The 2013 cotton planting season has been one to forget, and it’s not even over yet.
On the surface, cotton planting progress is getting close to normal. According to USDA’s Crop Progress report for the week ending May 26, U.S. cotton producers had planted 59 percent of their cotton acreage, down from 79 percent last year at this time and a 5-year average of 69 percent.
Louisiana cotton planting was 84 percent complete, Arkansas, 79 percent complete and Missouri, 93 percent. Mississippi and Tennessee were behind however, at 36 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
But the numbers don’t tell the complete story. Frequent rainfall during the planting season the put farmers in a perpetual time crunch that could cause problems down the road. “It’s like taking two steps forward and one step back,” said Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds.
“We really didn’t even get a good start planting until about 10 days ago, (May 18) but then it rained again the next week,” Dodds said. “Tunica got pummeled with rain, which held people out of the field until late Friday afternoon or Saturday afternoon of the Memorial Day weekend. They have made up a lot of ground since then. But they are calling for more rain.”
Dodds said cotton producers have replanted more cotton than normal due to crusted ground from excessive rain. “I’m also hearing where a lot of farmers are starting to make some applications for thrips on young cotton. This has been one of the most challenging seasons that I’ve seen in my career. You would work a couple of days, then it would rain. It was very problematic.”
Due to delays, Dodds says that 75 percent of the Mississippi cotton crop will be planted during the last week of May or later.
Normally, this would indicate a lower yield potential for the cotton crop, according to Dodds. “Generally speaking, after May 15, we start to see a little bit of yield loss day to day. If we get a long and favorable fall, there’s nothing to say we can’t make good cotton.
“What we don’t need is a fall like we had last year. August and September turned off abnormally cool at a time when we were three or four weeks ahead of schedule. That put us back into a normal timeframe by slowing down the maturity of the crop. Bolls just weren’t maturing or hardening up.”
Dodds says with ample sunshine, the state’s cotton crop should be 50 percent to 60 percent planted by the end of May.
Arkansas cotton producers are feeling the same frustration, although they have made more progress, according to University of Arkansas Extension weed scientist Tom Barber.
“We are close to being through planting,” said Barber. “We’re not going to plant much cotton into June, just because of the price of soybeans. A lot of farmers who have to replant are replanting to beans. I think that most of the cotton that is going to be planted is planted, or will be in by the end of the week.”
Barber says some cotton acres were lost just south of central Arkansas due to heavy rainfall. “A lot of that is probably going to be replanted to soybeans too. In the northeast part of the state, where we are most heavily concentrated in cotton, we were able to get in and plant a good bit.”
The frantic pace of planting also had another impact on management, according to Barber. “We’ve been on top of the horseweed issue for several years, but this year it took us by storm because we had multiple flushes due to cool weather extending well into May. We’ve gotten a lot of calls for horseweed control.”
Barber says producers were not able to get preemergence herbicides out in a timely manner “because we had such a small planting window. Everybody was worried about planting, and not as worried as much about spraying. We’ve got some corn that has pigweed as tall as the corn.
Barber says producers are still finishing up rice and cotton, and he’s getting a number of calls on herbicide injury. “A lot of it goes back to everybody being in a hurry and everybody feeling the time crunch. It’s been a tough year.”
According to USDA, U.S. corn planting moved forward during the week of May 19 through May 26, going from 71 percent planted to 86 percent planted, 4 percent off the 5-year average, but down from 99 percent from last year. U.S. rice acres were 90 percent planted by late May, compared to a 5-year average of 93 percent. Only 44 percent of the U.S. soybean crop had been planted by May 26, compared to 87 percent last year and a 5-year average of 61 percent.