|In This Issue|
|Best Harvest Strategy?|
|What Customers Want|
|Burndown Targets Resistant Weeds|
|Opinions Vary On 'Ground' Cotton|
|Want To Learn? Travel To Georgia|
|Cotton Consultants Corner|
Yearly Harvest Request? Good Weather
PRODUCERS ANXIOUS TO HARVEST
Missouri’s cotton producers are ready to get this crop out of the field. However, they will need to wait longer than usual. According to the Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending Sept. 15, cotton opening bolls were 10 percent complete, 33 days behind last year and 24 days behind normal. Cotton condition was three percent very poor, 15 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 46 percent good and two percent excellent.
While we do have a late crop, there is still hope for a decent yield. I was astounded with the USDA projection of 1,103 pounds per acre last month in the Cotton and Wool Outlook, but it has been lowered to 1,063 pounds this month. The extended rainy conditions in July and August resulted in bloom and boll losses, but with the weather conditions for the last three weeks, we do have an opportunity to add bolls to the top crop.
Delayed planting, cooler weather, plant bugs, resistant weeds and cloudy, rainy conditions have helped to define this year’s crop.
YIELDS COMING IN STRONG
Louisiana couldn’t ask for better harvest weather. Conditions were hot and dry throughout much of the state, and defoliation was going on without a hitch. The unseasonably high temperatures in September generated the needed heat units to mature the bulk of our late-planted cotton and finish us up.
Picking is well underway, and so far yields were higher than expected across much of our dryland and irrigated acreage. I’m not keeping my fingers crossed, but I think there is an outside shot that we may break the state’s record for pounds per acre this year. I think this reflects good growing conditions in 2013 along with a reduction in acres where a vast majority of our acres remaining are concentrated in historically higher yielding parishes.
Additionally, although pests were common, they weren’t overbearing, and our producers did an excellent job staying on top of things. Early season thrips caused some difficulties, but bollworms weren’t particularly bad, and plant bugs were manageable. Spider mites were a persistent problem, but control efforts were mostly successful.
My crystal ball seems to get foggier every year so my prognostications to where cotton will be in Louisiana in the future aren’t necessarily reliable. However, if cotton prices will correct themselves in the near future, I expect Louisiana’s cotton acreage to at least hold steady and maybe increase in 2014, but a lot of that hinges on grain prices as well.
QUESTIONS SURROUND CROP YIELDS
As we near harvest, many producers still do not know what to expect from their crops. Much of the cotton was delayed in planting due to dry weather early and then wet weather later on. There was some cotton planted after small grain, which had a delay due to rains.
Nitrogen applications were often not applied timely as well as weed control due to wet conditions. Many fields have cotton in several different stages of growth, which makes it hard to determine when to defoliate. However, as we get closer to harvest, many of these fields look pretty uniform and should be fairly easy to defoliate. The greenest parts of the fields should be checked when making the defoliation decisions, and if they are close to needing defoliation and the remainder of the field is above 60 percent open with a good boll set, the decision should be made to defoliate and then should be picked timely.
Much data shows that you can lose 50 pounds of lint per week from rains and high winds after cotton is 80 percent or more open. Peanuts are typically harvested first in the Southeast, but more profit can be made if both crops are harvested at the peak maturity.
HIGH PLAINS CROP A MIXED BAG
As we approach harvest-aid season on the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions, the cotton crop continues to be somewhat of a mixed bag. Yield potential ranges from less than a bale on surviving dryland fields to better than three bales on fields with high irrigation capacity or those in areas where greater amounts of precipitation occurred. In any case, producers will soon be faced with the decision of when to apply harvest aids and which products should be utilized.
Undoubtedly, there will be some low yielding fields that will be left to freeze before harvesting in order to minimize further input costs. With the current conditions, there are several different harvest-aid programs that cotton producers could utilize and expect satisfactory performance. However, as we continue later into the harvest-aid season, cooler and perhaps wetter environmental conditions may require “adjustments” in harvest-aid programs to achieve similar performance.
Adjustments may include use of alternative products or higher usage rates of chemicals or adjuvants in a tankmix. As a final point, it should be noted that most cotton fields have maintained a high percentage of early set bolls, and harvest-aid decisions should be made that will not sacrifice the superior quality and yield potential from these bolls for the sake of lower quality small bolls that may not contribute to yield. Using sound maturity determination methods is important for yield and quality.
GOOD WEATHER NEEDED TO FINISH CROP
As I write this on Sept. 17, producers in southwest Georgia are beginning to make preparations and decisions for defoliation of the early planted cotton crop and are still waiting to see how the later planted crop will do. Early cotton began opening bolls in early September, and the earliest defoliation began during mid-to-late September, depending on when it was planted.
Harvest will likely begin in early October, weather permitting, and right now the early crop generally looks pretty good. Some of the later planted cotton looked noticeably better than it once did, likely due to some sunny and drier weather during early September. However, weather throughout the remainder of the fall will determine how well the later crop will perform. Warm, sunny weather with intermittent and moderate rains throughout the fall, accompanied by a later than normal frost, will likely be needed for optimal performance.
CROP HAS PROGRESSED QUICKLY
As of mid-September, cotton harvest has and continues to progress quickly in the Upper Gulf Coast and into the Blacklands. With few exceptions, harvest has been smooth due to limited precipitation in all regions currently harvesting cotton. Yields in the Upper Gulf Coast have averaged between 1.5 and 2.5 bales, and cotton fiber quality has been good. I have observed some irrigated fields that will be pushing four-plus bales, but these are the exceptions.
In the southern Blacklands, much of the cotton will be between 0.75 and 1.5 bales, depending on scattered showers this season. In the northern Blacklands, rainfall was more consistent and 1.5 bale yields will be common. In the dryland crop in the Rolling Plains, there will be more cotton harvested than in the last few years, but there are areas that will not be harvested for the third year in a row. Some areas will have average to above-average yields, depending on when and how much rain occurred in July.
DEFOLIATION MAY BE DELAYED
The dry weather in August and September certainly shortened what was going to be a late crop for some producers, particularly in the northeastern part of the state. The temptation for producers in many other parts of the state will be to delay defoliation and try to improve yields.
If you decide to delay defoliation past the middle of October, you will need to keep a close eye on the weather patterns, and, if we see a cold front coming that will bring a hard frost, we need to react. Most of the crop will need less attention to juvenile growth and regrowth prevention than normal and more attention to boll opening. We will likely benefit from higher than normal rates of boll openers due to the cooler temperatures we are likely to have and the limited amount of time we may have to work with before a frost.
Remember that the mode of action of boll openers is hormonal, and the rate response is temperature dependent. This is also true with some defoliants like Def and Folex and to a lesser degree with the PPO herbicidal defoliants.
TIMELY RAINS FINALLY ARRIVE
Over the last few days, badly needed rainfall has been received over much of the southwestern corner of the state. The area southwest of a line ranging from eastern Tillman County through northern Harmon County still has its moisture challenges. Although the rainfall came too late to improve yield prospects on many dryland acres, fiber quality may be improved in fields that had not yet undergone extremely severe drought stress.
Temperatures have been excellent for cotton maturity thus far in September. Forecasts for the remainder of the month appear to be maturity-friendly also. Yields in areas with good water quantity and quality may be good to excellent. Producers in areas with good irrigation capacity were also blessed several times with timely rainfall during the growing season. Overall quality remains to be seen. In order to achieve adequate maturity of late set bolls at some locations, an above normal, extremely warm finish to September and early October will be required.
VARIABLE CROP ACROSS THE STATE
The cotton crop in Virginia is variable across the growing region, though most producers seem to have a positive reaction when discussing yield potential. No one, however, is expecting yields to be at 2012 levels. Cotton is nearing 50 to 60 percent open bolls on light sandy soils and the rare field where producers were able to plant early (as I write this).
The large majority of the fields will be defoliated during October and some potentially later, depending on planting date. Boll openers will be needed as daytime highs fall below 80 degrees in conjunction with the delayed maturity of the crop. Producers should consult recommendations prior to defoliation to ensure proper leaf drop and boll opening.
AN EXTENDED SUMMER
Up to this point, Mississippi producers have been blessed with respect to weather conditions. We needed the heat to stick with us and the rain to stay away. Some of our warmest temperatures of the year were in late August and September, and rain wasn’t seen in many areas of the state for more than a month. Recent rain helped mature out this crop. Some of the earliest cotton in the state was picked during the second week of September; however, by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches your hands, picking should be underway in many areas.
Preliminary yields are very promising, and hopes are high for another good crop. Early reports indicate that cotton acres will increase next year. However, I will be happy to get this crop out of the field and some fall tillage work done before rains set in.