The Mid-South cotton crop is finally starting to look like a cotton crop, thanks to the arrival of some Delta-like weather. The early-season assessment is that the crop is highly variable, but still has excellent yield potential.
Arkansas Extension cotton specialist Bill Robertson says variability describes the Arkansas crop perfectly. “You name it, we got it. But most of the cotton I'm looking at has made tremendous progress over the last couple of weeks. It's starting to look like cotton.
“A lot of our stands are a little on the thin side, so in those situations, we're not going to have as much competition between plants and our mepiquat chloride needs will generally be less than with a thicker population.
“We will still need to put mepiquat chloride out, but just won't get too heavy-handed on it early. We don't want to slow it down too much.”
Cotton producers may have to push some cotton with water, or “I'm afraid on some of this cotton, we're destined to an early cutout. If we get some timely rains and some help from Mother Nature, maybe it won't be a bad problem.”
Prior to a cold snap which put planters in the shop, planting progress in the region was several weeks ahead of schedule, according to Mike Milam, Dunklin County Extension agent.
“We were planting April 11 and 12. Some of that cotton has done well and is squaring now that we've had some good weather. It just took a while for the good weather to get here.”
Cool, wet weather resulted in an extensive amount of replanting in the state, according to Milam. “But I've been amazed at how much the crop has grown up lately. It's starting to look good now. We should see a tremendous improvement in the crop.”
“We made it through a tough spell that set us back a little bit, but cotton really jumped when the temperatures came up,” said Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Tom Barber. “It's starting to shank up and look like cotton — some is starting to square. We had a long bout with seedling disease and replant decisions.”
Barber says May and April “seem to have flip-flopped,” with 90-degree days in early April and much cooler days in May. “Planting progress was 20 percent to 25 percent ahead of the five-year average for the longest time.”
The potential for plant bug resistance to acephate (Orthene) “is something we're going to have to focus on this year and next year. It scares me to death,” Barber said. “Some of these products that we've depended may not work as well after bloom. We're not going to see it over every acre. But we're going to have to focus on it this year and next. We're just not knocking them out.
“For one, plant bugs are hard to get to and when we get to them and don't kill them, that's not good.”
Resistant horseweed is also a growing problem for Mississippi cotton producers. “It's blown up this year. There's not much of anything that will do any good in-season. Some products like Envoke might suppress it a little. We have some hoe crews out in some fields.
“If we're not going to put anything down to take them out during the fall, our burndown cannot go out later than the end of February. “Anything we put out after March 1 sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. Early burndowns are key.”
“It's starting to look like a cotton crop ought to in a lot of places,” said Louisiana cotton specialist Sandy Stewart. “But there is also a lot of variability. We have some cotton with a couple of blooms here and there, and we've also got some two-leaf cotton. We've got some 12-node cotton and some 5-node cotton on the same row.”
Despite the slow start, “there is a lot of yield potential in this crop,” Stewart said. “If the last couple of years have taught us anything it's that we can make a lot of cotton in July and August.”
Stewart advised growers to manage for earliness in some of the state's later cotton. “It may mean a few more mepiquat chloride applications and doing some things with irrigation timing. But a portion of this crop is going to be late and we're going to have to manage that.”
“We have 20 percent to 25 percent that is close to squaring,” said Scott Stewart, Tennessee Extension cotton IPM specialist. “The vast majority of the crop was planted in the last two weeks of May and a lot of it is at second true leaf. It's come up in good weather, but it's two to three weeks later than we'd like.”
The area's early-planted cotton struggled, and about 10 percent to 15 percent was replanted, according to Stewart. “Anything planted early April to the first week of May just sat there under ideal weather and conditions for thrips and seedling disease. Virtually everything got a foliar application for thrips on top of a seed treatment or Temik, and it needed it. It doesn't take many thrips to damage seedling cotton that's just sitting there.
“The early cotton has gotten big enough now where we're not worrying about the thrips. The late-planted cotton is growing well. So now (early June) everybody is trying to get over the top with Roundup. We have a little bit of cotton that will be squaring this week and next.