COTTON FARMERS were happy to see rain after last year's harvest, even if it did keep them from getting their fields ready for 2001. Now they're trying to catch up.

Don Plunkett, cotton specialist for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, says farmers are anxious to get into their fields and do some work. “They want to bed their fields and fertilize.”

As soon as fields dry out, farmers can apply the recommended amounts of phosphorus and potash.

“University of Arkansas research and the Cotton Research Verification Program have shown that farmers don't need to apply nitrogen until after they've planted,” said Plunkett.

Plunkett said he expects no-till acreage in Arkansas to increase about 5 percent this year.

“Reduced tillage means fewer trips across the field, and that can add up to big savings.”

Some cotton producers are still selecting their varieties for 2001. The results of the University of Arkansas Cotton Variety Performance Tests are available at county extension offices and on the Extension website at www.aragriculture.org.

“With the Boll Weevil Eradication Program and the switch to reduced tillage, there'll be a lot more Roundup Ready and stacked gene cotton grown this year,” predicted Plunkett.

There'll also be fewer spray treatments for boll weevils because of December's bitterly cold weather, according to Plunkett. “The freeze killed a lot of overwintering weevils,” he said.