“Rain is in the forecast later this week, so that has to be taken into account. There’s a limited seed inventory in the high-demand varieties, with some issues with germ specs. I’ve heard of cases where farmers had to sign waivers that they knew the germ was lower than normal with certain varieties they intended to plant.
“It’s a little amazing how well planting has gone so far after it had rained here for 7 straight months. In the first 40% of 2019 we received over 30 inches of rain in this area, which is 60% of our annual rainfall average.
“We’ve probably planted 40% of the cotton we will have. Rain – with potentially heavy amounts – is in the forecast for Thursday and into Sunday. Growers will plant today and tomorrow and then I think they’ll hold back off until it’s dry enough again.
“Our cotton acres will be about the same. With the weather that’s coming, I don’t think we can increase our cotton acres that much more. When it does dry up again, we’ll be into the second half of May, and it will be kind of touchy to get more in after that.”
Tyson Raper, Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee:
“We’re making planting progress but also are paying attention to the weather forecast, which calls for heavy rains on Thursday and steady rain chances for a few days after that. Several growers said they’ve stopped planting and will wait to see what happens with the rain.
“Seed quality has generated several recent questions about how to deal with low germ and smaller seed. We do have warm temperatures and adequate moisture, so planting conditions are very good. But I am concerned about this heavy rainfall in the forecast and slightly cooler temperatures. None of that is extreme. So, the best answer about these seed issues has been to take into account these lower-than-average germ and smaller seed size, then adjust your seeding rates up a little to compensate.
“Across our cotton counties, I’m seeing tremendous progress with planting and I think that we’re 25% to 35% planted. Next week should be a big week for planting once we get through the rain and fields dry up. At that point, farmers will be moving at full speed.”
Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist:
“Planting is much further along than I initially thought. A consultant in southeast Arkansas told me on Sunday in a text that they were 70% planted in his area and 30% had emerged. It’s been a little drier down there compared to our central and northern counties.
“As you go north, for example, they’re maybe 50% planted around Marianna. Some of those growers, though, are planting peanuts first, which is affecting progress on cotton planting. In our northeastern counties, the weather has had more of an effect. Agents in a couple of northeast counties put planting progress at 5% to 10% to maybe 15%.
“Some people are still planting (as of 5/7) in dry fields but everyone also is watching the forecast, which says it could rain 3 to 4 inches starting in the second half of the week. Hard-packing rains could cause crusting, which would keep seedlings from emerging unless that soil stays moist.
“This is kind of a precarious situation because seed supplies are tight, especially in popular varieties, so you don’t want to push yourself into having to replant a bunch of acres. If I were farming, I don’t think I’d be brave enough to keep planting ahead of these storms.
“Another concern is keeping up with preemerge herbicides. A couple of consultants said their growers had stopped planting because the planters had gotten so far ahead of their spray rigs. In places, cotton also was coming up and seedlings were stressed some. Consultants wanted to know if applying Roundup would hurt those small plants.
“In that case, you sure don’t want to mix anything with Roundup. My thinking is that it’s better to spray now and maybe ding up the plants a little than to wait until it’s dry enough to get the sprayer in the field again. By then, you could have a real mess on your hands, considering that we’re looking at several days of rain.
“It’s important not to let these weeds get away from you early. They’ll compete with cotton and hurt yields. By harvest, most people have generally forgotten about all the weeds they contended with early in the season and can’t put a finger on why yields are less than they expected. In fact, those weeds took a toll. Once the crop takes a hit from that early competition, you can’t buy back that time or do anything to compensate for how the crop was held back early on. Where cotton already has been planted, we have got to stay on top of weeds.”
David Skinner, Agronomist, CPS, Macon, Mississippi:
“Maybe 10% to 15% of our cotton has been planted and that went in last week. It has all pretty much emerged.
“We’re waiting now for this predicted rain to pass through, and nobody has planted cotton this week to my knowledge. Along with the rain, the weather is supposed to be cooler. So, growers are keeping the seed in the sack for the time being. The really good varieties are in short supply, so if you’re forced into replanting, that could be an issue.
“If you feel a little scared about jumping in there and planting ahead of this weather system, that’s not a bad thing.