Just a few more weeks of sunshine is all that cotton producers in the north Delta need to successfully harvest their early-maturing crops. So far, late-season rains have had little adverse impact on cotton, although cotton specialists are reporting more boll rot than they've seen in a while.
Recent rains had a completely different impact on the west Tennessee cotton crop, according to University of Tennessee area specialist Craig Massey. Timely moisture — along with boll weevil eradication — helped to fill out a top crop, leading to higher average yields.
“In our drier areas, we're going to be about 10 percent better than last year, and where we've gotten the good rains, we're going to be about 30 percent better,” he said.
Massey has seen some boll rot in fields, “but it's not nearly as bad as it is down in Mississippi. It's a little worse in Shelby County where they got more rain, and that last rain (early September) triggered it.”
At the time of this writing, defoliation was beginning in west Tennessee, about six to seven days earlier than normal, according to Massey. “It's coming off fast, but we're close to 80 to 100 heat units ahead of last year. A lot of farmers can't believe how it's opening up. But you get out there and walk in the field and it's 50 to 70 percent open in spots.”
Harvest has actually begun in some areas, noted Massey, where weather has been extremely dry or where farmers are wanting to get ahead of potential fall rains. “We've kind of pushed it on some of the bigger farmers who take a long time to get across the field.
“Insects have not been that bad,” noted Massey.
“We have a top crop than we've never had before and the bolls are bigger this year than they've ever been. The low swags in the fields are full of bolls, top to bottom. They're going to contribute to a lot of yield this time, where they haven't before.”
By the second week in September, the Missouri Bootheel cotton crop was very close to defoliation, and a few fields in the southern part of the region were ready to pick.
Extension cotton specialist Bobby Phipps said the Bootheel crop suffered from dry weather during the summer, followed by late-season rains.
“We had a lot of late-season growth this time. A lot of cotton is still blooming. The cotton is taller than normal. In fact, I'm recommending that farmers consider a two-step defoliation program. There's a lot more lush vegetation than what we're used to. It looks like a Louisiana crop.”
As a result of the early dry weather and late rains, Phipps is expecting a short-fiber, high-micronaire crop.
“It was very dry the first three weeks of July, which would make it short-fibered. With all this rain, there's going to be plenty of photosynthate to put in those bolls. That's getting to be all-too regular.”
Boll rot is usually non-existent in the Bootheel, but Phipps has seen more this year than he's seen before.
Apparently boll weevil eradication has made some significant progress in the region, according to Phipps. “Instead of a broadcast application this month, they're going to spray according to trap counts.”