Although extreme heat has probably hurt Mid-South cotton yield potential this season, it’s also had a somewhat positive impact on earliness.

According to Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds, providing a Mid-South update at the Ag Market Network’s August teleconference, cotton harvest could be well under way by early September, if the weather cooperates.

Dodds said Mid-South cotton producers started this season “cleaning up our mess from last year. We had record rainfall last fall, and we had tremendous problems harvesting the crop. Along with those problems, we had a lot of ruts in the field and compaction issues.

“Fortunately, we had a good spring, and most of the mess was cleaned up and tillage performed in a timely manner. Many producers in the Delta said this was the best planting season they had seen in a number of years, even though parts of Louisiana were real dry early on.”

Dodds says cotton planting in the Mid-South started as early as April 1 this season. “We had very few replants, but I did see more injury from preplant herbicides this year. I suspect this is a function of increased usage of these herbicides for resistant pigweed.”

June, which is usually a month of feast or famine in terms of rainfall, chose the latter in 2010, noted Dodds. “June turned out real hot and real dry in a lot of places. If you look at heat unit accumulation, it was almost like we had 39 days in June instead of 30, just from all the extra heat units.”

The trend continued into July and early August with record heat hitting the region. “As a result, we had a lot of shed in the top of plants and a lot of the smaller, younger fruit was shed. I’m concerned that the fruit we’re going to keep are going to be malformed to some degree. When you have a heat index of 120 degrees, you run into pollination viability issues.”

Insects

Dodds says spider mites and plant bugs started early this year, with spraying for those pests beginning around mid-June. “The kicker has been this bollworm flight which started about a month ago. Some of these mixtures containing pyrethroids for plant bugs are helping that, but there have been some sprays strictly for worms.”

Dodds says the heat has compressed the maturity of the Mid-South crop by two to four weeks. “Typically, you look at 60 to 65 days from planting to first bloom. We had cotton blooming in 50 days this year. Even that bloom window was compressed this year.”

Early harvest

What it means is that some farmers are getting ready to defoliate in late August, and picking could get into high gear by early September.

Dodds says across the Mid-South, irrigated cotton “looks really good. Our dryland crop is variable. If the crop received some rainfall, it looks good. If it didn’t, it’s burning up. Cotton is really short in some places.”

Texas

The heat affecting the Mid-South states also impacted Texas and is helping finish crops in central Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast, according to Texas A&M Extension economist John Robinson.

Carl Anderson, Texas A&M, Extension economist, says USDA condition ratings for the Texas crop indicate that 50 percent of the crop is in good condition, while 20 percent is in excellent condition and only 7 percent in poor condition. “We are setting the base for a very strong crop in Texas. USDA has forecast the Texas crop at 8.8 million bales, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did a little better than that.”

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com