Cotton: Planting Season Fast Approaching, Have You Decided on Your Variety?

    As warm days of spring replace the dreary chill of winter, it signals another growing season is fast approaching. Preparing for a new crop always brings with it a sense of optimism, something sorely needed after losing last year’s crop to the ravages of Mother Nature. However, that is history and all we can do is learn from it as we move forward.

    To our good fortune, we begin on a high note with prices north of 80 cents. Rarely are we given such a pricing opportunity before seed is put in the ground. Nonetheless, high prices serve us no good unless we can produce pounds; therefore, close attention must be paid to production practices throughout the season.

    With that in mind, our Turn Row newsletter is designed to discuss the most economical of these practices and highlight field conditions that warrant attention.

    Southeast Conditions

    Planting decisions have not truly been finalized, even at this late stage. With commodity prices so competitive, everyone has been closely watching the markets for direction. It was once thought southeast cotton acreage would only be down five percent or less. However, the recent drop in prices to the low 80’s may shift some acres to grain.

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    Corn planting has begun, so we will soon see how far those planters go before stopping. After a few months of cold, wet weather, it felt like we were getting behind on fieldwork. However, a warm and dry March has allowed us to catch up quickly.

    Land preparation, fertilizer and lime applications are going out while burndown applications are still a few weeks away.

    Southwest Conditions

    The erratic weather in West Texas and Oklahoma continues to keep us on our toes as we patiently wait to see what conditions will be like for planting this year. As for now, it’s hit or miss dependent upon who got a piece of the storms that quickly rolled through this past weekend dropping anywhere from .3” to over 1” on a big part of West Texas.

    For some of us, it was just enough rain to finish getting fieldwork done before planting. For many others, though, it was just another reminder of how dry it is as the rain quickly soaked in and was gone by the next day.

    Hopefully next week’s rain chances will deliver for all as we now turn our attention toward buying seed.

    Cotton Variety Selection

    Back in the day when there was only a handful of varieties worth planting, the choices were rather easy. You selected the highest yielders and went on about your business. Today, however, there is a host of varieties from which to choose with many very similar in yield performance.

    For that reason, yield is no longer the primary criteria used when selecting varieties. instead, choose the breeding traits that best fit your needs. First, decide on the preferred herbicide trait, dicamba tolerant Extended Flex or the 2,4,D Enlist package.

    In addition to herbicide technology, there are now varieties offering nematode resistance to both root knot and reniform. Nematodes are sometimes considered the silent killer because they are not as visible as insect pests and their damage is often associated with other factors. I strongly urge you to consider one of these varieties if nematode infestations are suspected.

    Research has shown where nematodes are present, yield increases of nearly 50 percent can be obtained when using nematode resistant varieties. Since most nematicides are expensive and difficult to apply, this offers a safe and economical alternative for control.

    More on Cotton


    Cotton varieties range in maturity from early to full season. This is not quite as important as it once was since most varieties now exhibit indeterminate growth habits. However, when double cropping or in the event planting delays occur, choose an early maturing variety for best results. Otherwise, mid to full season varieties offer greatest yield potential.

    If only we could predict late season weather, then we would know exactly what maturity group to plant from. Since that is not the case, planting varieties across various maturity groups or staggering planting dates will help manage risk. Last year was a good example.

    Speaking of managing risk, we recommend planting most of your acreage to at least three or four different varieties with a proven track record. The remaining acres should be reserved for the planting of newer varieties thus allowing you to gain valuable experience at less risk.




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