“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.