AgFax Southeast Cotton: Warm Weather, Optimistic Start

    Cotton planting. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Questions, comments, complaints? My door is always open.

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southeast Cotton, sponsored by the Southern Cotton Team of AMVAC Chemical Corporation


    Cotton planting has started on a wide basis since last weekend. With warmer temperatures, conditions are nearly ideal through much of our coverage area.

    Drier weather has taken shape, though, in southeast Alabama and parts of Georgia. In places, cotton planting this week was limited to fields with pivots.

    Cotton seed quality and availability are a factor. Seed companies gave plenty of notice over the winter that inventories might be limited in certain varieties. That puts pressure on growers to gain the best stands possible on the first round of planting.

    Thrips pressure may be heavy in upper Alabama this season. Connect to a report in our Links section.



    John Burleson, Consultant, Swan Quarter, North Carolina:

    “Some guys started planting cotton this week, I think, but more will be going next week for sure. We have pretty decent conditions right now. In the next 10 days (from 4/29), I suspect that everyone will be going pretty hard. My growers’ cotton acres will be about the same as last year.

    “For a lot of folks, this has been a challenging spring. It’s been wet enough that many people weren’t able to get in the field at all until over the last week or so.

    “Probably 80% of the corn has been planted and maybe 70% of it is up now. Soybeans are probably 20% planted. We didn’t have much wheat, so most of our beans will be full season plantings. A few soybeans were actually planted 2 weeks ago when the weather was better.”

    Trey Bullock, Bullock’s Ag Consulting, Hattiesburg, Mississippi:

    “With all this rain, we’ve had a wild ride. We’ve done virtually nothing in the field, and growers really just started planting today (4/29).

    “This is the first time in 22 years that I’ve gone this long in the spring without digging behind a planter to make sure things are being done right. In fact, everything was pushed back so much that I’m still taking soil samples.

    “Growers are mainly planting cotton right now because the bulk of the peanut seed haven’t come in yet. A grower or two will have corn but not enough for me to be involved with it. The price has really kept people from being interested in it. This year, we’ll just about be 100% cotton and peanuts.

    “One of my growers may plant some soybeans behind river water but he’d rather not. He was planning on cotton but doesn’t know if he’ll have enough time once the water recedes.”

    Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina:

    “We were exceedingly wet and now we’re dry and there was never any real in between phase. There’s a chance of rain on Friday, though. Some folks probably planted cotton in limited moisture, banking on that rain. Most of our cotton should be planted in May, so this isn’t a critical situation.

    “I think our cotton acres will increase a little and that’s been the general consensus. We probably will see a certain amount of decline in peanut acres. Some soybeans already are in the ground. In a planting date study, we actually have soybeans up.”

    Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University:

    “Cotton acres in North Carolina, I think, will be up about 10%, based on conversations with farmers. Most people are pretty positive and there’s not much excitement about corn or beans right now. It’s also a little late to finish off corn, and some of that land will go to cotton.


    “People began dipping their toes in the water last week as far as cotton planting goes. A few were in the field, mainly fine-tuning planters and making sure things were working right. But early this week, planters started running on a widespread basis and I expect that to gain momentum all week.”

    Jack Royal, Royal’s Agricultural Consulting Co., Inc., Leary, Georgia:

    “We’re really just getting into full swing with cotton planting. A few growers haven’t started because we were so far behind due to all the rain. People are getting ground worked up and are planting peanuts, too.

    “I think that in areas south of us growers are a little farther along, but we’re still in good shape here, all things considered. We also have growers who really don’t like to start before May 1.

    “Peanut acreage will remain about where it was, I suspect, and cotton may be up 10% to 12%, with corn down a bit. As wet as our fall was, hardly any wheat was planted in our area.

    “The hurricane (Michael) devastated the cotton crop. It was probably the best crop many people would have ever picked but the hurricane took it away. We need a good crop and a cheap crop this year.”

    Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:

    “Most farmers are rolling this week. A few planted last Friday or Saturday but a lot of people are steadily going this week.

    “I kept hearing conflicting projections about cotton acreage expectations. Most people I asked over the winter said they’d have about the same acreage. But I’ve learned that you can’t get a good answer out of a farmer about that early in the year.

    “The tariff issue may have affected people’s outlook on cotton. Overall, though, there are reasons to be positive. We’ve been making good yields, other than what the hurricane (Michael) blew away last year. Also, growers are pretty comfortable that they can grow 1,000-pound yields, and most are likely shooting for 1,200. We have more irrigation now, although not enough to really influence the market, but irrigation does give us some security.

    “I do think more cotton will be planted and that will probably come out of soybean acres. I’m pretty sure of that. Peanuts will likely stay about the same down here.

    “Grasshoppers are variable from field to field but are heavy in places. That variability has to do with soil types and drainage, which influence overwintering survivability during wet weather. I’ve seen some fields recently where I wouldn’t plant a single cotton seed without controlling grasshoppers first.

    “In places, they’re swarming and half of them already are adults. I was in a field like that a week ago. It had a heavy percentage of adults, which you usually don’t see until you’re into May. Immature grasshoppers are easy to control with low rates of several insecticides. Adults, though, are tougher to take out.

    “The predictive model, hosted on line by North Carolina State University, indicates that southern and central Alabama won’t see much pressure — or cotton will be far enough along that thrips won’t be an issue when they do build. I ran the model on 4 locations and that was the forecast in 3 locations.

    “The exception was north Alabama. As you went deeper into May, the worse the situation appears to shape up. The model shows thrips coming off really late there. How late you plant up there will be a factor in terms of potential thrips pressure.

    “Let me add that the more often you run the model and the closer you get to that time, the more accurate it becomes. So, whatever I say right now could be subject to change in a couple of weeks.”

    Mark Freeman, Extension Area Agronomist, Statesboro, Georgia:

    “Between 10% and 15% of our cotton has been planted, which is just about normal for right now. Things have actually gotten quite dry after being very wet through the winter and into early spring. We haven’t had rain in a while. The forecast called for it last week but that didn’t happen. People are still planting but mostly in irrigated fields.”

    Brad Smith, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Selma, Alabama:

    “A small amount of cotton was actually planted 2.5 weeks ago (from 4/29) by one farmer. Last week around Wednesday or Thursday, several growers began planting and then it rained a little on Friday. But more people are now in the field and by the middle of this week I expect that 80% of our planters will be moving.


    “To the best of my knowledge, all the intended corn was planted and we may see a 3% to 5% increase. Overall, corn looks good. A little hog damage has occurred and we’re finding more and more areas with that.

    “That increase in corn acres is coming out of beans. If anything, soybean acres could be off by 30% in the area our location serves. With the way soybeans penciled out, cotton looked better, plus we’ve had some fairly decent cotton yields, which went in its favor.

    “Cotton and corn have some other advantages in this area. Compared to a corn-soybean approach, corn and cotton work better from a fertility standpoint. They take more fertilizer but they also don’t remove as much of those nutrients as a corn-soybean rotation will.

    “Soybeans are like the person who shows up at a party and everyone kind of likes him. But once he leaves, you realize he took away more than he brought.”

    Steve Brown, Extension Cotton Agronomist, Auburn University:

    “Alabama farmers got in kind of a rush and have planted a lot of cotton in the last week (from 5/1). It’s getting pretty dry, though, in southeast Alabama and most growers there would welcome a rain.

    “I’ve talked with people in both the Gulf Coast area and up in the northeastern part of the state and they’re doing fine in terms of planting conditions. We have had some cool nights but the daytime highs have climbed into the mid-80s and almost to 90, so people are taking advantage of that where they can.

    “It would be nice now to get a moderate weekend rain to help bring things along. I think we’ll be somewhere close to a half-million acres of cotton this year.

    “We do need to move forward carefully with planting because seed supplies are somewhat limited, and I think most people have already heard that. We won’t be able to replant in a big way, so it’s important to do everything right the first time. The capacity for ‘do-overs’ is limited.”

    AgFax Southeast Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Owen Taylor, Editorial Director.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the cotton production season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. Office: 601-992-9488.
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