Primed to plant. West Texas and Oklahoma are ready to get this party started with 90-plus degrees anticipated this week. But a cold spell in May could put young plants at risk. Murilo Maeda recommends slow motion planting in the Lubbock area.
Dry conditions are pressuring the Coastal Bend, where Justin Chopelas says, “We’re a 2-inch rain from being on track for 3-bale cotton.” The Upper Coast also needs rain to resurge cotton and other field crops. Stephen Biles suggests making applications count by using the “tag team” method.
Kansas growers are making a shift in their choice of herbicide technology. Tom Studnicka explains the switch as a reaction to past Dicamba drift problems.
Ben McKnight, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, College Station:
“Growers in the Blacklands are into planting, and there is cotton coming up in the Brazos Bottom. For about 2 weeks we’ve been dodging scattered rainfall to get Extension trials planted on the research station in College Station. The region has decent subsurface moisture.
“Weed control looks good from what I’ve seen. Folks have started clean and stayed clean. They are doing a good job of following the guidelines for auxin herbicide applications. Compared to other production areas, Texas growers are doing a better job of managing drift situations. There will be hiccups here and there, but growers respect the new technologies and have stayed informed through AgriLife and industry auxin training.
“There are no reports of any insect pressure in our area, although there are isolated pockets of thrips further south. With the restraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, AgriLife has conducted cotton scout schools through Zoom digital technology. With the state’s actions to begin reopening, we hope to get back to business as usual if that’s possible.
“From an ag standpoint, most retailers and ag-services have remained open and able to benefit farmers. Unfortunately, cotton prices remain depressed. Hopefully we can return to a normal price level that offers growers better profit potential.
“On a personal note, I’m honored to be the new Extension cotton specialist in College Station. I earned my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M and have always admired the university’s administration, faculty and staff. I look forward to working with them in addition to growers and industry representatives across the state.”
Alan Seitz, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wilcox, Arizona:
“It has warmed up, and we have cotton jumping out of the ground. But there’s still much to be planted. Most guys will finish up cotton then move into corn planting. All cotton is under center pivot and most guys plant into small grain cover crops so weed pressure is low right now.
“There’s a lot of mustard weed drying up in areas around fields, so thrips are moving out and into cotton. We’ll keep an eye on them and also monitor high lygus infestations in alfalfa. As we start cutting hay, they’ll seek another host.
“It’s nearly planting time. The soil temperature early this morning (4/27) was 70 degree at 2 inches. I’m probably going to start planting the first Monday in May. It’s been a long time since we’ve planted that early.
“Cotton acres will be about the same here. Guys don’t have many planting options, either cotton or peanuts. Fields are really clean. Probably 75% of the fields have a cover crop, mainly to prevent blowing in our high winds. That’s in both dryland and irrigated.
“Variety selection is varying a little more this year. We’re seeing more Enlist cotton, depending on what neighbors are planting. But Dicamba is still the leading technology.
“It’s hard to tell if peanut acres will remain the same. Feral hogs continue to be a major problem. Their damage can look like you’ve plowed seedbeds and young plants with a 2-inch cultivator.”
“With temperatures in the 80s and heading into the 90s later this week, we’re planting our first cotton trial tomorrow (4/29). Even though it’s early, soil temperatures are high, and the extended forecast is for warmer weather. Since there’s no call for any rain, some producers want to plant in areas that still have good soil moisture before fields dry out.
“From what I’ve seen, fields look clean. People have been busy strip-tilling and applying burndowns, and other preplant herbicides. It looks good agronomically, but the low price is a concern for everyone.
“Wheat freeze damage from mid-April is also a worry. But even though there is injury, region-wide it shouldn’t be more than about 10%.”
“We are fully planted and waiting on rain. Cotton is anywhere from 2 true leaves to 14 nodes. I’ll have cotton blooming next week. A cold spell in the 50s last week slowed it down a little but not much.
“Weed control looks good. We got our Liberty shots out and that herbicide is performing well. Roundup has also done a good job where we’ve used it. Insect pressure has been nothing out of the ordinary. Fleahopper pressure has been low because we’ve been so dry. Aphids were a problem early on, but beneficials have kept them in check. I’ve only sprayed that 14-node cotton once for insects.
Late April cotton in the Texas Coastal Bend. Photo: Justin Chopelas
“We’re at a point where cotton goes from being an iceberg, with about everything underground, to where people can see changes in growth. Everyone is waiting on rain to give them hope after dealing with reduced prices and everything else going on with this virus. We need moisture. We’re a 2-inch rain away from being on track for 3-bale cotton.
“Corn has tasseled and is silking, and it still has a good moisture profile. We recently had northern corn leaf blight. There was also common rust for 2 weeks, but that doesn’t scare me. Southern rust in the Valley may eventually push up here. Sorghum is in the boot stage on the early planted crop. Like cotton, the corn and sorghum need rain now.”
Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas:
“Many guys feel that if next week resembles this one with temperatures in the 90s, there may be planting in southern Kansas. The burndowns and fertilizer have all been applied. Guys are ready for warmer weather.
“We had been a little dry, but storms last weekend provided about an inch of rain for most areas. That will help conditions when planters hit the fields.
“Acreage-wise, we’ll probably see numbers similar to last year, maybe a few less. But one notable shift will be in herbicide technologies. There will be about a 50-50 split between Dicamba and Enlist varieties, where we were mostly Dicamba in past years. Drift has been a problem and Enlist seems to handle drift issues better.
“No matter what the herbicide technology, guys will likely apply a residual herbicide at planting. That will keep fields cleaned up following the burndowns.
“For other crops, corn has been a little slow due to cooler weather. Early irrigated soybeans are just getting going. The wheat crop has turned around with more rain and should be average to above average in yield.”
Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Area Agronomist, Vernon:
“Temperatures look okay for planting in the first week of May, but farmers know the Rolling Plains traditionally have a cold front in mid-May. So, it’s a good idea not to plant a large number of acres that early. Farmers did a good job with their burndowns because fields are pretty clean.
“We’re checking wheat samples for freeze damage the area received earlier this month. Wheat was at flowering and extremely susceptible to freezing temperatures. It was 28 degrees for two hours in a few areas and 28 to 32 for three to five hours in most areas. The samples range from good filled kernels to empty kernels.
“We are dry after good rain about 2 weeks ago. We need more rain to finish up the wheat. Farmers are also concerned about rust infestations in wheat.”
“It’s very dry. We have cotton with cotyledon that will be drooped on the ground this afternoon (4/27) due to a lack of moisture. Drought stress is really hurting. We have cotton ranging from early squaring to just now coming out of the ground. If we don’t get rain soon, it will start suffering badly.
“There are fleahoppers, but they’re not a problem until plants start squaring. With our dry conditions, guys will have to make decisions on whether to spray at squaring. With stressed fields and low prices, they may question whether it’s worth it. If growers could tag-team an insecticide with herbicide application, they could hold costs down.
“Corn and sorghum are also struggling. We have corn that’s 4-feet tall with tassels and silks. It really needs a rain to fill those kernels. Sorghum fields are also heading at short heights. We could see a small shower in mid-week, but we’re not expecting 1 to 2 inches. And, that’s what we need.”
“My guys don’t have any cotton in the ground, and with this warm weather, they’re eager to start planting. Soil temperatures are finally getting close and approaching 60 degrees at the 6-inch depth.
“I just talked to one guy this morning (4/27), and I’m trying to hold him off until next Monday.
“Most burndowns are holding out. I’ve picked up scattered weeds on dryland acres and will have to watch those fields.
“Corn is going in the ground. High winds have caused problems with small nozzle patterns in sprinkler irrigation. We may have to make another pass to make sure fields are wet enough.
“Alfalfa is chopped, and wheat hay is on the ground. We’re at full force in cutting wheat and triticale ensilages.”
David Drake, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Northeast Texas:
“Nothing has been planted because it has been too wet. We’re finally drying out and can hopefully get into the field soon. Our cotton acreage probably will be down. The price has been too depressed. However, if guys can’t get their soybeans or sorghum planted, they may be forced to plant more cotton than they wanted.
“Insects will be an issue. Because of the abundant rain, we have many thrips in grassy ditches. When the grass dries out they will head for cotton. We also expect plant bugs to be a problem.
“There are a few pockets of armyworms in wheat. The wheat crop is fair to average, with low rust pressure.”
“We’re looking at temperatures in the 90s and low 100s this week. That sounds ideal for planting cotton, but it worries me because history tells us the South Plains is often hit with a cold front in early May. I worry that cotton will come up and then be hit with cold temperatures.
“I would recommend that if guys want to start planting, they should plant about 10% of their acres, not all they can get in the ground. If they catch a cold front, it won’t mess up their entire cotton acreage.
“The 10- to 14-day forecast looks warm, and soil temperatures are currently in the mid-60s. But those numbers can easily change.”
Cotton – Southwest: Insects Coming on Strong; Variety Concerns 4-22
Midsouth Cotton: Small Planting Opportunities Amid The Rain – AgFax 4-22
AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
Owen Taylor, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
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