service’s prediction of a weakening La Niña is good news. However, much more precipitation is needed to break the drought and provide adequate planting moisture for both dryland and irrigated production systems.
Nonetheless, with optimism, cotton producers are preparing for the 2012 production season with variety selection foremost on their minds. Several sources for assisting with variety selections are available, including the latest editions of our “Systems Agronomic and Economic Evaluation of Cotton Varieties in the Texas High Plains” and Dr. Jane Dever’s “Cotton Performance Tests in the Texas High Plains and Trans Pecos Areas of Texas.” Both publications can be accessed on the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center Web site by going to http://lubbock.tamu.edu.
The latest National Cotton Council planting intentions for 2012 has Texas at 7.166 million acres projected (5.1 percent below 2011). This, however, could change should the weather patterns improve significantly.