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Too much heat and not enough moisture at critical times have hastened the development of the 2010 cotton crop in the upper Southeast. This is one of a series of reports by Farm Press editors about the outlook for cotton and other row crops as the harvest approaches or is completed.
In South Carolina, the heat and drought were less a factor than in the more upper areas of the cotton belt in the Southeast. The only negative factor on the cotton crop this year was record high night time temperatures.
Clemson Cotton Specialist Mike Jones says cotton generally got enough moisture throughout the state. However, consecutive days of 95 degrees F and up, plus high temperatures and night-time temperatures in the mid-80s has taken a toll on yields.
The cotton plant expends a huge amount of energy surviving the high daytime temperatures and typically much cooler night temperatures allow the plant to recover and use energy for fruiting, Jones says.
Speaking at a recent field day, Jones said, “We don’t really know how much impact on yield these long stretches of high night-time temperatures will have on yield and quality of our cotton crop. The cotton looks good and the yield potential appears to be there, but cotton growers may not know exactly what they’ve got until they pick their cotton.”
In South Carolina, the hot, dry weather that spurred cotton plant growth early in the year also spurred the growth of pigweed, especially glyphosate-resistant pigweed. Clemson weed specialist Mike Marshall says the problem continues to get worse for cotton growers.
One solution that has worked well has been to use a carpet-covered roller bar, coated with various herbicides with activity on pigweed. Once the cotton plants slowed down and were overtaken by pigweed or Palmer amaranth, several growers used the roller bar to take out fairly large pigweed, he says.
Though the South Carolina crop won’t be as early as cotton to the north, most contend it will be somewhat early and likely not be much above average in general and less than average in yield in some parts of the state.
In the upper Southeast, cotton acreage will be up significantly and overall cotton production will be greater than the past couple of years. However, summer heat and drought and the earliness of the crop will prevent overall production to be nearly as much higher as it could have been in a more normal weather year.