Cotton – Midsouth – Better Planting Ahead…Dare We Hope? – AgFax

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 Midsouth Cotton, sponsored by the Midsouth Cotton Team of AMVAC Chemical Corporation


Cotton planting drags on. Rains continued to move through the Midsouth over the last week, which further sidelined field work and planting.

Hotter ahead? If forecasts hold, the weather is turning in a hotter direction and less rain seems to be in the general forecast for portions of the Midsouth into next week. That opens the way for faster drying and maybe better conditions to finish planting before June 1 (or as it’s also known, May 32nd).

At least some replanting and spot planting have been necessary – and for any number of reasons. See comments by Tyson Raper about cotton replanting decisions. Also, read Phillip McKibben’s thinking about determining whether to replant corn.

Pests are mostly in the background. Thrips activity has been light, and all the rain has probably helped beat them back. Cutworms have been a localized issue.

Slugs and/or snails are turning up in row crops in parts of the Midsouth. Mississippi State just released an informative podcast that removes some of the basic confusion about which causes crop damage and how to deal with it. (Spoiler alert: options are limited.) Connect to the podcast in our Links section.



Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist:

“Some areas are drier than others and a little planting is underway today (5/21) but it’s nothing widespread. I’ve been in some areas today where it’s really, really wet. If people are planting right now, it’s mostly on higher ground or maybe where they have cover crops.

“Statewide, we’re only halfway through planting when we should be at 85% or more. Rain is in the forecast tonight. I’m just hoping we don’t deal with those bad storms like the ones that hit Oklahoma.

“These conditions have prompted a lot of rethinking in terms of replanting. If this were the first of May, there’s no way we’d be putting cottonseed in a lot of this ground. We’d be concerned about big rains and soils crusting over. But at this point we’ll have to roll the dice and hope we get a stand.”

Tyson Raper, Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee:

“We’re making progress with cotton planting. Quite a few additional acres were planted before the rain on Sunday and a few people were able to get a little done today (5/21). Close to a half-inch of rain fell on a lot of the area but amounts varied from around 3 tenths to an inch.

“Probably a third of our cotton is up, a third is in the ground but not up yet and the rest is still in the bag. Growers are trying to figure out what to do going forward with that remaining seed. Prevented planting is the topic of a bunch of conversations. With the conditions right now and the yield potential for that late-planted ‘May-30-something’ cotton, growers are looking at their options.

“The call volume also has picked up about replanting decisions. If it’s a hard call or borderline situation, the best thing at this point is to keep what you have. Even with marginal stands, the yield potential with some of this earlier-planted cotton is still better than a great stand you could establish late this week.

“But – and this is a big but – we still have plenty of cotton left to plant for the very first time. If everything was planted by now, we could make those finely tuned replant decisions, but that’s not the case.”

Gary Wolfe, La-Ark Agricultural Consulting, Ida, Louisiana:

“To the best of my knowledge, no one around here is completely finished planting cotton (as of 5/20). We’re at 70% or maybe 80%. Normally by May 10, we’d be done, so this will be a later crop.

“I think growers will stick with cotton until June 1 and then be done. It’s been wet all along, and we’ve received some 5-inch rains along the way. Areas south of us got a big rain last night and rain is in the forecast again tomorrow.

“I expect that some of the remaining acres will go into prevented planting with nothing planted behind it. We’ve already seen a lot of corn go into prevented planted.


“Some of our cotton is at the 4-leaf stage, maybe a little further along than that. But that’s just a very few hundred acres. A lot of seed is still in the ground. It was planted ahead of the last heavy rains and it’s in sandy ground, so crusting is a concern. I’m not sure how much of it will finally emerge.

“In places, growers didn’t apply a preemerge. Those fields are growing up a little but the farmers will count on the technology they selected. Others did go with a preemerge.”

Dennis Reginelli, Area Extension Agent and Agronomist, East-Central Mississippi:

“We should make great progress this week in finishing cotton planting in Noxubee and Lowndes Counties. If we don’t finish, we’ll be close. The wind is drying out fields really fast, so that’s making this a bit more challenging.

“Even though it’s late, I think we’re okay. When I transferred to Extension from research in 1991, it was wet and a lot of cotton that year was planted late. But we still made really good yields.

“The heat units this week will bring cotton up fast and we should be rowing it in 4 days. I don’t have any reason to be concerned about seedling disease. Right now, we have a good environment for cotton and it should grow out a good root system.”

Phillip McKibben, McKibben Ag Services, Mathiston, Mississippi:

“Probably a fourth of our expected cotton crop has been planted by now (5/21). Planting is underway today and we still have a good forecast. We certainly have plenty of moisture and farmers are pushing hard to get seed out.

“Maybe 300 to 400 acres have been up long enough that I’ve checked them twice. None of it is pretty. It’s been through a lot. In one field, 85% of the seed rotted before it could emerge. I’m not sure if that was a seed quality issue or some other problem. On those acres, it actually didn’t rain that much.

“Soybeans aren’t on the table this week in terms of switching away from cotton. But if we don’t have all the cotton planted a week from now (5/21), they could be. Quite a few corn fields are drawing prevented planting. Most of the intended corn, though was planted.

“It’s been a tough start for corn. Stands were perfect on maybe one or two fields and that was about it. We’ve had difficult decisions to make about whether to keep current stands or replant. I’ve been working on a corn replanting decision model based more on actual measurements than on simple observations and opinion.

“A farmer asked me to look over a field that he expected to replant. After measuring the bare spots, I found, in fact, that the field as a whole still had 96% of its original yield potential. However, that wasn’t readily visible due to the lay of the land. What was more visible was the 4% that had little or no stand. I measured out those areas in the field to reach my percentages.

“Of course, this was not his original goal when he planted, but he still had 96% with normal yield potential, even if the other 4% was mostly bare dirt. If he did replant on that date – which wasn’t an option at the time – the best he could hope for was a 92% yield potential because of the delay penalty. And that also hinged on the weather cooperating so that he could replant and then gain a perfect stand.

“If one heavy rain came through, he might be back to square one. As it was, 96% of his existing stand had full yield potential.

“Not all fields are that clear cut. You might have some with a good stand on 70% or 75% of the acres. From there, I’ve started evaluating that remaining portion in thirds and judging yield potential. Some of it might have 50% of a normal population and another portion might be down to 4,000 plants an acre. But all that still contributes to yield, which needs to be factored into the decision.

“Really, you want to measure and count instead of estimating. Most of us think we’re good at estimating but we’re not.  Also, emotion enters into this and you can be negatively influenced by how bad parts of the field look. If you’ve got 88% yield potential, that’s not good, but if you’re looking at a 22% yield penalty if you replant on a given date, the chance of improving your yield is negligible.

“That doesn’t count the cost of killing the first planting, buying seed, running the planter and other inputs.”

Scott Stewart, Extension Entomologist, Jackson, Tennessee:

“Based on a few calls and what I’m seeing in plots, there are no major issues right now (5/21) with thrips. One thing to look for, though, are cutworms. I have had a number of calls about them and they seem to be a little more active this year than in the past.

“With the wet weather this spring, I expected that slugs would be active, but they’ve been spotty. A few people called about snails, but it turned out to be slugs. Most calls in the last couple of weeks have been about armyworms in weeds, with some spraying in wheat and a little in corn. Sometimes they migrate into corn or they might be in cover crops and start feeding on corn when it emerges.”

Dale Wells, Ind. Cotton Services, Inc., Leachville, Arkansas:

“We’re probably 75% planted (as of 5/20) and have all stages of cotton, from first true leaf to cotton that was just in the ground before the rain hit Sunday night (5/19). That rain totaled 2 to 2.5 inches in this area.


“We got lucky with the rain prior to this last one. The forecast called for 3 to 5 inches but we only got three-quarters of an inch. On the other hand, the forecast for Sunday night called for a third of an inch but then it rained 2 inches or more.

“Our first-planted cotton was in a complicated situation. It rained so much in the fall that we couldn’t establish a cover crop and had to wait and sow wheat or oats in the spring. We didn’t burn it down before planting, deciding to leave it in place to minimize crop damage from blowing sand. It never gained any height and didn’t joint out, so it looked more like grass than small grain.

“As things look now, we’ll have to replant at least some of that cotton, although it’s hard to say how much. It’s tough to see where the cotton is and then try to make any determinations on stand counts. At the least, we will have to do quite a bit of spot planting and replant up to 30% of some fields.

“We’ve had a series of hard-packing rains and crusting over, plus it’s been a challenge to get a whole field planted at the same time.

“This is my 41st year to look at cotton and I have always avoided saying, ‘This is the worst start I’ve ever seen.’ But this is the worst start I’ve ever seen.

“I’m finding thrips here and there but there’s so much greenery in the ditch banks that they haven’t moved into cotton yet. I haven’t seen many cutworms but we put out an insecticide at planting.

“Corn ranges from V4 to nearly V6. We maybe planted 80% of our intended corn acreage before the calendar finally caught up with us. What we have looks pretty good. Beans in the pivot corners are taking off, too, but peanuts and cotton are struggling.

“Growers are still avoiding soybeans. One grower this morning asked, ‘We can still plant cotton up to May 40th, right?’ I hate to say when the final cotton will be planted. We’re supposed to get another 1.5 inches of rain tonight. If we miss that, maybe we can get in the field again this weekend or early next week.”

Tucker Miller, Ind. Consultant, Drew, Mississippi:

“We have cotton planted on April 23 that actually looks pretty good, and it’s at the third leaf. We just don’t have much of it.

“I haven’t seen thrips on any of the cotton. I don’t know if that means we have a good seed treatment or if it’s not hot and dry enough for thrips or if there just aren’t any thrips. The only spraying (as of 5/20) has been about 50 acres for cutworms.

“We’re maybe halfway through planting cotton. It’s been a struggle. We’ll get a big rain and then wait and wait for things to dry out. We’ll hit it hard for a couple of days and then it rains again – usually on Saturday and Sunday.

“Totals from this last system ran 1.25 to 1.4 inches, which wasn’t bad. It came in a couple of installments – an inch and then 3 or 4 tenths from another rain. High winds are in the forecast, and we just hope the cotton we planted last Thursday and Friday (5/16-17) emerges before the ground crusts over.

“In places, we’ve already had crusting and some seedling disease. In certain fields, we started with 44,000 seed per acre and 35,000 emerged but we’re now down to 25,000 to 29,000. Stands are uniform and that’s enough to keep. We just hope nothing more dies. We did some spot planting last week, and several fields still will have to be replanted where we didn’t get a stand.”

Richard Phillips, Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC, New Madrid, Missouri:

“Most cotton is just coming up and it had seed treatments, so thrips aren’t a problem as of yet. Weed control in all crops has been good due to the many showers we’ve had, and that’s activated chemicals.

“Along the Mississippi River, it’s been a very tough spring for growers in our area. Cotton planting has been delayed and growers are maybe 85% finished. There are more early beans this year than we normally plant here, and growers are trying to make big yields.

“We had an inch of rain Saturday and Sunday (5/18-19), but temperatures are higher now, so drying will be faster than it has been.

“Corn acres are way down due to price and weather, but some corn is still being planted because growers don’t want soybeans. We will have 2 crop seasons this year due to the river being out longer than I have ever seen it in my life – and I’m 60-plus years old. It will be at least 2 weeks before anything can be done on that river ground. As of today, May 20, it’s still 2 feet over flood stage.”

AgFax Midsouth 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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