With this year’s June and July rainfall events and good temperatures, the condition of much of the cotton crop in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions has improve greatly. However, a majority of the cotton crops are currently still ten days to two weeks behind, developmentally than what they should be by this calendar date. Many of these cotton fields across the region began blooming around the middle of July (typically first week in July) and have set small bolls, while some of the later planted fields have just began, or are close to bloom.
Most of the fields I have personally observed have excellent fruit retention and came into bloom at 7 to 8 nodes above first position white flower (NAWF). Crops that come into bloom at that level show excellent vigor while those that come into bloom at 6 or less are less vigorous and near physiological cutout, which is 5 NAWF, and may be experiencing some level of moisture, nutrient, or environmental stress. If producers find that their cotton crop comes into bloom at 9 to 10 NAWF, an application of a plant growth regulator may be warranted (see below for more information).
At this point, for a large portion of the High Plains and Panhandle cotton crop, all that is needed for success is an open fall. Meanwhile, producers should continue to monitor for insect pests and adopt a zero tolerance policy in trouble fields where glyphosate tolerant palmer amaranth, or pigweeds, escapes are present. This policy may include either layby applications of residual herbicides under hooded sprayers, employing hoe crews, or careful cultivations if possible.
High populations of these weeds not only compete with the current cotton crop for valuable moisture, nutrients, and sunlight, but also provide millions (500 thousand per “female” plant) of seeds for germination the following season to exacerbate the problem.
For more information on proper weed control measures, please click at this link for an excellent Texas A&M AgriLife Extension publication authored by Gaylon Morgan, Paul Bauman and Pete Dotray besides other helpful weed control publications. If fields are kept relatively weed free and insect pests are controlled in a timely manner, most fields should enter the boll maturity phase with an excellent fruit load to result high yield potential.
As indicated above, an open fall with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine will be needed for many cotton fields for optimum lint yield and fiber quality. In the Lubbock area, under “normal” conditions (whatever that is…) a bloom set on August 10th has a 100% probability of reaching full maturity. However, a bloom after August 10th has a declining percent probability of maturing. For example, a bloom set on August 15th has a 71% chance, August 25th, a 29% chance, and on September 1st, a 14% chance. With the above average temperatures during the fall, however, these chances increase and higher maturity values and yields result.