PRODUCERS LOOK FORWARD TO PLANTING
Cotton producers are looking forward to the 2013 planting season. Currently, we have plenty of moisture, and the temperatures have reached the upper 60s and are getting warmer. The Drought Monitor on March 5 shows that the zero drought area is spreading to the west and completely covers the cotton-growing area.
The forecast for March, April and May is calling for above- normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation. This would indicate that the planting season may begin earlier than usual, and that we should have enough moisture to begin the season. Research in Missouri has shown that the optimum plant-ing date is the first week in May. However, with boll weevil eradication having completed its active phase, later plantings still have an opportunity to produce well.
Producers were pleased when they were able to harvest the top crop more consistently. Earlier plantings are feasible if the weather cooperates as it did last year. Earlier planting will allow the plants to become established prior to the higher temperatures and increases the likelihood of eliminating at least one late season spray. Last year, when it became too dry to plant, producers often went with soybeans.
While the increase in planting of corn and soybeans will mean less cotton, there can be benefits by having these crops in a rotation with cotton. If we do end up with drought conditions again this year, we will gradually increase our wells, center
pivots and furrow irrigation.
DECISION TIME HAS ARRIVED
April is do-or-die month for many producers when equipment is ready, and decisions have been made on what to plant where and the crop and varieties to use. Seed prices of most crops continue to rise as more inputs go onto and into the seed for disease, weed and insect control. This makes precision planting more important and the reason that planters can make a significant impact on a farming operation.
Not only can seed be saved, but higher yields can be made with precise distance planting. More and more of our farmers have embraced technology and have found that they gain much information that can help make decisions on planting, fertilizing and pesticide use, as well as other management decisions. Variable rate irrigation with center pivots has been shown to reduce water use by 18 percent or more leading to more efficient use of inputs. Timeliness is key to high yields and profit whether it is for pesticide or fertilizer application or planting and harvesting. Adequate moisture at planting is important for obtaining good, uniform stands and helps with weed control as well. I hope that this is a prosperous year across the Cotton Belt for all our producers.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR A SUCCESSFUL CROP
We’ve had a break in the persistent precipitation, and corn has been going in the ground and cotton planting is just around the corner. We’ve seen a much needed and welcome upswing in the price of cotton, whether that translates into more acres in Louisiana remains to be seen. Temperatures have been cool to moderate in early March, but much warmer temps are expected to close out the month and warm the soil for cotton.
In order to achieve good germination and early season vigor, it is important to plant at an adequate soil temperature. Cotton seed germination is favored by high soil oxygen concentration, adequate moisture and soil temperatures above 64 degrees. At temperatures above 64 degrees at seed level, a cotton seed will require more than 100 hours to emerge. The optimal planting target is to have a 10-day average soil temperature of 65 degrees at the eight-inch depth. If poor quality seed is planted, 70 degrees may be a better target. At a minimum, soil temperatures in the seed and root zone should exceed 60 degrees, and the five-day forecast for daytime maximum temperatures should be above 50 degrees.
Emergence will generally occur after accumulation of 50 to 80 DD60 heat units after planting. With the loss of Temik (aldicarb), using an insecticide seed treatment for thrips is a no brainer but don’t expect more than a few weeks of activity. Generally, a foliar spray for thrips may be required around the one-to-two true leaf stage, depending on crop vigor. Nitrogen recommendations should be based on realistic yield goals and should take into account residual nitrogen in the soil.
Lastly, if you are using a pre-emergence herbicide program, remember that these products will often set the cotton crop back a little, which may lead to a greater need for a good thrips
PLANTING TO ACCELERATE SOON IN GEORGIA
Planting of the 2013 cotton crop will largely be underway soon in southwest Georgia, with some acreage planted already. Decent prices prior to planting may result in more cotton acreage than originally anticipated. A number of factors influence final acreage for all crops. However, many producers remained optimistic for cotton throughout much of the winter and early spring.
Significant rainfall during February and early March replenished many irrigation ponds and soil moisture. Hopefully, this pattern will continue through our periods of critical water demand. Adequate soil moisture and good temperatures will be critical for rapid seedling emergence and establishing acceptable stands.
Some rainfall will be needed for activation of residual herbicides, which continues to be important for pigweed control. Due to the loss of Temik, producers should pay close attention to early season growth, thrips populations and early season nematode symptoms. Foliar sprays for thrips may be required, especially if seedling growth is slow or less vigorous.
TOO MUCH RAIN DELAYS PLANTING
April showers bring May flowers. Well, Virginia could use a little break in showers so fields can dry. As producers wait to apply pre-plant burndown herbicide applications, they should be designing a weed management program for the 2013 growing season. The predominant question for Virginia producers to answer is “Are there any glyphosate- resistant weed species present?”
Virginia is fortunate in the fact that glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth is not widespread across the cotton-growing area, but a sound weed management program is needed to control resistant weed populations. To do so, producers need to use multiple spray timings (i.e. pre-plant burndown, pre-emergence and post-emergence) as well as multiple modes of action. Herbicides with residual activity will benefit early season cotton management as this is the time period when cotton is most vulnerable.
The second part of a weed management program is timeliness of herbicide applications. To achieve timely herbicide applications, producers must be actively scouting their fields, especially fields with known herbicide-resistant weed populations.
There are numerous publications on weed control in cotton for Virginia, but when combating glyphosate-resistant weeds, I encourage producers to search out information from neighboring states and across the Southeast. The combination of herbicides can be overwhelming to someone who is not a trained weed scientist, and I urge producers to seek advice from Extension agents.
EARLY SEASON MANAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL
Proper early season cotton management is crucial to ultimately producing a profitable crop. That management includes maintaining proper soil moisture with adequate and properly timed irrigations, maintenance of proper plant nutrient status through timely fertilizer applications, efficient early season insect control through proper scouting techniques and adequate control measures.
Timely control of weed pests is also critical to achieving optimum crop production. Herbicide tolerance in cotton has revolutionized weed control over the past decade. However, recent years have seen the occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds. Documented cases of resistance of glyphosate-resistant pigweed have now been confirmed in Arizona, and it is critical that steps be taken to prevent this from spreading and becoming a large-scale problem in our region. Use of full-label rates of glyphosate along with timely applications and proper coverage are critical for reducing the risk of resistance.
Utilizing herbicides with residual activity and alternate modes of action as a part of your overall weed control program is also another recommended technique for reducing the potential for weed resistance. It is important to monitor fields after glyphosate applications, looking for weeds that do not seem to be affected by the glyphosate application.
If you find weeds controlled by glyphosate intermingled with weeds appearing unaffected by the application, you might have a resistance problem. If this situation is observed, contact your PCA, industry representative or university Extension personnel.
TRYING TO STAY OPTIMISTIC
As of March 18: We all have to remain optimistic in agriculture. Unfortunately, this dry winter and spring are no doubt testing our optimism in Texas. Several of Texas’ major cotton production regions remain in an extreme or excessive category drought, including the Rio Grande Valley, Rolling Plains and some of the High Plains.
The remaining cotton production regions are all categorized as being in a moderate-to-severe drought. In the Coastal Bend, producers have recently or will begin dryland planting this week and are hoping for a rain in the near future to establish the crop. Planting recently began in the Upper Gulf Coast where bumper cotton crops have been obtained on the past two dryland
seasons. The key is having sufficient soil moisture to get the cotton crop started. In the Rolling Plains, cotton acreage was previously expected to drop about 25 percent. However, rising cotton prices through February and March have convinced many producers to re-evaluate the economic return of cotton versus grain crops, especially on non-irrigated acres.
Unfortunately, I cannot accurately assess the reduction in cotton acreage over 2012 acreage because weather and price over the next month will be the deciding factor.
QUESTIONS PERSIST BEFORE PLANTING
After two consecutive years of disastrous drought and the current less-than-desirable moisture situation as of this writing, many producers are still wondering what to plant in the summer of 2013. Considerable wheat was planted last fall, and some of it is being terminated with glypho-sate, as some producers have opted to plant cotton. Many of the producers in Oklahoma have adopted limited or no-till production techniques.
Due to extensive no-till production techniques, herbicides are essential to replace tillage as the primary weed management tool in these systems. Confirmation of glyphosate-resistant horseweed in Oklahoma magnifies the importance of 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, and research has shown that excellent horseweed control has been observed when applications were made at the rosette stage.
It is important to take note of the plant-back restrictions required for both dicamba and 2,4-D. Following a dicamba application of up to .25 pounds per acre active ingredient, planting cannot occur until 21 days after a minimum accumulation of one inch of rainfall or overhead irrigation. In addition, dicamba is not recommended for preplant use in areas that receive less than 25 inches of annual rainfall. For 2,4-D, Oklahoma studies have shown that planting may occur 30 days after application of up to one pound per acre active ingredient without concerns of crop injury or yield reduction.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THRIPS PROBLEMS
Through the winter months, we have heard a lot of discussion about how critical the first 30 days after emergence are for our cotton crop. In the past, we used a great deal of aldicarb in-furrow to successfully manage thrips and nematodes and establish a healthy root system.
With aldicarb no longer available, early establishment has become a greater challenge. While seed treatments have been effective, we have had instances where thrips control was less than ideal. Extension entomologists at Auburn are recommending that a postemergence insecticide be put on at one true leaf if thrips damage is apparent on early planted cotton.
Extension specialists and agents have been asked by many producers to provide information via social media. The Agronomic Crops Team is now providing updates via Twitter and Facebook. Our team members are already providing crop updates and information via team and individual accounts.
To “follow” this information, we will be providing more specifics on the “Alabama Crops” Facebook page and on Twitter through “@AU Crop Specialists.”
MANY FACTORS WILL AFFECT PLANTED ACRES
At the time of this writing, much of the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions are still considered to be under abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. Much speculation has been reported as to whether the number of acres previously planted to cotton will be planted to alternative crops for the 2013 growing season. There are many factors that producers will have to weigh when making decisions on what to plant. Commodity price, insurance and weather are among the list of considerations.
I am of the opinion that the percentage of cotton acres planted to alternative crops will continue to fluctuate right up until the end of April or early May when cotton planting gets underway. Should market conditions favorable to cotton continue to develop, the “estimated 25 percent reduction in Texas cotton acreage” (based on National Cotton Council survey) could be lessened considerably.
There are some cotton fields that were planted to wheat in the fall of last year, and the condition of those crops and whether they will be taken to harvest will have some influence on the final Texas cotton acres. One thing that producers should be considering, regardless of their crop decision, is sampling for residual NO3 – N in the soil profile.
With the previous seasons experienced in the Texas High Plains, there could be savings to producers in terms of fertilizer input costs. Sampling down to between 18 and 24 inches should be considered by producers who fertilized for specific yield goals in 2011 and 2012 but failed to meet them.