Cotton – Midsouth – Planting Progressed But More Acres Still In The Sack – AgFax

Fertilizer application in cotton. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

Owen Taylor, Editor

Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton, sponsored by the Midsouth Cotton Team of Amvac Chemical Corporation.


Growers planted significant amounts of cotton over the last week. Growers mostly worked around sporadic showers, dropping into fields that were dry enough to run equipment.

How much cotton remains unplanted varies widely, from growers who have finished to others who have only covered a fraction of their acres. It all gets back to how much it rained, when it rained and how well soils drain. Also, how did farmers have to work down ruts from 2019’s rainy harvest?

How much longer growers will continue planting is an open question. Some will likely push into early June, but others will pull the plug before then and take the prevented planting option. Many may be reluctant to put in too much late cotton, based on their experiences in 2019. In parts of the Midsouth, fall rains caught late-planted cotton and delayed harvest into mid-November. That weather and those delays hurt quality and probably penalized yields. Plus, the pickers significantly rutted fields, creating extra headaches and costs ahead of the 2020 crop.

Thrips pressure remains mostly light. Treatments were necessary in places, but this hasn’t seemed to be a heavy thrips season, at least so far. See Sebe Brown’s comments.



Brian Pieralisi, Extension Cotton Specialist, Mississippi State University

“On May 17, USDA estimated that we had planted 52% of our intended cotton crop. I don’t have this week’s updated estimate yet, but in the last week (from 5/26), we have made progress towards closing that gap. At least some cotton remains unplanted, and everyone is watching the weather and trying to work around the rain.

“Plenty of cotton has emerged, and it’s off to a good start. I would rate it as good to excellent.

“I’ve received very few calls. I haven’t heard of very many having stand issues, but there have been a few calls about thrips and things like that. Nothing out of the ordinary has come to my attention, and most of the cotton that I’ve seen appears to be pretty clean.

“Hopefully, most farmers will get a rain out of this current weather system because it’s gotten pretty dry across parts of our production area.”   

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

“We have planted all our cotton. I expect very little replanting, but it’s a May crop and it’s growing slowly. We didn’t get everything planted as early as we would have liked, but what can you do?

“Some fertilizer has gone out, but I’d say the majority of the cotton has yet to e fertilized.

“We haven’t had any issues with insects so far. We will probably add some sort of insecticide for thrips when we apply a herbicide, but other than that, it’s been quiet around here.”

Tyson Raper, Cotton nd Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee

“In some pockets, we were able to plant quite a few acres through the weekend. After all the planting hat as done on Tuesday (5/26), I’d say we have over 50% of the cotton planted. Everyone is trying to figure out which farms are drying up enough, then move there as fast as possible.

“It’s raining again. Amounts and coverage have been sporadic. South of I-40, it’s rained less, and things have gone pretty well. But north of I-40, more rain fell and everyone has been struggling to plant.

“One individual, who has worked with cotton since the early 1960s, said this is one of the worst years he has seen for trying to plant and grow a crop. For us, there hasn’t been another year that would compare to the roadblocks we’ve hit so far in 2020.

“Most of the calls still concern switching to an earlier maturing variety, but I’ve also discussed identifying the point at which we quit planting cotton. However, at the moment, we’re still planting in every suitable spot we can find.

“We are starting to see a few thrips issues in the earliest planted cotton. Farmers planted those fields in cold conditions, so that cotton grew slowly. It’s a classic scenario for when you expect thrips to become a problem, and people are starting to treat.”

Phillip McKibben, McKibben Ag Services, Mathiston, Mississippi

“All of our intended cotton has been planted. At the time of the last cold snap, we might have had a quarter of the cotton planted. It looks a little rough, but that cotton is finally at two true leaves and is starting to grow a little. It doesn’t have a really good root system. We’ve actually had to over-treat for thrips in some of that older cotton.

“The rest of the cotton has basically all come up within the last two weeks, and it looks really nice. The terminal and the first true leaf are slick, which is a good sign that immature thrips aren’t feeding inside it.

“I bet we have over 90% of our soybeans planted. Of that, 80% have emerged and look really good. We’ve had to replant less this year than in the last several springs. We haven’t had many of those hard rains between planting and emergence that force you into replanting. Soybeans are so forgiving. They’ll come up through anything except a packed, crusted silt loam soil, which is the better cotton soil.

“Interestingly, we had a field with heavy clay on one end and perfect cotton ground on the other. The grower broke it up and planted soybeans on all of it, and then a heavy rain came. The beans planted in the heavy clay pushed right up through the muddy clay to a perfect stand. But the beans planted in that picture-perfect cotton ground struggled to emerge.

“Most of our corn has reached the V5 or V6 stage, and most of it still doesn’t have that dark green color we’re looking for at this stage. We do have some earlier planted corn at V7 or V8 that looks better.

“With our sweet potatoes, we’re probably 20% planted, which is about where we would like to be at this point. We haven’t had any issues with the sweet potatoes so far.”


Tucker Miller, Ind. Consultant, Drew, Mississippi

“I just looked at a farm in the north Delta that has some of the last cotton planted in the northern part of our territory. It’s all up except for a couple of little spots growers planted in the last day or two.

“Our earliest planted cotton is in the third and fourth true leaf stage, but the majority is in the two-leaf stage. So far, we have some really pretty cotton. Some of our cotton acres are just emerging, so we have quite an array.

“We haven’t had any thrips issues to speak of yet. We will probably see more soon because some of that later cotton only had the base seed treatment. We looked at it today, and thrips were running almost at threshold. The farmer will spray as soon as he can get to it.

“Other than that, most of the cotton had a standard imidacloprid seed treatment plus we over-treated a lot of it with acephate. We’ve been doing that the last couple of years to give everything a little boost against thrips, which has worked well.

“On the older cotton, we’ve started putting out a residual herbicide, mainly with Roundup. We haven’t applied any dicamba yet because it hasn’t been needed. In our preemerge program, we used a good deal of Cotoran and Brake and had good activation. We’ve taken several approaches. In places, we applied Brake and added a little Cotoran, but we’ve also used each of them by themselves.

“Our soybeans are looking good, too. They range from just emerging to V6. Except for weed control, we haven’t had to do anything in the beans.

“A lot of guys got in a hurry and planted soybeans flat without making a good burndown spray. Then the rain caught them before they could come back and spray again, so in a few spots we’ve come in with dicamba and Roundup to control weeds that emerged in the meantime. Where we have Boundary out as our preemerge, everything is clean.

“Insect pressure in corn has been unusually low this year. Normally, we deal with stink bugs in places but haven’t had to spray them like we usually expect. A few people started watering corn, but hopefully, we’ll get rain in the next couple of days.

“With all the cool weather, it took peanuts two weeks to emerge, but they are up now to what I would just about call a stand.”

Bill Brooks, Mid-South Farmers Cooperative, Alamo, Tennessee

“It’s been raining and, in fact, it’s raining again right now (late morning, 5/27). In the last two weeks, we’ve only had a few days of good running. Since mid-March, the longest stretch in the field was four or five days.

“Growers have planted 50% to maybe 60% of our intended cotton crop. Anyone who had still been planting corn quit about a week ago, so we have some unplanted corn acres that will likely go into soybeans.


“A little cotton went in before that cold snap a few weeks ago, and it struggled. Growers replanted quite a bit of it. But all the cotton planted over the last two weeks emerged well, and I think it will be fine. Luckily, any rains lately have been spotty. Also, we’ve mostly missed those heavy storms that hammer cotton and crust over the soils to the point that cotton can’t emerge. Temperatures have been warm enough lately that cotton came up fine.

“The wet conditions, though, are the overriding factor. Fields are wet enough in places that farmers have yet to work them at all this spring. In 23 years here, I can’t compare this to another year, and older farmers tell me they haven’t seen anything like this, either. I think a few growers will plant cotton through June 5. Some have probably finished, and several are meeting with insurance folks about their prevented planting options.

“Farmers started planting a few soybeans in April, but any progress was a hit or miss, just like with everything else. When it was dry enough, they planted, but that wasn’t very often. Once everything turns pretty, a lot of soybeans will be planted, including on ground that we thought would be in other crops.”

Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist

“I can’t imagine that we even have 80% of the intended cotton acres planted now, but with all the rain in the forecast, we might be done planting cotton.

“The cutoff date is around ‘May 35’ for us to plant cotton in this area. If the expected rain pushes farmers past that, I don’t know if we’ll be able to get back in the fields to finish planting.

“Growers have made progress since last week. In our own program, we were able to plant a bunch of our variety test fields last week. One county agent planted a variety test field yesterday (5/25), and I think that wrapped up all of our county evaluations. Others were spot planting, it wasn’t really dry enough for them to be in the fields, but they made it work after looking ahead at the rain in the forecast. If they didn’t do it yesterday, it would’ve been the middle of next week – or who knows when they could have gotten back in the field?

“In terms of replanting, always remember that it’s better to have cotton plants filling in that empty space than to let weeds take it over. I’d much prefer seeing a late cotton plant – that doesn’t match the rest of the field – than to find pigweeds filling in the gaps.

“I don’t know what the weather will do, but I’m sure that any number of farmers will have some very late cotton. A portion of our 2019 cotton was late, too. The really late cotton finished out in a wet fall, and farmers were picking into mid-November. Yields were less than desirable.

“I talked to a consultant today (5/26) who has a field with some blowing sand issues. The wind has whipped cotton around pretty badly, and that thinned out the stands some. But this rain is at least keeping the ground wet, so maybe it will come out of it.

“Several consultants are finding a ton of snails on cotton due to these wet conditions. The snails are causing the leaves to yellow and look a little bit like thrips had damaged them. But the terminal is nice and clean. When you turn the older leaves over, the snails are everywhere. One consultant this morning said that he has seen plenty of snails on cotton in the past, but he has never known them to wipe out an entire crop the way slugs can. Snails will just make cotton look unattractive.

“No one is talking about signs of thrips yet, which is a plus at this point.

“Some farmers are doing replants and filling in a few low areas, but overall I haven’t talked to anyone who needed to do a huge amount of replanting.”

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

“I’d say we have 85% of the cotton planted. We missed the rains over the weekend, so we have been planting since Friday (5/22). Midday on Friday, we received two-tenths to three-tenths of an inch of rain, but farmers were back in the fields late Friday afternoon.

“But I think our rain chances are about to catch up with us. The forecast calls for a 70% chance of rain this afternoon into tonight (5/26).

“We made a good deal of headway in the past week for sure. These planters are amazing –, especially with cotton. Farmers can plant a good deal of acres in very little time. Unfortunately, peanuts are agonizingly slow to plant compared to cotton. You can’t use a bulk planter with peanuts like you can with cotton, and you can only plant 3.5 mph, roughly a third of the speed of cotton planters. We are largely done planting peanuts or will finish by the end of today. We are going to single-drill peanuts this year instead of planting them in twin rows.

“The majority of the corn has been planted for quite a while, but we do have a small 40-acre field that has just been leveled, and that field may end up in soybeans.”


Sebe Brown, Louisiana Extension Field Crops Entomologist

“I’m hearing scattered reports about thrips. To what extent people are finding thrips depends on the age of the cotton, the location and other factors. This is a light thrips year in Louisiana. That’s the consensus. You’ll find hot spots here and there, but even the early cotton from April didn’t encounter much thrips pressure.

“We’re very lucky. With all the wet weather and cooler-than-normal conditions at times, cotton grew very slowly. Normally, that sets up the crop for large amounts of thrips pressure and injury. If this had been a year with normal thrips populations, we would have had a huge problem. But thrips were light and seed treatments seem to be holding, based on our treatment studies. And when the weather turned hot and the DD60s quickly accumulated, the newly-planted cotton jumped out of the ground. So, thrips shouldn’t be an issue in that part of the crop.


“Thrips pressure was lower, I suspect because more alternative hosts were available. While we did have some stretches of cold weather, we really didn’t have a winter as such. This was the second year in a row like that. If anything, this winter was warmer than we had in 2019. That brought the alternate hosts out early, and they held thrips when cotton would have been vulnerable. Also, farmers didn’t plant much wheat last fall, and thrips will build in wheat and then hit any adjoining cotton.

“People are calling me about thrips injury, but what I’m mostly seeing are symptoms of sandblasting and chilling injury. If thrips are out there, they are only adding insult to injury. I saw some of that in April cotton and now in some of our May cotton. Plants look horrible, but you can’t find thrips on it. Don’t spray. It’s a ‘feel-good’ application with zero benefits.” 

David Hydrick, Hydrick’s Crop Consulting, Inc., Jonesboro, Arkansas

“We’re still in a very wet pattern. Fields dry up, but then it rains again. We’re only able to plant one or two days a week, but we’re about to get done. We’ll plant cotton through June 1 – up until ‘May 35’.

“I can’t estimate how many cotton acres my growers have planted in the last 3 days (from 5/26) because they’ve all been running so hard. We will end up with a good deal of late cotton, I’m afraid. But we’re still thankful to have it because so many fields were otherwise sitting empty.

“Unfortunately, some growers have received more rain than others, and they’re running way behind. One client who planned on growing 1,500 acres of cotton has only been able to plant 110 acres so far. That’s it. Another guy has 40 fields that are supposed to be in cotton this year, but he has only about five have only planted about 5 of them so far.

“We’re treating a few thrips in cotton. Roundup and Liberty have gone out for pigweed. We can’t use dicamba after May 25 in Arkansas, so we are at a disadvantage compared to other states.

“Probably 60% of our soybeans have been planted. The crop is at three stages – we are planting beans, we have beans emerging, and we have beans up to the point that we’re applying .herbiciees. We tried to apply dicamba on all the beans we could before Monday, which was the last day that was allowed, but it’s been hard to make that happen everywhere it was needed.

“None of our beans are blooming yet. I did see a patch blooming, but they weren’t mine, and those are the earliest beans I’ve seen.

“I have Roundup Ready cornfields that are unbelievably grown up. It’s simply been too wet to spray. Then when it does dry up, the wind blows like crazy, so it’s hard to line up applications.

“Everybody is farming so many acres now and are trying to cover so much ground. Thank goodness for fast planters – we used to plant corn at 4.5 mph, but now we do it at 10 mph.”

Keith Collins, Extension Agent, Richland, Ouachita and Franklin Parishes, Rayville, Louisiana

“We have had problems establishing cotton stands in places with heavy rains and soil crusting. We’re still dodging rain, and planting and fieldwork have been hit or miss over the last five days. The driest period was a week or so ago, and growers planted a lot of acreage. But some areas need rain now to bring up that cotton.

“This has been a wet year overall and more challenging than the last two years when we also had too much rain and tough planting conditions. Compared to 2018 and 2019, this year’s planting season has maybe been a little wetter. The storms also have come through more often, so we never had long breaks to catch up.

“Some soybean planting started in early April in my parishes, and we’re still trying to finish. Maybe 80% to 85% has been planted. The forecast says we’ll move into a little dry spell. If so, we will finish beans then.”

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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