Cotton planters were finally starting to roll in the Mid-South after delays due to lingering cold weather, cold soils and a lengthy corn replanting season.
By the end of April, cotton planting was just getting under way in west Tennessee, according to Extension cotton and wheat specialist Chris Main.
One reason for the relatively late start is that many producers were still dedicating time to their corn crops. After an Easter freeze which resulted in significant stand losses, cool temperatures persisted for seven to 10 days, delaying replanting, and subsequently pushing back cotton planting.
The freeze also had a chilling effect on cotton producers' time-honored inclination to start planting cotton too early, “so they have waited until there were warm temperatures.”
But they'll be catching up quickly this week (first week in May), according to Main. “Don't be caught standing in a cotton field this week. You'll be run over.”
West Tennessee producers can plant their intended acres in 21 days at full speed ahead, according to Main. “But we are getting dry. We have the moisture now, but could stand to have a nice general rain.”
Main estimates that west Tennessee cotton acres will be up slightly from USDA's March 30 planting intentions survey. “There are several producers who decided not to replant all of their corn acres they had in the ground, and are going with cotton. I don't expect to see us back to last year's almost 700,000 acres, but I think we have the potential to grow 40,000 acres to 50,000 acres over intended plantings. I think we'll hover right around 600,000 acres.”
According to USDA's weekly planting report, the state had planted 5 percent of its intended acres by April 29, compared to 10 percent last year and a five-year average of 8 percent.
Louisiana cotton producers have just about wrapped up planting one of the smallest crops in recent memory, according to Extension cotton specialist Sandy Stewart.
“We've had a decent planting season. We do not have to deal with a lot of acres, and we've had some good weather. Everything that's been planted in the last two weeks since the spell of cold weather is coming up to a good stand.
“The largest cotton I've seen has two true leaves, but most is still in the cotyledon stage.”
Producers will be soon be applying their first application of Roundup on Roundup Ready and Flex cotton, and putting out sidedress fertilizer. “We're around 90 degrees here today and when weather gets like this, cotton is going to grow off quickly. So farmers have to be timely with Roundup applications.”
Louisiana is expected to be down 40 percent to 50 percent from last year's cotton plantings of 635,000 acres.
Cotton planting in Arkansas had just gotten started by the last week in April, according to Tom Barber, the state's new Extension cotton specialist, who previously held the same position in Mississippi. “We've planted a little bit of cotton. We've had a lot of needed rain and a lot of fields are in pretty good shape with soil moisture.
“As soon as it gets good and warm, this cotton is going to take off and grow. So don't get in too big a hurry. We have plenty of time. Make smart decisions.”
A popular question asked Barber has come from cotton producers needing advice on switching corn acres damaged from the Easter freeze to cotton. “In a lot of cases, we have a high rate of nitrogen out there. We don't want to plant a cotton variety that has a tendency for fast growth, especially in south Arkansas. If you put something like DP 555 BG/RR on good ground with high nitrogen, you won't ever slow it down.”
The state had planted 16 percent of its intended acres by April 29, compared to 37 percent in 2006 and a five-year average of 24 percent.
Cotton planting was well under way in the state until rains slowed progress in mid-April, according to Angus Catchot, an Extension entomologist. By the fourth week of April, “we were wide open where it wasn't too wet. We're planting a lot of cotton this week (first week in May).”
USDA had pegged Mississippi cotton acres at 740,000 acres for 2007, a number Catchot believes may rise slightly. “A few farmers who had freeze-damaged corn or wheat are working through issues with that and could go to cotton. But in the end, we will move our numbers only a little bit.”
Cotton planting progress is off the five-year average, according to Catchot. “The big reason is the Easter cold snap, but we've also had a rain or two in the middle.”
The state had planted 15 percent of its intended acres by April 29, compared to 54 percent last year and a five-year average of 38 percent.
Cotton planters were rolling the last weekend in April in the Missouri Bootheel, noted Mike Milam, Extension agent for Dunklin County. “Last year we had 161,000 acres of cotton. This year, we think we'll have between 145,000 acres and 150,000 acres.
Missouri had planted 26 percent of its intended acres by April 29, compared to 40 percent last year and a five-year average of 28 percent.