“Relying on custom harvesters is yet another challenge. This year, every custom harvester probably has taken on more acres than he should. I don’t mean that offensively, it’s just how things go. Some farmers flooded out in the Yazoo River area in Mississippi and may have some picker capacity that will be available on a custom basis.
“As late as this crop will be, the likelihood of September picking diminishes a bit more every day. With October cotton, you don’t get to pick as long. Instead of a new round-module picker covering 110 acres a day in September, it will be more like 80 or 85 acres in October.
“Gins will be running at full capacity, too. I’m advising these returning growers that their cotton may not even see a gin stand until December or even January, which would be the earliest they’d have cotton to sell. If interest on loans is mounting and they won’t have the money to cover it, they need to plan accordingly.
“Frankly, we’re dealing with a lot of moving parts.”
Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina:
“Some of our earliest cotton was planted in an April 19-20 window, but that’s a very few acres. Most people waited and then cranked up around the weekend of April 27-28 and planted as much as they could before the forecast started calling for substantial rainfall. That rain began last Thursday (5/9).
“It’s amazing how fast people can go now. One grower told me he planted his 2,400 acres in 4 days. Another farmer with 5,000 acres wrapped it all up in 7 days. That said, some farmers just started last week and were only able to plant 400 to 600 acres before the rain started.
“Rain totals varied from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, and some of that came in a hurry. To my knowledge, nobody has been in the field since last Thursday and I haven’t seen any planters running today (5/13). Some might be in the field again as early as tomorrow or Wednesday, although a chance of rain is in the forecast now for Wednesday or Thursday.
“I know we’re pushing toward the later side for planting but I think we can get it all done, barring another round of substantial rainfall. We’re maybe 50% to 66% finished with planting in this part of the state, which is maybe about normal.
“Years ago, farmers started planting a lot earlier. But seed, equipment and other inputs were much cheaper. If there were problem stands, it wasn’t as big a deal to replant. But with budgets like they are now, people want to get it right the first time, plus growers can now cover more ground within a tighter window. For all those reasons, a lot of farmers really don’t like to start now until May 1.
“In this area, cotton acreage will likely be up by 10% to 15% and that will mainly come out of soybeans. We planted less wheat in the fall, so there will be fewer doublecrop soybean acres. Corn acres will be up, too.
“We definitely are dealing with more herbicide-resistant Italian ryegrass this year, and that’s been a building trend for several years. This isn’t like contending with resistant Palmer pigweed but it’s still an issue that demands attention. It has to be cleaned up and we need to keep it from building numbers in the seed bank.
“I’m getting more and more calls every spring about Italian ryegrass, especially in corn. More clethodim herbicide is going out, and that raises a concern because Italian ryegrass has developed resistance to it in other parts of the country when growers relied too heavily on it.
“If you’re finding it now, educate yourself about how to deal with it going forward. Everyone needs to stay on top of this grass for sure. This problem started in our northwestern counties as the weed began moving across the Mississippi line. Since then, it’s been progressing a little farther east every year. It’s made a foothold in northwest Alabama now and through parts of the Tennessee Valley. Fall burndown treatments have done well in our tests, so keep that in mind for later this year.”
Victor Roth, Roth Farm Service, Malden, Missouri:
“My growers may be 33% planted, although some might have only planted 5% so far (5/13). Most held off doing anything last week because heavy rain was in the forecast, with lower temperatures, too. But from this moment on, they will be planting wherever they find a dry spot.
“Some of the earliest planted cotton looked pretty good last week, but there was still some variation, depending on planting dates. It looked like 3 or 4 days made a difference. The earliest fields caught warm weather, which helped bring them along. Germination and sprouting weren’t as good where seed were planted just a little later and then went right into cooler conditions. We may have some replanting or at least spot planting with some of that cotton.
“If the weather remains dry, we certainly could finish planting between May 25 and May 30. Generally, no one wants to plant cotton here on or after May 25. The price of beans is low enough that growers will have to put some thought into whether to plant cotton later than normal or shift to soybeans.
“How the weather goes will largely determine how much cotton we finally have. I may not know until I send out my bills in June how much cotton my growers will have. For that matter, I still might not know even then.”
Harold Lambert, Independent Consultant, Innis, Louisiana:
“We’re almost done with cotton planting and would have already wrapped it up but then got into a rainy spell. A few acres are left and those won’t take long. The forecast looks good. Most of our cotton that’s already been planted is up to cotyledons and first true leaf.
“A lot of corn will be in tassel in about a week. Rain has been catching us when trying to plant soybeans. We’re about 30% done and will have to do some replanting where water is standing now (5/13). With prices like they are, soybean acres are down a little and much of that ground will go into sugarcane.”
Herbert Jones Jr., Ind. Consultant, Leland, Mississippi:
“We haven’t even started planting cotton yet (as of 5/13). It’s rained that much. Questions are now being asked about whether to rehip.
“Things vary quite a bit, of course, depending on rainfall totals, and planting may be further along 10 miles down the road. I was coming through Indianola and saw a little cotton up. Around here, I can take you to cotton at cotyledon or first leaf but very little seed, overall, has gone into the ground.
“On a positive note, the forecast calls for 10 days of pretty good weather, so farmers should be able to plant a substantial amount before it rains again. Certain problem areas remain, though. Seep water from the Mississippi River is keeping soils wet, so people with land along the levee could be on hold for a while.”