When faced with rising costs "in this economy," many consumers began to get very creative in how they managed their money. They put every facet of spending under the microscope to figure out the smartest way to make each dollar go further while still maintaining their priorities in life.
Over the past 10 years, as cotton production inputs began to increase significantly, farmers have followed suit by "putting the pencil" to every aspect of their operations to be as frugal as possible without sacrificing yield and quality. As more and more trait technology enters the market to improve weed and insect control and seed costs go up, seeding rates have garnered a lot of attention.
One of the first reactions was to just lower the seeding rate. This can be a credible approach in some situations, but it entails more than just turning down your planter. First, consider specific management practices and other factors, including variety characteristics, planting date, soil type and weed control issues.
Other components to check before adopting a lower seeding rate are:
• Make sure the planter is tuned up and calibrated for a particular seed lot.
• Get the actual cool and warm seed germ from your seed distributor for each seed lot.
• Determine how good the seedbed is for conventional or no-till systems and whether the planter will work well in that seedbed.
• Be sure to check the seven-day forecast to avoid cool, 40-degree nighttime temperatures.
Another option that researchers have been studying is site-specific variable-rate planting.
One of the first things to consider with this approach to seeding rate is field history, which can be obtained with yield monitor results. This technology shows where the highest and lowest yielding areas are, which indicate variation in the field.
Other technology that researchers are taking advantage of in variable-rate seeding studies involves Veris electrical conductivity (EC) data in the form of a map.
According to Veris Technologies, "The value of a soil EC map in agriculture is that it is a rapid, low-cost and effective surrogate measurement of soil properties, such as soil texture – the relative amount of sand-silt-clay."
One of the main objectives of researchers who are studying variable-rate seeding is to determine how cotton yield and quality are affected by using this method. They also are collecting production cost data.
When Cotton Farming asked its readers about seeding rates, 75 percent say they are using the same rate they have used in the past. However, 17 percent say they are now using a lower seeding rate, and eight percent are trying variable-rate seeding.
Following is a sampling of the comments that we received on this topic:
• "I have been planting around three seed per foot for years, but I will have to cut back to about two seed per foot to save money." – Southeast Alabama
• "It's another dry year in West Texas. But thank goodness I've got some 30 germ seed still left."
• "I used a lower seeding rate by accident. I traded planters and thought I had it set like the old one, but it looks like everything is working out to a good stand. I may have been planting too many seed." – Northeast Alabama
• "Less seed, more yield."
• "I'm using conventional seed and cold steel."
To participate in this month's Web Poll, go to cottonfarming.com to cast your vote and share your comments. Please include where your farming operation is located. Results of the June poll will be reported in the July issue of Cotton Farming.
Web Poll Results
This year, are you lowering your seeding rate, using variable-rateseeding or staying with the same seeding rate that you have used in the past?
• Using a lower seeding rate – 17 %
• Using variable-rate seeding – 8 %
• Using the same seeding rate – 75 %
June Web Poll Question
How would you rate the early season progress of your cotton crop as compared to 2011? Please share your thoughts in the "Comments" section and mention where your operation is located.
• Same as last year
• Better than last year
• More challenges than last year
Register your vote