Yellow blooms are starting to pop open in early-planted cotton in the central to upper Mid-South, several weeks before the traditional flowering period in early July.

Gary Bailey, who farms in a partnership in Tunica, Miss., found two yellow blooms on June 9. The variety was DP 912 B2RF, planted on 40-inch rows. He was scouting cotton in the area “when something told me to look at that cotton. We had just sprayed it for plant bugs.”

The crop was planted on April 1, on well-drained ground. “We usually set our planters before we start planting,” Bailey said. “We were in a field north of our shop in Dubbs, Miss. At the time, it was real warm, and we were hoping to start by April 10. We planted about 15 acres or 20 acres to set the planter. Now I wish we would have kept planting.

“We did have a lot of rain around here during April and the first part of May. Temperatures were fine, and the cotton grew off like it was planted in May. The plant bugs hit it first because it was the only cotton squaring at the time. But we kept those at bay.”

The crop also dodged a few hailstorms which blew through the north Delta. Bailey said the remainder of the operation’s cotton was planted from May 1 to May 25.

If the rest of season progresses favorably, Bailey believes the April 1 cotton might be ready to defoliate in late August. “That would be the earliest we’ve ever started defoliating.”

Bailey says the farm is doing a few things differently with the overall crop this season, including laying down a lot of pre-emergence herbicides “because of all the resistant pigweed problems we’re seeing in this area. We have a lot more cost in this crop than we’ve had in others.”

Despite the rainfall, residuals in May-planted cotton continue to hold even as they approach their fifth or sixth week. “We do have another over-the-top residual down, Dual, which has been activated. So we’ve been able to keep some overlap and avoid a breakthrough.”

Another example of blooms in early-planted cotton is on the farm of Jamie and Shirley Dunnahoe, Tillar, Ark., operators of Dunnahoe Farms. They planted a field to ST 4288 B2F, on April 10, and another to DP 0924 B2RF, on April 6, and blooms were observed in both, also on June 9.

“In general, the Mississippi crop is off to a really good start,” said Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist for the state. “There are always exceptions, but depending on what happens over the next few months, we have the potential for a good crop.”

Dodds says a few areas in the state have been hurting for rain for a couple of weeks, “but for the most part, rains came when we needed them. We got the crop in and did it in a relatively timely manner. A lot of farmers are saying they are off to their best start in several years. If we catch a few more timely rainfalls and get a favorable fall, we can pick a good crop.”

According to USDA’s June 14 Crop Progress report, 30 percent of Mississippi cotton was squaring by the week ending June 13, compared to 11 percent at the same time last year and a five-year average of 26 percent.

Forty-four percent of the Arkansas cotton crop was squaring, compared to 4 percent last year and a five-year average of 29 percent.

Twenty-four percent of the Missouri cotton crop was squaring by mid-June compared to 0 percent this time last year.

Tennessee is slightly ahead of last year’s squaring pace, 8 percent to 2 percent, but is behind the five-year average of 14 percent.

Louisiana is also behind last year’s crop, 47 percent to 52 percent, but is ahead of the five-year average of 36 percent.

email: erobinson@farmpress.com