Cotton planting progressed on a wider basis since our last report, but growers are still coping with rain and delays. Cold weather also has been a factor. In places, farmers put planting on hold ahead of cold weather that blanketed parts of the Midsouth over the weekend (5/9-10).
Better seed quality likely helped cotton scoot through colder conditions, several of our contacts have noted in the last two weeks. In particular, better germination could make the difference between establishing viable stands and replanting. Strong sunlight also helped to warm the soil, even if ambient temperatures remained chilly. That likely was a “saving grace,” as one of our contacts noted this week.
Thrips applications are going out in places. No overwhelming situations turned up in our calls, but the cooler weather delayed seedling growth, which intensifies the amount of damage that thrips can inflict.
Farmers who rely on foreign seasonal workers remain in a bind in cases where visa and travel restrictions prevented movement from places like South Africa. One of our contacts said that farmers in his area are able to hire a few oil-field workers who were laid off after oil prices plummeted and companies backed away from pumping and drilling.
Tyson Raper, Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee
“Several growers started planting in the last week in front of that cold snap. So far, we’ve planted 5% to 10% of our cotton, and a few people are trying to get a little more in the ground today (5/11). If the weather cooperates, we’ll see a good portion of our southern acres planted by the end of the week.
“In places, we actually received a light frost last week. This week looks better, but we still have several good chances of rain in the forecast – especially up north. The south area looks a bit better, but we’re looking at a slight chance of rain tonight. If we miss these small chances for rain over the remainder of the week, we’ll be able to get some cotton planted south of I-40.
“We’re still playing with seeding rates and trying to figure out exactly where we want to be. Pay close attention to the germination reported on seed lots and increase seeding rates if needed.
“After issues last year with seed quality, that’s a big concern. Generally, most of the seed lots that I’ve seen this year look to be pretty good. But we’ve also noticed a few seed lots with very minor issues and these tend to be fairly common in most years. Just make sure you don’t plant with the assumption that you’ll have 95% germination but then end up with germ closer to 80%.
“Normally when we plant seed from California and Arizona, it’s very high-quality. But in the past few years, that’s not always been the case. Environmental issues – heat stress, for example – affected quality. Growers last year found themselves planting more seed lots from other regions, which aren’t quite as good as what we expect from Arizona or California when things work out well.
“Overall, though, the quality is better this spring. But always check specific lots so you won’t run into any surprises.”
Richard Griffing, Griffing Consulting, LLC, Monterey, Louisiana
“Of the cotton acres I’ll scout, 85% are planted. However, some are still struggling to come up. So far, though, I think we’ll be okay on all of our cotton. Again, we only have a little left to plant, but we haven’t been able to do much to it. We’ve been working hard and fast all weekend and today (5/11).
“We’ve treated about half of the older cotton for thrips and need to treat the rest of it. I wouldn’t have advocated this, but one grower started planting cotton on March 27, and he had 1,800 acres planted before April 7. We sprayed some of it for thrips but part of it hasn’t been treated yet due to lack of manpower. Mainly, we had to shift attention to rice. This week, that cotton really needs to be sprayed for thrips and cleaned up.
“We probably have 10% of our soybeans left to plant. If we can get through Thursday or Friday without rain, we’ll wrap up planting beans. I’ve got beans at R2. The majority will be at R1 by next week – if not further along. One place will be at R3 by next week.
“We’ve received plenty of rain in the last couple of weeks. We were actually dry from the middle of March to the middle of April, but then the weather turned wet in the second half of April. Since then, we’ve only been able to be in the field on a sporadic basis.
“It rained 2.5 inches on Friday (5/8). The week before, the forecast said to expect six-tenths of an inch but the total hit 4.6 inches.”
Lee Rogers, Rogers Entomological Service, Steele, Missouri
“We’ve planted some cotton but aren’t near where we would like to be. I’d say 10% to 20% of our intended cotton acreage might be planted at this point.
“It’s been wet in the Bootheel, and the forecast doesn’t look great. Rain is coming in tonight (5/11), then tomorrow and also this weekend. We’re due to miss a rain, you’d think.
“Since April 25, we’ve gotten every rain that has been in the forecast, and the chances seem to increase the closer we get to the predicted date. If it calls for a 30% to 40% chance four or five days out, it’s been jumping to 70% to 80% by the time the system reaches us. You’ll see forecasts where rain chances actually decrease over several days, but that’s not happening here. Chances go up, not down.
“In addition to the rain, the temperatures have been cool. One night over the past weekend, it dropped into the 40s.
“Some soybeans have been planted. If rain pushes us past the cotton-planting window, soybeans will go on even more acres. However, it needs to dry up before anything can be planted, cotton or soybeans. We’ll get it in somehow, and I just hope we don’t lose a whole lot more acres to soybeans. We wanted soybeans to be planted by now or at least sometime this week. We were late finishing planting soybeans last year, too.”
Dan Fromme, Louisiana Extension Cotton And Corn Specialist
“We’re 60% finished with cotton planting and probably half of that has emerged. Growers planted a good deal of acreage last week before the rain set in on Thursday and Friday. Cool temperatures are a little surprising this time of year, but I think we’ll get through that fairly unscathed. It’s warming up pretty fast, so it shouldn’t hurt us too badly.
“Believe it or not, we’re actually ahead of schedule in terms of planting compared to the past few years. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee aren’t ahead, but we are. We’ve still had our fair share of challenges to reach this point.
“Rain is in the forecast for the next day or two (from 5/12), and next week’s forecast doesn’t look good at all. So, it still may be a while before we wrap up the rest of the cotton planting.”
Eddy Cates, Cates Agritech Inc., Marion, Arkansas
“We have planted 30% to 35% of our cotton and about 5% is emerging. This has been a spring with plenty of stopping and starting. When things dry out from the last rain, we’ll plant for a day or maybe a day and a half but then it rains, and we have to wait for fields to dry up yet again. It’s cold, too, so cotton is coming up slowly and having a tough time.
“We’ve already planted a lot of rice, corn and soybeans, but cold, wet weather delayed real progress with cotton. I still have farmers who haven’t planted any cotton – not a single seed in the ground.
“Compared to last year, I think it’s colder this year. However, we caught a break from the rain in some areas this year, so those growers were able to plant.
“This time last year, the Mississippi River was up, and we lost everything beside the river. But right now, farmers are working ground inside the levee and are starting to plant soybeans back there. As long as no huge rains develop up north, I think we’ll get that area done.”
Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist
“As of last Thursday (5/7), we had planted 26% of our cotton, which was up from 11% on May 1. That’s based on USDA estimates. It rained last Thursday night just enough to get everything good and wet, and people are just now returning to the field today (5/11). I visited with a handful of people around Pine Bluff and Marinna who were planting this afternoon, hoping to go as long as the rain holds off. I don’t think anyone could plant yesterday.
“I’ve been looking at heat accumulation five days after planting. If the total doesn’t break 10 heat units, conditions are very poor. Every day that we planted last week, the conditions were very poor. In fact, a lot of cotton was planted last Thursday, and zero heat units accumulated in the five days after that planting. In terms of cotton planting conditions, we’re just coming off one of the worst weekends in May that people can remember.
“All that said, things may not have been totally negative. After the cold front came through Thursday and Friday morning, it was cloudy until about noon or so, and then the sun came out and started warming the soil. That was our saving grace.
“I was surprised, in fact, at how quickly it warmed up, and it was bright and sunny the rest of the day. However, things turned really cold on Saturday morning (5/9). At my house, it was in the 40s. Farther north – like in Lawrence County – people reported frost.
“Still, though, soil temperatures turned out to be warm, relatively speaking. One person checked the soil temperatures at a two-inch depth yesterday (5/10), and it was in the mid-60s. When the soil temperature falls below 60, cotton doesn’t grow very well, and it also can take a while for those small plants to start going again. But as long as the soil temperature doesn’t get below 60, the cotton seed will be alright.
“Our seed quality also will help get us through the cold spell we had last week. Even though the air temperature remained cool, we might end up with decent stands and growth, thanks to that combination of good seed quality and those sunny days. This would have been a different story had the weather turned cold, rainy and cloudy.
“When I look at the DD-60s for the rest of the month, we’re cooking. We just need a stretch of dry days so planters can move into the field. Lately, though, we can’t seem to string many days together to plant before it rains again. It’s tough. Half of the farmers planting today will likely be rained out. The forecast calls for another inch of rain tonight and into tomorrow morning around Newport.
“This morning, a farmer at Marianna did say that the forecast has been changing for that area. A couple of tenths of an inch is all the rain predicted there now, which wouldn’t be so bad.”
Brian Pieralisi, Extension Cotton Specialist, Mississippi State University
“I don’t have any hard numbers, but I think the people who started planting cotton earlier are over halfway finished – with plans to wrap up planting by the end of this week.
“Some growers held off due to the cold weather, but they also were running out of moisture in places. In the past week, most people have received less than an inch of rain. However, I think most everyone is rolling now (5/12).
“With all the cold weather, cotton probably didn’t grow much. I haven’t received a lot of calls about anything, which tells me most people fared pretty well as far as how things look. Things were delayed just a couple of days. The soil is a good insulator, especially when the sun warms it all day, and that probably helped.”
Larry Walker, Walker Cotton Technical Services, Flintville, Tennessee
“We have cotton emerging, and it’s surprising that stands look as good as they do. But it’s still too early to tell if we’re going to keep a given stand or if we’ll lose it. In about 10 days if we lose it, we will plant something besides cotton. In the meantime, we’ll plant cotton at 51 cents and hope the price goes up.
“Growers are planting corn and soybeans now (5/11), but hopefully they aren’t planting too much cotton today because we need to wait a couple of more days on it. If it’s a situation where you have to plant cotton now, fine, go ahead. However, if you can wait two days, the DD-60 forecast shows a better potential outcome. Seedlings will likely be more robust, they will overcome thrips and they will struggle less overall. Be flexible and regularly check the forecast.
“The cutoff for us to plant cotton is the end of this month. Historically, a lot of our good cotton is planted in the middle of May each year, so we’re still on track for that. Several of my growers can plant 250 to 300 acres each day, so they can quickly cover plenty of ground once we begin moving.
“With this slow start, we’ve discussed putting out an extra application of Pix on the cotton that was planted in April and on any cotton planted soon. It will be a low dose, but we want to promote an early growth habit that produces fruit.
“People are just moving into soybean planting. All those beans have been planted on high ground and in fields where farmers are rotating away from corn and cotton this season. We are still planting corn and a few low fields haven’t dried out yet.”
“Quite a bit of cotton was planted in the last two weeks. The cotton that was planted first took 12 days to emerge to a complete stand. There are some thin, but adequate stands in a few places. The more recently planted cotton took 8 to 9 days to emerge. These recent cool temperatures slowed cotton growth noticeably.
“My growers are probably 60% planted, and 50% of that cotton is up to a good stand. Temperatures are warming up, so I expect more cotton to be up later this week.
“In our scouting on Monday (5/11), I turned up a few thrips, just sub-threshold counts so far. Fortunately, we’ve detected very little disease. A lot of ground was being worked up in front of bedding equipment on Monday.
“We are later than we’d like to be with planting soybeans, but the beans we’ve planted look good. The earliest-planted soybeans are at the V4 growth stage, and the rest range from sprouting to V2.
“Gramoxone drift has been a problem in a few areas. Last week in high winds, several people pushed the envelope with burndown ahead of rain that was in the forecast. It remains to be seen if the beans will come out of the damage.
“About half of our corn has been laid by. The rest should be to that point by week’s end. The youngest corn is at V4, while the oldest is approaching V9. We started installing moisture sensors this week in some of our oldest corn.”
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