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Warm Weather Speeds Up Planting

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Mike Milam

According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending April 15, we have four percent of our cotton planted. This is 24 days ahead of last year and eight days ahead of normal. Although we have excellent weather conditions for planting, we don’t have enough moisture to activate herbicides. We have an occasional rain, but it is not enough for large scale planting.

With the warmer-than-normal temperatures, we have had a lot of fieldwork taking place. We just need rain, or producers will need to turn on their pivots. With the current conditions, there is the potential for increased pigweed populations. Producers will need to monitor their fields and take appropriate action.

The latest Cotton and Wool Outlook shows that we are expected to stay the same as last year with 375,000 acres. We are facing our usual problems, such as dealing with the resistant pigweed, herbicide drift and the potential for herbicide carryover from last year. Producers can expect this battle to continue in 2012. With the windy conditions this year, I have already received complaints from producers and homeowners about drift.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture inspector has been very busy this season. It is important to read the herbicide labels and to reduce the impact of herbicide carryover. I have already seen this in corn, and the potential for cotton still exists.

David Wright

Most of the Deep South has been under drought conditions for the past two years with little relief in sight. Many non-irrigated producers have tried to get cotton in early to take advantage of remaining moisture from limited winter rains to establish stands. Producers are optimistic with the new varieties of cotton showing excellent yield potential with limited rainfall over the past couple of years.

Data from the past four years following winter grazing shows that root systems of cotton following winter grazing are 50 percent to 80 percent larger than where the winter forage was used as a cover crop only. We think the larger root systems in the non-irrigated fields (although it occurs with and without irrigation) are the main reason that we are seeing 150 to 400 pounds per acre more lint following winter grazing vs. non-grazing. Meanwhile, the irrigated areas are only slightly higher yielding with grazing.

We believe that cattle grazing can increase yields of a following cotton crop especially under non-irrigated conditions and can reduce the fertility requirements significantly from recycling of nutrients in the manure. We also think that irrigation amounts can be reduced with the larger root systems exploring a larger soil volume. We will continue to hope and pray for rain for farmers in 2012.

Guy Collins

Planting of the 2012 cotton crop in Georgia is largely underway by the time you’ll read this. As of April 15, The USDA NASS Crop Progress Report indicated that Georgia has planted nine percent of its 2012 cotton acreage. As I write this on April 20, the soil moisture situation has somewhat improved with recent rains on April 18, and more rain anticipated over the weekend.

However, overall moisture remains in a deficit. The rate of cotton planting will likely skyrocket after significant rain events this year, as many producers remember the hot and dry conditions that persisted throughout the 2011 planting season and the associated poor emergence and stand loss issues that resulted.

The importance of appropriate seeding rates, planting depths and planting into good soil moisture was explicitly illustrated during last year’s planting season. We are still early in the 2012 planting season. Therefore, producers should keep in mind the issues experienced last year and remember to plant at appropriate depths when soil moisture conditions are good, with seedling vigor in mind.

Although we received little relief from Mother Nature last year, and there was little we could do about the temperatures or soil moisture, we learned a great deal about the relationship between seedling vigor, soil moisture and planting depths to use in the 2012 season.

Gaylon Morgan

As of April 19, the Southern Rolling Plains eastward has received adequate-to-excellent precipitation during late winter and thus far this spring, while the Northern Rolling Plains has been about 75 percent of normal precipitation for the past three months. The cotton in the RGV and Coastal Bend of Texas is progressing quickly with an unseasonably warm spring and good moisture since planting.

The RGV cotton development ranges from recently emerged to four squares, depending on the planting date, and the crop has good moisture for the near future. The Coastal Bend is also moving quickly with cotton already in the four- to five-leaf stage. Cotton planting in the Upper Gulf Coast was delayed at least a couple of weeks due to delayed grain planting and further delays by more rain. The Blacklands have had good winter and spring moisture and have virtually all the cotton planted and most emerged with good stands.

I have not heard any reports of unusual pest pressure anywhere in South Texas. TopGuard fungicide was applied to a lot of acres in South Texas with the expectation of suppression of cotton root rot. As with all new products labeled, new things are learned as they are applied to hundreds of thousands of acres. However, to this point, few problems have arisen from the T-band application of TopGuard. Producers in the Rolling Plains are in better shape on soil moisture than this time last year, and soil temperatures are higher than normal. So, many producers are considering planting earlier than normal while some planting moisture exists. However, most producers with whom I have spoken are planning on waiting until the typical planting date of mid-May.

John Kruse

Warm weather came early this year and has resulted in many producers pushing up the planting calendar. I was in a field in central Louisiana on March 26 looking at a corn stand with a producer. The producer’s son drove by with a planter, and when I asked what was getting planted, I was informed that it was cotton. The producer noted that the soil temperatures were 70 degrees, and he had good soil moisture.

After two years of mid-summer droughts, he was ready to take a chance that planting early would not result in frost or freeze damage. The weather since then has only proven him correct. Producers continue to look for ways to cut costs without cutting yield potential, and seeding population may be one way to trim. Just don’t take it to the extreme. Two to three plants per-foot of row is a good final plant population in 30- to 40-inch row spacing.

In the absence of Temik, be prepared to contend with thrips. Last year, the weather cooled at the beginning of the cotton planting season and slowed down cotton growth considerably just as a heavy thrips infestation struck. In general, cotton planting areas of Louisiana are coming into planting season with good-to-excellent soil moisture and warm, sunny weather, all of which bodes well for the coming year.

Mark Kelley

As cotton planting quickly approaches, the Texas High Plains region is still experiencing extreme drought conditions. Although we have received some rain and snowfall through the winter and early spring, more is needed to achieve adequate soil moisture for planting and to replenish the soil profile. Additionally, these amounts came in small increments, and, in most cases, were followed by high winds, which limited absorption into the soil profile.

If a significant amount of precipitation does not occur prior to planting, pre-plant irrigation may be necessary for stand establishment. In some areas, especially where irrigation capacities are limited or under sub-surface drip, pre-watering has begun but not to the extent of 2011. While a full profile is very desirable and pre-plant irrigation is absolutely necessary in some years, research conducted by Jim Bordovsky, senior research scientist and agricultural engineer at the Texas AgriLife Research Center at Halfway, indicates that the strategy of filling the profile by irrigation does not always lead to the highest water value in irrigated cotton.

Leaving some room in the soil profile during the highest rainfall months of May and June can conserve valuable irrigation resources without seriously jeopardizing potential yield. The amount of pre-plant irrigation to apply will depend on the current available soil water, soil texture, irrigation capacity and type of irrigation system being used.

John Idowu

Producers in New Mexico are preparing to plant their cotton with fields already prepared for seeding. As of early April, the soil temperature was still too low to plant cotton. However, the temperature is warming up rapidly, and most of the cotton in the state will be planted by the first week of May. One of the main challenges that farmers throughout the state – especially in the eastern part – will face is water availability.

We are currently in the midst of a drought, and some cotton-growing counties have had water allotments cut back for producers. This can have a significant impact on acreage that will go into cotton and the yields that farmers hope to gain in different regions of New Mexico.

This is my first contribution to the Specialists Speaking pages in Cotton Farming, and I look forward to sharing helpful information each month about cotton production from our state.

Darrin Dodds

Warmer-than-average temperatures throughout March and April have prompted several producers in Mississippi to start planting earlier than normal. Although limited acres have been planted at the time of this writing, there has been some uncertainty with regard to prospective cotton acres. Futures prices for cotton trending below 90 cents, coupled with increased prices for other commodities, particularly soybeans, have prompted some farmers to change planting intentions as May draws close. Whereas above-average temperatures have allowed some to get an early start, they have also allowed some pests to get an early start.

The dreaded pigweed made one of the earliest appearances in memory in 2012. As a result, fields infested with these pests will likely receive two, and in many cases, three applications of non-selective herbicides by the time this crop emerges. As has always been the case, starting with a clean crop makes maintaining a clean crop much easier.

Many questions have also been asked about potential insect issues as a result of a mild winter and warm spring. Plant bugs have been a significant issue for Mississippi cotton producers for several years. These pests are beginning to make an early appearance on wild hosts, which may be a sign of things to come.

Keith Edmisten

There has been increased interest in planting cotton following wheat. This is at least partly based on the price of cotton and the earliness of the wheat crop this year. We have done this successfully in research plots, and we have also had failures. Our planting date studies show that planting up until June 10 is fairly safe, but at some point after that yields drop drastically. When they drop off after June 10, the results vary with the year.

We have never been successful in our limited trials planting cotton after wheat harvest – especially if there was not sufficient moisture to plant the cotton and get it up quickly. Selecting an early variety and doing everything one can to limit crop injury from herbicides is important when planting cotton after wheat.

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