Over the last several months, it seems Louisiana has been under a perpetual rain cloud.
“We keep getting rained on, poured on,” says Sandy Stewart, Louisiana Extension cotton specialist. “It just won't let up, and we continue to be under saturated, semi-flooded conditions.
“From here on out, I believe the story will be the condition of our cotton crop's root system.”
Right now, Stewart is field-side looking at cotton with water standing in it. “This water has been here for four or five days now. It's the same story all over the state.”
In better-drained areas, the tap roots and root systems in general still look okay, says Stewart. However, move into bottoms and areas that have held water over the last few weeks and root systems are “suspect at best. We have root systems that are too shallow.”
This is problematic because the crop is moving into bloom, a time when cotton's demand for water will be high. Ironically, says Stewart, if the rain suddenly shuts off, as it often does, “we're going to have to depend on timely rainfall or intense irrigation to make the crop.” The crop's root system just isn't extensive enough to search out water if it turns dry.
At the beginning of June, the state had a brief respite from intense May rains, and producers were able to get into fields and clean up weeds. But that ended two weeks later. Since then, “we've seen rainfall after rainfall, and it's beginning to take a toll on the crop's health.”
Even with his concerns, Stewart says the crop “isn't lost by any means. I don't want to sound too negative — we still have the chance for a nice crop. Our square retention is extremely high, and I remain optimistic. However, we can't handle much more rain and, unfortunately, the forecast is calling for a 40 percent chance of rain through early July.”
So far, the bulk of Mississippi's cotton looks “good to very good,” says Charles Ed Snipes, Mississippi Extension northwest district cotton specialist. “Our growing conditions have been decent, and the crop is beginning to grow off well. We do have some hot spots with plant bugs beginning to break out. That concerns me, although not in a major way.”
Usually, June is hot and dry. This June has been cool and wet, though, with regular rains since Memorial Day.
“We have had a pattern of rain showers hitting the Delta lately,” says Snipes. “I'm sitting through one now — I need to be doing some field work. These showers have caused us some trouble in getting final weed control accomplished.
“Ultimately, I'm not sure what toll the weather we're experiencing will take. These cloudy days are taking away heat units, and we're seeing some square shed. But, overall, there isn't anything causing me great worry.”
Arkansas has another concern, says Bill Robertson: many drift complaints. “Newpath, Roundup, you name it,” says the state's cotton specialist. “A lot of it seems to be self-inflicted. Around Poinsett County we've got fields that had Newpath get onto them. That cotton, about 500 acres, was really banged up.”
In Arkansas, rainfall has been either too much or too little.
“We've got some thin spots showing up where fields have gotten too much water,” says Robertson. But there are other areas — like in south Arkansas — where there hasn't been enough rainfall. There are areas around Crittenden County and the northeastern part of the state that keep missing the rains.”
The week of June 21, Robertson looked at some early April-planted cotton. “It's taken off and looks really good now. For the longest time, it just struggled. But now it looks great.”
Much of Arkansas' older cotton was treated for thrips. In the central part of the state and a few places north of I-40, some treatments for aphids are going on. There have been some treatments for flea-hoppers, too, says Robertson.
With the exception of some weedy fields, Tennessee has some “outstanding cotton — even our late-planted crop looks good,” says Chism Craig, Tennessee Extension cotton specialist. “Our cotton planted earlier (late April through early May) is between 20 and 30 inches tall. We have a lot of uniform, pretty cotton. Producers are just now getting cranked up with Pix applications.”
As in other Delta states, Tennessee is experiencing work-delaying rains.
“We'll get a day in the field to work, then get a half-inch rain. That knocks us out of the field for a couple of days and the weeds get a jump on us.
“Many producers were planning two hooded sprayer applications. Now, though, they're trying to get by with just one spraying since the cotton is getting big. I've been getting calls from folks saying their cotton is dragging the tool-bar on the hood.”
All in all, says Craig, “I'm very happy with what we're looking at. I'd like to get a week of warm weather to do some field work and then let these showers start up again. Hopefully, that's what will happen, and we'll be able to give a great report at the (Milan No-Till) field day on July 22.”