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Crop Season Starts Fast Across Belt

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Mike Milam

According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending May 13, we are 68 percent planted, which is a week ahead of last year and normal. The reason for the delays in planting is due primarily to the dry soil conditions. This report shows that 85 percent of the soils are very dry to dry. Early on, producers had moisture but had to wait 14 to 21 days after their preplant herbicides were applied.

Moisture is needed to activate the pre-emerge herbicides and for germination. Center pivots are being used to help emergence and to get a stand. Furrow irrigation is not a recommended practice, but some producers have had to use it to achieve emergence and a stand. Without rainfall, dryland cotton will continue to be stressed.

The Drought Monitor shows that most of our production area is now D1 or moderate drought. This is likely to get worse before it gets better because forecasts show little rainfall expected and higher-than-normal temperatures. With more irrigation being required and more herbicides needed for the resistant pigweeds, it will be an expensive year.

With the temperatures being higher during the early season and the expectation of above normal temperatures for the foreseeable future, irrigated fields have an excellent chance for good yields. With the faster plant growth and development, we also have an opportunity for an earlier harvest. We will just need to wait and see how this season develops.

David Wright

Timing of herbicides, sidedress nitrogen and early management are critical to growing a cheap crop of cotton. Getting behind on any management practice results in extra passes across the field to try to pull the crop out of a less-than-desirable situation. Weeds, fertility and growth regulators are the three most common early management options. If they aren't done in a timely manner, it can result in several extra passes through the field to control weeds that have gotten too big or having to fly on growth regulators and having to use higher rates of nitrogen that may be more costly and often too late to make top yields.

Timely management is critical for most crops and often varies by field, varieties and whether irrigation is available. Plan management wisely, but realize that challenges will still arise. Seasoned producers meet these head-on and use the experiences in decision making for another year.

Guy Collins

The large majority of the 2012 cotton crop in Georgia is off to a good start. As I write this on May 17, approximately half of the Georgia cotton acreage has been planted, which is about 10 to 15 percent ahead of average. Many areas have been blessed with rainfall throughout late April and the first half of May, although many of these rains have been spotty with some areas receiving significant amounts and others receiving little or none.

Most fields in southwest Georgia appear to have decent stands and relatively vigorous growth, especially in irrigated fields. Monitoring early season growth will continue to be important this year, as in any year. Hopefully, rains will continue throughout the rest of the season. However, controlling pigweed remains a challenge.

With decent soil moisture, we have learned that these weeds can grow very rapidly, which narrows the window of opportunity for effective control of pigweed that escapes through pre-emergence herbicide programs. Since post-emergence options are limited, it is very critical that these escapes be targeted when they are young in order to prevent or reduce the necessity of handweeding later on.

Gaylon Morgan

As of May 15, most of the cotton production regions in South and Central Texas are now in fair-to-good condition on soil moisture. We received some widespread precipitation from the Rio Grande Valley through the Blacklands and parts of the Rolling Plains. These storms contained some hail and high winds, but the damage was not widespread. The cotton in the Rio Grande Valley ranged from recent emergence to 15 nodes.

Moving up the coast, the Coastal Bend was in dire need of some rainfall, and the recent rains will go a long way toward making a cotton crop. Cotton in the Upper Gulf Coast and Northern Blacklands is off to a good start with good stands and good early season growth. Much of the cotton in the Southern Blacklands just emerged with these recent rains.

The Southern Rolling Plains has received some decent rains, and planting is underway. Unfortunately, the Northern Rolling Plains has missed much of the rain, and many producers have been prewatering their irrigated cotton fields, while dryland cotton farmers may have to wait on additional rain.

Throughout much of South Texas, weed management has been a challenge, especially some of the pigweed species. The fields that started the season clean are easy to identify because these fields have remained clean.

Early season weed competition for water and nutrients can substantially reduce cotton yields, especially on limited moisture years. For additional information on cotton growth, pest management and other cotton-related topics, the updated version of the Cotton Resource DVD is available at

John Kruse

Louisiana cotton producers were able to complete almost all of their planting within the optimum planting window of April 15-May 15 due to the fact that we had good moisture at planting time. It turns out that we will have substantially fewer acres planted this year compared to the previous two years. The steady decline in cotton lint prices just prior to and during planting season – coupled with the sudden dramatic increase in fertilizer costs – led many producers to plant soybeans as an alternative crop.

Nevertheless, the cotton crop we have planted is off to an excellent start. That is not to say we are problem free. We received consistent reports of good initial plant stands, but thrips are hitting the crop just as we are sliding through a cool spell.

Leafhoppers have also started to show up, as have spider mites, so it looks like we could be in for a tough battle with the arthropod populations this year. Initial weed control has been generally pretty good, as producers heed the advice of weed scientists and other experts emphasizing the importance of adding residual herbicides in the mix.

We don't have official numbers yet, but anecdotal evidence and turnrow talk suggest that Stoneville 5288B2F, PhytoGen 499WRF and Deltapine's 1133B2RF and 0912B2RF will be the most widely planted varieties this season.

Keith Edmisten

Hopefully by now, producers will have had the cooperation of weather to be timely with early herbicide applications and are ready for layby on their cotton – applying side-dressed nitrogen and evaluating cotton growth concerning growth regulators. Cotton nitrogen needs increase at bloom. We recommend that side-dressed applications go out 10 to 14 days prior to bloom so that hopefully rainfall will move nitrogen into the rooting zone.

Using a residual herbicide at layby is an important part of our goal in Palmer amaranth management to keep overlapping residuals out until the cotton canopy hopefully closes. Palmer can grow very rapidly, and therefore Palmer that is allowed to emerge in June can be a serious problem.

It is always a good idea to look at cotton growth and determine if cotton is on time and growing too rapidly. Cotton that is proceeding with a "normal" maturity should at least have small squares by mid-June. Cotton that does not square until after this time is more likely to benefit from mepiquat growth regulators. Producers should also consider mepiquat on cotton that is growing rapidly as cotton reaches the 9- to 10-node stage. If the cotton is not growing rapidly at this point, producers can wait until early bloom and make a decision if mepiquat is needed then.

Charles Burmester

A generally warmer-than-normal spring allowed most cotton to be planted in a very timely manner in Alabama. Most of the cotton crop was planted in a three-week window between mid-April and early May in the northern part of the state. Very few emergence problems have been noted, and although rainfall has been sporadic, it has generally been sufficient for timely cotton emergence.

Many north Alabama cotton fields required two burndown treatments this year due to problems controlling horseweed and ryegrass in fields. Early emergence of pigweeds due to the warm weather was also a concern, but generally has been controlled in fields at this time. Much of the cotton is now in the stage when it should be scouted closely for early season insect problems such as thrips. Control measures should only be applied when new cotton growth is indicating sufficient damage is occurring.

Darrin Dodds

Planting season began early and progressed quickly in 2012. By mid-May, more than 90 percent of our intended cotton acreage in Mississippi had been planted. In general, planting has gone smoothly although weather conditions have been challenging in several areas of the state. Rapid cotton emergence combined with windy conditions has made applying burndown and residual herbicides behind the planter problematic for some producers.

Generally, Mississippi producers will overspray 20 to 30 percent of their acreage for thrips; however, in 2011, approximately 70 percent of the cotton acreage was treated for thrips. Similar to last year, high thrips numbers are being found and treated on a significant amount of our acreage.

Further complicating this is the presence of western flower thrips, which are more difficult to control with traditional thrips materials. Although not nearly to the same extent as thrips, seedling disease has begun to appear as well. In light of the aforementioned issues, replanting has been minimal. In general, the 2012 cotton crop is off to a good start and is ahead of the "usual" schedule.

Tom Barber

The Arkansas cotton crop is off to a good start and running fast. Arkansas producers have planted one of the earliest crops in recent memory. More than 95 percent of the total Arkansas acreage was planted by May 12. And, for the first time maybe in history, some producers began planting cotton the last week of March. Heat unit accumulation in April and May was approximately 300 heat units above the five-year average, with numerous days where heat unit accumulations reached the 20 DD60 range.

Weather conditions have been variable, reaching from severe dry conditions to one to two inches of rainfall every week. Residual herbicides continue to be the backbone of our weed management programs for glyphosate-resistant weeds. Many cotton fields have been injured from these residual applications, and several were replanted. The main problem seems to be on our silt and silt loam type soils where Reflex was applied, and no rainfall was received prior to planting. Then, directly after plant-ing, one to four inches of rain fell, resulting in splashing of the herbicide and death of the seedling.

We are also experiencing issues with seedling disease caused by Rhizoctonia in areas where rainfall was received followed by cooler temperatures. Thrips populations were explosive in many areas of the state with single and, in many cases, multiple applications were made to reduce the pressure. This is the first year that we have a substantial amount of LibertyLink cotton planted in the state, so all efforts are being made to determine how we can control glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed in this system.

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