For the first time in several years, Mid-South cotton producers are planting cotton in a timely manner, although some progress has been slowed as of late by dry weather. In some areas, soybean profitability is starting to push out some cotton acreage, according to state specialists. Here’s more:
Louisiana Extension cotton specialist John Kruse says the state was 60 percent to 65 percent planted by early May. “We started out with some really good soil moisture. We had warm temperatures in early- and mid-April, and a lot of producers got planted in a hurry.”
In late April and early May, the combination of dry weather and steady winds was drying up fields, slowing planting progress somewhat, according to Kruse. “Growers are picking fields to plant a little more carefully.”
Much of the cotton up to a stand is at the cotyledon stage and some is at first true leaf and beyond, Kruse noted. “We have had some cool nights the last couple of weeks, and we’ve gotten some reports of thrips pressure already. This is the first year that nobody has had any (aldicarb) left in the barn. So we’re scouting well and jumping on it with a (foliar) product.”
Kruse says some producers are shifting land originally intended for cotton over to soybeans, “because of the jump in nitrogen prices. Growers were looking at $800 a ton for urea. And soybean prices are still high and stable.”
Darrin Dodds, Mississippi Extension cotton specialist, said cotton planting “is rolling. I wouldn’t be surprised if planting wasn’t close to 70 percent complete by the end of the first week in May.”
Dodds said planting was starting to slow because of dry weather. “I’m hearing of some cotton seed going back because of that and of course soybean prices being $15 a bushel.”
That growers are returning cotton seed back this early in May is surprising, Dodds said. “We still have a couple of weeks left in the prime planting window, and there is a chance of rain coming up. We’re still in a great window for planting.”
Windy weather is causing some potential management issues with resistant weeds, according to Dodds. “It’s just hard to get everything done in a timely manner with the wind, and in some cases, we’re just not getting it done.”
Dodds pegs Mississippi cotton acreage between 400,000 acres and 450,000 acres.
Chris Main, Extension cotton specialist for Tennessee, said cotton planting in the state “really kicked off the middle part of last week (first week in May). It’s phenomenal how quickly we’re getting it done. Some producers are planting 500 acres a day. We have slowed down because we’re running out of moisture, particularly where we have worked up the ground. We’re waiting on some rain before we come back in there. A lot of the 100 percent no-till producers are still planting.”
Main said the state could end up planting as much as 350,000 acres to cotton this spring, “but there is a good possibility that we might scare up only 300,000 acres.”
Main says about 20 percent to 25 percent of the west Tennessee crop had been planted by early May. “But that percentage could be 50 percent to 70 percent by the end of next week. (May 12).
According to Mike Milam, agronomy specialist for Pemiscot and Dunklin counties, the Bootheel is 33 percent planted, “which is considerably better than normal. We’ve been very dry, and that is slowing planting and getting pre-emerge materials down.
“We’re so far ahead of last year, and not just on cotton. The rice and corn crops have just about been completed. The wheat crop is going to be ready so much earlier due to the hot, dry conditions we’ve had.”
Milan said cotton acres in the region continue to fall due to better economics for corn and soybeans. “I’ve seen a lot of cotton ground in corn this year.”
Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist for Arkansas, said cotton planting has been moving along, but “we’re running out of moisture in a lot of places. It’s just powder dry in some areas.”
Some Arkansas counties have completely wrapped planting up, according to Barber. “That’s an oddity. But when the temperature is right, it’s right. We planted some cotton in March this spring. It’s just the way the year was.”
Barber noted that cotton acreage was lost in March as good weather encouraged producers to keep planting corn and early soybeans. “I don’t think we’ll hit 600,000 acres of cotton this year. We will probably be closer to 550,000 acres. We’ve lost a lot to corn and soybeans.”
Barber noted that producers are already fighting pigweed, and the lack of moisture to activate herbicides isn’t helping. “It could be a tough year to fight the pigweed if we don’t get some moisture from the sky.”