Light crust busting or rotary hoeing might be necessary in certain cotton fields in North Carolina. These may be fields where heavy rains occurred after recent planting. That may be particularly the case where cotton was planted deep to chase moisture or where cotton was dusted in but seedlings have yet to emerge.
Certain soils, of course, are prone to crusting, so seedlings germinated and are trying to emerge.
Usually, these mechanical practices are done when growers first notice poor stands and it’s usually too late to help seedlings emerge, or efforts to busts the crusts damage the few seedlings that have emerged.
However, in our current situation, growers have a good opportunity with this late cotton to avoid stand problems by rotary hoeing or crust busting as soon as the soil surface begins to dry out and the crust is just trying to form.
Delaying this practice for several days diminishes the likelihood of achieving optimal stands – but it does increase the chance of damaging seedlings that have made it through.
One sign of crusting is swollen hypocotyls (the neck) of the seedling as it approaches the soil surface.
Bottom line: quick action could offset many problems. Evaluate planted fields over the next couple of days for early signs of potential crusting. By taking notice, you can act when it still matters.
Subsequent rains during next week might prevent crusting if the surface stays wet. But if rains are not likely in your area, get the rotary hoe ready.