“As far as when we’ll be ready to plant cotton, I don’t know. Cotton has a ticking clock. Cotton planted by May 15 to May 20 is a safe bet, but you kind of start pushing your luck after that in this area.
“Two of my guys are looking for an alternative on a few fields that just weren’t good with cotton, and peanuts are going to fill that gap. It’s a good idea for rotation. Other farmers are still split among cotton, soybeans or corn. They want to stay within some kind of rotation, but if one of those crops became better priced than another, an extra field or two would go into that better-priced crop.
“On our home acreage, we’ve always been in that corn and bean rotation on the heavier soils, and wheat and cotton on our sandy soils. This is the first year I can remember having soybeans following soybeans due to last year’s ruts.
“As far as changing any technology used in our cotton, nobody is differing from what we did last year. One of my growers talked in January about raising Enlist cotton. Some Bollgard III might be planted, too, but I don’t foresee people doing much past trying it out. These farmers have some favorite, trusted cotton varieties that they’ll likely stay with.
“We’re going to trust that we don’t have a real heavy bollworm problem. With corn being late, maybe that will postpone our locally born worms that move into the cotton and lay eggs there. That’s not to say it will postpone worms moving up from the south, but the weather will determine that.
“I think we’ve turned our genetically modified corn into more of a nursery for these worms. I don’t know that it’s as effective as it once was.”
Hank Jones, RHJ Ag Services, Winnsboro, Louisiana
None of my cotton has been planted yet, but we’re going to have less cotton than we did in 2019.
“My corn is starting to come up today (4/21) Most of it is between emergence and growth stage V7. By V6 or V7, the corn is out of the ground. We really had a good run and planted and fertilized a big number of acres. Our herbicide application went out right before Easter. The cool snap came through, and corn growth slowed. But that has been about the only issue we’ve had with corn. Some of the herbicides did slightly ding up corn.
“We’ve got our corn crop in the ground and are in really good shape south of I-20. However, north of I-20, it’s a mess. We planted those fields wet, and they’ve been wet ever since then. The corn stands aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough. We are behind a little.
“So far, we’ve scraped by with decent weather. Of course, we also have had cold stretches, rain, hail, tornadoes and everything else, but that’s just a typical spring for us. The Easter Sunday (4/12) tornadoes tore up maybe eight pivots in West Carroll Parish. Pivots seem to be like magnets to tornados.
“Our rice has mostly been planted and is coming up, and we’re seeing a big expansion of row rice acres this year. Most everybody has finished planting their row rice, but plants have developed slowly with all the cold weather. That’s especially the case with April-planted rice.
“The shift to row rice is pretty remarkable, and some rice hasn’t been planted yet. This transition is mainly due to the ease of production. With row rice, growers don’t have to throw up levees, hold floods and such. Some of my guys kept rows from last year, and its suitable dirt for row rice, so they’re choosing to plant rice in those fields instead of something else. In addition to the convenience of row rice, some of that rice may cashflow slightly better than soybeans.
“Some of our beans are putting on a trifoliate but a bunch are still in the bag. Luckily, we were able to get a portion of our ground prepared for soybeans, and a good number of beans are already in the ground.”
Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist
I talked to a surprising number of people last Friday (4/17) who said they knew of cotton that had been planted in several areas. It was drying up in places last Saturday, so I’m sure planters were running somewhere.
“I talked to consultants today (4/21) after I looked at the DD-60s formula for the five days after planting, and I told them to park the planters. Well, planters are still running, and farmers are planting peanuts, beans and cotton in places.
“The forecast says it’s supposed to start raining tomorrow morning about 6 a.m. and then through the rest of the day and into early Thursday morning. Farmers are trying to get a lot of stuff done before that rain sets in. The issue is that the temperatures will cool down and cotton will struggle because of it. But growers at least got it in the ground. Essentially, they’re rolling the dice. Next week they probably will be too busy to talk because things are going to get pretty busy when we get back in the field.
“Some of the farmers I talked to today said their hands are resting up at home because when they get busy again, they’re hoping for a long, hard run.”
Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi
There hasn’t been a cotton seed planted yet. The way it’s looking, it will be May 1 at the earliest before anyone can plant. On Highway 8 around Aberdeen and Okolona, three to seven inches of rain fell yesterday (4/19), depending on the location. However, my growers farther north maybe received three tenths to three quarters of an inch of rain.
“I monitor some of my growers’ fields on my phone, so I can see rainfall amounts. I just checked it after that rain, and the highest I saw was 6.9 inches and the lowest was around 3.2 inches. I live in Starkville, and the gauge at my home had 4.4 inches. It rained from around 7 a.m. Sunday morning (4/19) until about 9 p.m. that night. Several fields totally went underwater and those weren’t dry before this last rain.
“With this rain, it’s going to knock out a lot of corn planting. A couple of guys last week said they now are having to decide between soybeans and cotton. They aren’t thrilled about that, but they don’t have many options at this point.
“Before all the rain came through, I thought cotton acres were going to be down 10% to 15%. After the rain, I still think cotton acres will be down about 10% overall. Some people will go with cotton just because they have to plant something.
“We’re in a cotton and corn area. We can’t yield as well with soybeans, for example, as guys in the Delta do. On non-irrigated ground, we might average 50 to 60 bushels an acre, but it’s usually closer to 40 bushels. There’s no way we can achieve those 75- to 100-bushel averages that people hit in the Delta.
“I actually have a few more peanuts this year than in 2019. I only worked about 100 acres last year, but I think we’ll have around 600-acres this year. A month ago, one of my guys planned to have 600 acres of cotton and 150 acres of peanuts. Now, he is planning 600 acres of peanuts and 150 acres of cotton.
“He said that when he compared his options, peanuts penciled out better than cotton, at least right now. He must have picked up a good contract. I heard reports of peanut contracts at around $400 to $425 per ton, and he might’ve got one of those. Of course, if the price changes in the next three weeks, he might flip back to more cotton.”
Tyler Hydrick, Hydrick’s Crop Consulting, Inc., Jonesboro, Arkansas
My rice growers range anywhere from 1% planted to 75% planted, and they are about 50% to 75% finished with corn. Plenty of guys are still into field work where they couldn’t get into fields earlier.
“Rains this spring are really patchy compared to the wet weather in 2019. Last year, heavy rains wiped out the area at times, but storms this year tend to be more isolated, so we can find dry places to work. It still varies. Some guys are doing really well, but others received more rain and are really struggling to get things done.