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  Blog Archives  09/17/21 9:34:28 AM

Field Variability - aka Green Spots vs Severe cutout in same field


The land, crop rotation, and soil type variability never shows up better than it does at this time of year in cotton fields.  The green spots on a crop like this one indicates the later and typically higher yielding part of the field when the light soil has cut out and even though it also has decent boll load, it is not as much.  Light spots do not have as much top crop and are more mature and more cutout including high levels of natural defoliation.  All fields are not like this as there are some uniform fields, but many are variable.
Based on what I have been looking at for the last 10 days, green spots are typically better soils, higher CEC.  They hold nutrients better and probably needed pix sooner.  Might get stunted from cool weather early and stay a little bit more stunted and might have a thinner stand.  There is also higher levels of nitrogen in these areas because they leach less, have higher organic matter that releases nitrogen, and have higher residual levels from previous crops.  High nitrogen is also correlated to delays in maturity.
The higher cutout areas this year are the light land that grew off better and maintained a more advanced stage of maturity.  They typically leach more and go into drought quicker.
This observation has been most dramatic in the more advanced fields.  It will continue to be more obvious in the later fields next week.
The natural progression is that we will likely see the light land regrow and turn back green because the bolls reach full maturity and no longer pull on the plant, and the green spots are loaded with bolls and as these bolls mature, these green spots will cut out.  It happens every year, but when it is dry it happens earlier.  And when you have extended drought like last year, the regrowth can start in early August from late July or early august rain events and give us hope for a second chance at a late crop on these impacted areas that start regrowing.
This year would be a great time to document these areas because they can define management units better than field borders do.  I see a good fit for a drone picture in these variable fields to use for the future in making management decisions.  You can see some of it from google satellite depending on when the picture was taken.  In the future as we can variable rate apply more of our nutrient inputs, herbicide, insecticide, and growth regulators these management units will allow us to improve our efficiency of input use as well as profits.

For now, there are still some strategies we can use prior to the future technology gains.  Check back about next Tuesday (Monday will probably be about defoliation) and I'll share a few ideas, but I learn a lot from you guys.

How is the rest of September going to play out?


We are all sharing the pleasure that comes from beautiful weather as crops continue to advance in maturity, perhaps at a faster than normal rate.  It’s going fast enough that the question comes to mind regarding what happens if we get too mature before either digging or defoliating.  Its hard enough to decide on when to start.  Sure, we can use our methods of evaluating maturity to say, “This field needs a little more time, or that field has some green spots that need more time”, but we can only do a certain amount of work each day.  Once a day passes, it is history and becomes hindsight.  Hey, what is it everybody says about hindsight?  Anyway…

I think the scenario we are heading for is the weather is going to cooperate with a plan of waiting for more optimal maturity.  Based on the total heat units, we are only facing digging and defoliating the April and early May fields.  There are ready spots everywhere, but it is the green spots that still need waiting on even in some of the most advance fields.  The green spots in cotton are very apparent, but the same situation exists in a peanut field as well. 
For Cotton:
The advanced and light fields have the hard cutout places with more than 50% natural defoliation.  These places are largely ready, HOWEVER when they are 100% ready, these cutout places will start to regrow with new juvenile leaves.  The fact that they are not doing that yet tells me that there are some immature bolls still pulling the limited resources of these cutout plants to advance a little bit but overall, not a big deal. 
The Green spots are the places where we could get 3+ bales/ac. and are the real payoff for waiting as they are about 6 to 9 nodes above cracked boll (NACB) and with a goal of getting to 4 NACB, they need some more time. 
HERE IS THE BOTTOM LINE FOR TIMING in Mid-September:  These green spots with 8 NACB are slow to open even with high boll opener rates and if we are going to wait for them to open, then it is better to let them mature more in this hot weather.  A mature boll opens quicker.  Spray now and wait 3 weeks to pick, or spray when mature and wait 2 weeks and bolls have better yield.  Either way, you pick about the same time.  If you have enough green spots to wait on them to open before picking, then wait for them to mature more now.  I would say let the green spots get to at least 5 or 6 NACB before defoliating.  If they represent more than 50% of the acres, I would rather see them get closer to 4 NACB.
How about Micronaire increasing by delaying defoliation?  It is true that defoliating on time keeps micronaire from getting too high.  However, the places with the premature defoliation already have high micronaire.  If you wait on the green places to get more mature, so that they account for more of the fields yield, then these places will help lower the overall average micronaire.   If the field is uniform and at 4 NACB, then spray because the micronaire is still going up on these, particularly if the cotton has healthy leaves on it.
For Peanuts:
The health of a peanut vine in those more mature areas correlate with the risk of waiting in a peanut field.  If the pegs hold on to those mature peanuts good, then waiting for the “green areas to advance”.  

Harvest Season for Agriculture

Hot summer like weather returns to us for a few days and then at the end of the week, along with a higher chance of rain, temperatures will pull back, but remain in the 80’s.   Temperature is expected to remain above average for the forecastable future.  Rain is more of a coin toss as even with low amounts in the forecast, we always have those national tropical events this time of year and we remain hopeful that our pattern of dodging them continues.  Agricultural activities have turned essentially 100% towards harvest and preparations for harvest.  Corn slowed some last week as farmers waited for the grain to dry more to reduce moisture deductions at delivery points.  Peanut farmers are reporting advanced fields and will start digging any time.  Cotton’s day is coming and as it relates to defoliation, there will be a few fields that are ready this week although with rain in forecast, it will probably not be much defoliated on those days.  The characteristics of the most advanced cotton include early planting dates, light soil types, early strong boll load and minimal top crop.  These most ready fields have a strong color cutout as well.

Assessing the Progress 

The week of Labor Day provides the benchmark for the cotton growing season where we begin to assess the crop for maturity by counting only bolls as any further blooming will not contribute to any additional yield.  Since this week is also the second week of September, I would primarily consider the bolls that are the size of a quarter or larger as the fruit that we will be harvesting.  For our region in 36” rows, the simple math would be to consider that 20 bolls in a foot of row will produce 2 bale cotton.  Most final stands with good emergence ended up at 2.5 plants per foot meaning that each plant would need to average approximately 8 bolls per plant to produce that benchmark average yield.  For heat unit accumulation this year, we are right in line with the long term average.  The middle of September is supposed to be like August, and based on the forecast, we are supposed to have above normal fall temperature.  Hopefully, these tropical systems continue to avoid us as we got our share last year.

Cotton Lull before defoliation 

As we move into September, the corn harvest will demand all hands-on-deck except for the few hours required for spraying later peanuts that need more time to mature.  Cotton is no longer a stepchild as local farming operations give it top priority when things need to be done.  However, we are fortunate that this time of year ushers in another lull for the cotton fields and cotton is happy to wait several weeks for its turn.  This also represents the end of the line for any blooms that are expected to become a mature enough boll to go into the basket (or roll).  In fact, that might be generous for 2021 as even the late May and early June cotton has enough bolls already make a respectable crop.  In general, we need 45 to 55 days after bloom to get enough maturity from these late blooms to be able to open it with defoliation which will push it past mid-October.  I am expecting plenty of cotton to be ready to defoliate in September and we will have to see how the fall temperatures treat us to see what this latest cotton needs.  No doubt, cottons turn for top priority is not too far away.

Premature Cutout vs Natural Boll Load/Maturity Cutout. 

Early cotton began showing cutout in a lot of fields last week when it was hot and not raining.  This week, it is looking a little greener, but you can still pick out the more mature fields.  That can happen as regrowth begins on a mature crop.  In addition, I am seeing yellowness on the lightest sandy spots in fields that is also a normal occurrence for us when we get good rain.  This year I am stopping to count bolls in those spots and getting numbers around 300 per 10 feet which is quite a bit more than 2 bales per acre in the week spots.  I’ve never seen the weak land carry such a big load and it makes me think this heavy boll load is pulling heavy on the plants to explain some of what we are seeing.  We are well past trying to apply any more fertility as even the latest cotton is beginning it’s fourth week of bloom.  In fact, we want it to cut out to reduce hard lock risk and adding late fertilizer could have a negative yield correlation.  I think it would be beneficial to document these fields for fine tuning future fertilizer strategies to anticipate which fields are more sensitive to early cutout.  We need to address all fertility needs by the second week of bloom at the latest and that usually occurs before the field begins to show strong symptoms.  3 to 4 inch rain events are an indication of leaching when it comes at one time.

It requires some thought because you can’t just add extra fertility across the whole crop because on better land or behind peanuts, we might already have too much causing rank and hard to control growth prior to the third week of bloom. One successful strategy on this light land has been to split apply top-dress and add some potash into the top-dress trip on these riskier fields.  The advantage of the split is that it has more to do with the timing and does not over fertilize the good spots.  It seems like these problem, sandy fields will just not hold potash and nitrogen if you put it all out early even if you use precision fertilizer application at planting.  No matter how much you put whenever it rains, these light soils capacity to hold the extra nutrients is too low.  Later split applications or potentially foliar applications with 10 units on nitrogen or potash from urea &/or potassium nitrate prior to the second week of bloom have a higher success rate.

Components for Finishing Out Insect Strategies. 

Soil moisture remains good, to more than enough for the region.  Rainfall for the next seven days remains in the forecast although it will become more spotty from afternoon thunderstorms particularly later in the week.  Our success for spraying fields will also be spotty as some areas received 3 to over 4 inches of rain this past weekend while others where shy of an inch.  Most of our cotton has been sprayed at least once since it has been blooming and many fields have been sprayed twice.  The main beneficial activity for this week will probably be dependent on three components for putting together a plan for finishing out cotton insect management:

  • The first component is determining how advanced or mature individual cotton fields are which will indicate how susceptible it is to insect damage.  Inspect number of fruiting branches and or the size of the top bolls if cotton has bloomed out.  Cotton with 10 fruiting branches that have already bloomed are finishing 5 weeks of bloom.  Cotton blooming in the 6th week is considered safe.  If you have blooms on the 12th fruiting branch, you can walk away from it.  Early planted cotton is entering this stage now.  Late cotton will have a couple weeks or so before it will be safe.
  • The second component of this late insect management window is when the last insecticide was made as well as what materials were used.  It would be nice to have a last effective spray date like we do for peanut fungicides.  Acephate plus Bifenthrin are expected to last for a couple of weeks and Besiege/Prevathon can last up to 3 weeks if high rates are used.  The best thing I can say is that fields I have checked have remained reasonably clean and below threshold for two weeks.  After that, the crop maturity and insect reinfestation mentioned here need to be assessed.
  • The final component is based on whether reinfestation of bugs (or worms for two-gene cotton) has occurred.  Stink bugs could become more present than they have been up till now as they make their way out of corn.

Interesting Observations 

This weekend is already the middle of August.  There are some interesting observations this year.  The first one is that with all the extra corn acreage we have, there is still an overall low moth flight.  My theory is that the worms never developed in the corn ears because the corn has some of the same Bt traits that the cotton does keeping them out.  The reports from the research station is that the pyrethroid resistant test shows a little better control than last year although worm resistance will continue to be a factor.  Stinkbugs have also been low so far, maybe because corn has stayed greener.  So far, the primary pest has been plant bugs.  Perhaps there is still a large insect invasion coming later and the late cotton will be at the most risk as the early cotton is becoming safe.  Another observation is that the fruit shed has not been as heavy.  I believe it is still coming as cotton matures, but the plants are holding more bolls because of the favorable weekly rainfall pattern.  The crop seems more advanced than we might have predicted with several weeks of milder temperatures, but we have not had negative heat units where it is so hot the plant just shuts down.  There is also a noticeable cutout in the older cotton.  Leaching only explains part of it where folks have had 3- and 4-inch rains on light soil, but I also think the heavy boll load and advanced status of the early cotton means that some of this is a natural cutout.  We definitely don’t want to see green cotton when bolls are cracking, so even though it is a bit premature for a severe cutout, it is not all bad either.  We do not recommend applying more fertilizer after the third week of bloom.  Use these observations to match up soil type, crop rotation, and rates and timing of nitrogen as you fine tune strategies. 
Crop Development
Our April cotton will be in the 6th week of bloom next week which is the week it will be considered insect safe and will start shrinking in size as the stems become woody.  Early May cotton is just a few days behind it.  The latest cotton was either planted in dry soil and emerged in June of was planted in early June.  This cotton is mostly beginning its third week of bloom and will not be safe until September first, but it will hold the same yield potential as April cotton, only it will not be ready to defoliate until mid-October.  This late cotton probably needs a pix/insect trip now and perhaps one more insect trip during late August.

Late Pix use.   
Late applications can sometimes be like closing the barn door after the horse got out.  Rather than give a thesis on Pix use now, I will just summarize by saying pre-bloom and early bloom applications carry the load.  By the time cotton has bloomed for three weeks, we are usually beyond the period where pix will change the final height or impact earliness, although it is cheap, and most folks add it to the insect trips.  This later trip can be most helpful on fields with erratic emergence because those young late plants in the canopy can still stretch out more   By the time cotton is blooming high, additional pix is recreational. 
If cotton seems unstoppable, it is a good time to evaluate your strategy.  Waiting on that first trip, soil type, nitrogen rates and timing, peanut rotation vs continuous cotton, and late planting are factors for big cotton as well.  Varieties matter also, but not more than these other factors. In a variety plot, variety variation is typically about 6 inches.  Another factor is the location of the first boll.  About 30 to 36 inches of plant over the bottom boll is not too much, so if you have the first boll at 20 inches, you could have 50-inch cotton that is ok. 

Getting Hopes Up 

2021 very similar to some good years and very different from some bad years so far.  The consensus for a lot of agricultural folks is not to get your hopes up.  That probably comes through generations of experience.   We can all remember summers of nice thunderstorms or rainy days bringing smiles to our faces or walking in the cotton fields during August getting bruises on your legs from heavy boll loads.  I love seeing those limbs in the plant with enough bolls on each limb to make a half a bale.  Finding ears of corn filled all the way out to the end or peanut plants that are heavy on the tap root and the limbs create a sense of what could be.  However, it is not our crop yet and we are still in the game.  I tend to get my hopes up even knowing the fall season ultimately can hold the trump cards with the risk of tropical weather, but it can also be kind as well. When I look at some of the best years we have on record, this season is tracking the same kind of heat and rainfall and has some very similar patterns that we had in both 2014 and 2019.  August is supposed to give us another rainy spell next week which will be welcomed after a beautiful had dry week this week. 

Improving weather, Continued Insect management.  Mostly defense because we have the lead, but the other team (pests) has the ball.  

As we move into a drier period, a lot of cotton will be sprayed with insecticides primarily to control plant bugs and stinkbugs.  The damage of both insects is spots on the bolls with internal damage from feeding on the seed.  Plant bugs will also hit squares, but stinkbugs do not.  Square loss is most important on the late cotton as it will not have time to compensate for loss at this point. Through the third week of July, insect levels have been low but have increased significantly in the last 10 days.  Moths are on the rise, but worms are only a factor for DP 1646 which is essentially the only variety that has 2 Bt genes.  All our other varieties are three gene and are bullet proof against worms and do not require Besiege/Prevathon.  That means for an August spray as well as when cotton is between the 3rd and 5th week of bloom, acephate is the best option for 3 gene varieties.  Bifenthrin will not consistently kill plant bugs or brown stink bugs like acephate does.  Some folks will chose to do an acephate/Bifinthrin combo which is fine although acephate is carrying the load on 3 Bt gene varieties.  
DP 1646 Still has a worm risk.
In addition to acephate, it is also important to put a worm material at this time on DP 1646 such as bifenthrin, Besiege or Prevathon.  To decide on using a premium worm material on 1646, I think for more mature 1646 that is blooming high or with a low moth flight, Bifenthrin will provide sufficient protection mixed with acephate.  For young or late 1646 I would consider investment in Besiege/Prevathon mixed with acephate.  Just to remember that everything needs acephate.
Are Pix Sprays needed on these August insect sprays?
In summary, we are now in a pattern of just doing this whether we need it or not.

  • Early Cotton: For cotton blooming high with less than 5 nodes above white bloom (NAWB) even in the bottoms or rank areas, there is likely not going to be any response.  Pix on this type of cotton is insurance pix.
  • For cotton at 5 to 7 NAWB, an application between 8 and 16 ounces makes sense if you are already making the trip.  Otherwise, you could watch it if you have recently applied pix.
  • For cotton blooming low, or with 8+ NAWB, particularly for late cotton, 16 oz is a good rate unless it has already exceeded 44 inches or has never had pix.  24 ounces or more could be used on rank cotton or ‘never pixed’ cotton.   

Leaching rains and foliar fertilizer considerations.
Many folks are considering the value of more nitrogen currently.  Typically, if nitrogen leaches or is considered too low for what the season has brought us, cotton has a high response at the second week of bloom or earlier.  By the third week of bloom, getting a nitrogen response is 50:50.  However if you are at the 4th week of bloom, then the likelihood of a response to foliar fertilizer is quite low.
How long does a spray last?

Some cotton was just sprayed right in front of this recent wet spell.  Typically we can expect 2 weeks if there are some rains after application or 3 weeks if things are relativelfy dry.  Scouting might find that reinfestation could occur either sooner or later.  The main damage you will see is spots on 10% of the medim size developing bolls with internal damage to trigger a second spray.  
When is cotton safe?
Cotton is usually safe by 6th week of bloom.  The April and early May planted cotton will be safe by the end of next week and if it has already been sprayed has a lower risk of reinfestation.  Late May or late emerging cotton has younger bolls and has the greatest response to two August sprays.

Wet week.  

The insects and the rain are showing up at the same time. 
And likely more of both are on the way.  Another extended period of rainfall is expected to begin Tuesday afternoon and last through sometime on Thursday.  Drier and hot conditions are projected to follow by early next week.  This is a highly beneficial event for our crops that does bring some challenges with it.  The moth traps that we use to monitor when insects are leaving corn are beginning to show higher numbers.  I think the corn is staying green from the weather and not showing that dry brown look we normally see with maturing corn, but it is maturing none the less, so cotton is needing protection.  Coming up with the best solutions currently have variables including field conditions, cotton maturity, what products were used in the last couple of weeks, what is the level of insects in the field, and when will the next rain occur that might dilute or wash of recently sprayed products.  Ultimately, there is not one recipe to fit all the situations that exist, although we have a very good crop at hand that will require more inputs.

General Crop developement shows April planted cotton at 5th week of bloom.  Early may is in fourth.  Cotton planted during or just after cold spell as at third week of bloom.  Late cotton is at  second week of bloom and also needs protecting.  For young cotton we are at the point of the season where you want to protect squares on a plant that does not have many bolls just like we protect bolls. 

Insect Update:
Moth flight increased over the weekend.  Insect pressure likely to continue to build although threshold levels are just beginning so we are on the front side of protection on all but the oldest cotton.

Rainfall prospects are high this week.  Next week looks to be below 25%

Rain Trend Increasing

It is no doubt that getting rainfall when crops are setting fruit is a good thing and part of the combination of success.  This next week could get a little frustrating as we are on the front side of the insect peak that requires more intensity and use of stronger insecticides (primarily acephate) to clean up the stinkbugs and plantbugs.  At least worms are not a primary concern in this mix at this point.  (The only exception is a DP 1646 if we move into a heavy moth flight.)  The best spray days out of the next 7 days look like today, tomorrow and Monday.  Sunday is the strongest chance of rain and then we touch 50% chance of rain for the rest of next week.  Looks like we are leaving the rain like Mana from heaven pattern.  Hopefully it is not turning into Noah's ark.  Quite Frankly, half of the region needs a couple inches with only a half inch or less from the last two rains.  Other areas are still finding it difficult to get spray equipment back into the field.  Spraying now is a little bit early but we have opportunity.  Spraying next week would be perfect for a lot of cotton but it will be difficult.  The week after that we are probably going to be getting late if things develope like I think they will, but we will have a lot of yield potential too.  My recommendation is do the best you can and focus on spraying the oldest cotton, the cotton that has never had an insecticide or has had Admire particularly close to maturing corn.  The best protected fields right now are likely the fields that had diamond &/or acephate or transform in the last week or two, and if I had to ride out another week, these should be fairly protected.

BOTTOM LINE:  It is a blessing to get this rain at this time of the year.  I hope we do.  If we get back to sun pretty quickly, it could be a grand slam.

General Crop developement shows April planted cotton at 4-5th week of bloom.  Early may is entering the fourth.  These early fields should have already been spray or should be getting sprayed now.  Cotton planted during or just after cold spell as at third week of bloom and on the front side of needing to be sprayed.  Late cotton is at first and second week of bloom and will be timed closer to this insect buildup we are beginning to see.  Young cotton might be a ways off from third week of bloom, but we are at the point of the season where you want to protect squares on a plant that does not have many bolls just like we protect bolls. 

Insect Update:
Moth flight increasing but not heavy...yet.  Heavy plantbug numbers in some fields that have never been sprayed or that have been a couple weeks and next to corn.  Stinkbugs are easy to find but only the earliest planted cotton has enough bolls for them to cause a problem.  Fields are variable but overall pressure is higher this week than last week, and most likely, next week will continue to show and even greater increase.

Rainfall prospects continue to be favorable but variable.  The next best chance is Sunday with more days next week showing a half a chance than this week had.  As we move into a spraying pattern with insecticides, acephate will likely be the primary ingredient and while giving a fast kill, it also has a high sensitivity to washoff.  Try not to spray on days that will get rain, or at least knock off early.  

Foliar Feeding Input

Cotton has never looked healthier during the early part of bloom as it does this year.   I have had a dozen phone calls regarding foliar fertilization application.  I think 90 cent cotton is attracting the desire to see if we can crank out an extra few bales.  There is a little bit of philosophy in this area, but a lot of science supports the best economical decisions.  In this blog, I am not talking about micronutrients like boron here, but rather macronutrients such as N, P, K, Ca, and Mg.
First the philosophy – Some folks have a planned use of foliar fertilizer and just like to do it.  The other philosophy is to apply the nutrient requirement to the soil for the roots to uptake it and use foliar fertilizers to correct deficiencies.
For 2021, because of consistent and non-leaching rainfall this year, I would estimate that a high percentage of the fields are not nutrient deficient if they had all the recommended fertilizer applied.    In dry years, the nutrients in the soil are not taken up well and we see dry weather nutrient deficiencies that are corrected as soon as it rains.  Some people feed during this temporary deficiency, and others wait for a rain.  In heavy rainfall years, we can get leaching that creates deficiency.  I am seeing only a little color issue on very light soil.  Those situations are rare this year but there are a few.   
Recommendation - either diagnose the fields showing problems from leaf symptoms or take multiple tissue samples to determine tissue nutrient levels.  Sample the highest mature leaf which is usually 4 to 5 leaves down from the bud
The National Cotton Council, NC State and Virginia Tech indicate that the sufficiency range at early bloom for N is 3.4 – 4.5%; K is 1.5% to 3.0%, Ca is 2.0-3.5%, S is 0.25-0.8%.  Some company analysis reports use different standards to base spraying on, although I use these Cotton industry standards.  Make these observations and samples early, as response from foliar materials is best if done in early bloom through about the third week.
Be sure and check out the blog archive for any recent blogs you could have missed, and also On Monday I am planning on getting out an Insect Update and Crop stage and spraying schedule update.

More Observations for the uniqueness of 2021.  (mostly Agronomy with a splash of Entomology)

Overall, it looks like we have the makings of a nice cotton crop although we are probably about a week behind average maturity primarily due to cool weather during the first half of May, Later planting dates, and late emergence of plants planted in dry soil after a late May rainfall to bring it up.  My estimation is about 20% of the crop was planted during that first warm spell that began the last week of April and ended as soon as May arrived.  This early cotton is generally entering its third week of bloom making it a candidate for intensive scouting and or spraying that third week of bloom treatment soon.  About 50% of our cotton is uniform and is has been blooming for about a week while the youngest 30% is or at least should begin blooming this week.  Another rain in July and a couple of nicely spaced rains in August will carry our potential well over 2 bales if we keep the tropical weather away in the fall.
Nitrogen is a moving target
I have noticed a strong difference in cotton growth based on Nitrogen. 
High Nitrogen – Last week I discussed the timing and variety relationship.  I am also seeing exploding growth in the peanut rotation now.  I think high nitrogen cotton has been more difficult to contain and has had more plant bug pressure.  More aggressive pix programs are usually used for this situation.
Normal Nitrogen - the more typical trend has been for average growth that is surprising many folks based on the nice soil moisture we have maintained.  We have switched to more determinant varieties this year so that helps explain it.  This type of cotton responds well to a pre-bloom pix application followed by a second application after bloom begins and the middles are beginning to close.
Small Cotton this year generally means young cotton
This year the small cotton in fields is typically just the late emerging spots from planting in the dry conditions and is just younger.  If it is 24 inches and not blooming, it could be large and aggressive.  This young cotton can often get to be the largest overall.  24” tall with the first bloom on it is about perfect.  This year 30-inch cotton that has been blooming for a couple of weeks is small.
Slow growing cotton is the final observation for today and I am seeing a trend for cotton that was planted between May 4/5 and May 14 that dos not have as good of a root system as the earlier and the later planted fields.  This is not all the fields and cotton is beginning to overcome this condition, but the impact of chilling injury showed up this year with poorer stands and slower early development.  If you see the first 4 or 5 nodes really stacked tight, that is an indication of this situation.  It can still produce a good yield only it is a little more sensitive to stress and needs a more passive approach to pix than some other fields.

Last Date for A Square to get on a plant that can become a harvestable boll
For October 1 defoliation - all the squares will be on the plant by July 20-25
For October 15 defoliation - squares by August 1-5th
This varies based on fall heat units and crop maturity.  Fruit on the first 10 REPRODUCTIVE nodes makes up 95% of the yield.  Late cotton will tend to respond better to aggressive pix to force more productivity in a shorter time period.  Pix will not generally negatively impact yield after the dates above. 
Insect spray schedule 
Scout the crop.  Generally we have some activity, but overall it is the calm before the anticipated storm.  If you have used AdmirePro or Transform for low to moderate thrips or even Acephate for heavy thrips early, then you should be able to impliment either the second or third week of bloom strategy of spraying with acephate along with something else based on moth flight/stinkbug event.  IF you have never sprayed, then most likely that second week of bloom schedule will fit better followed by 4th week.  Scouting provides the data to make the best decisions.  I am expecting the third week of bloom to be this weekend into next week on the early cotton and the first week of August for the Mid-May cotton.

Rainfall chances are trending lower this week.

We talked about the perfect soil moisture that we have had for most of June and the first half of July on the cotton report last week.  And that situation continues as some nice rains have moved through in recent days bringing from a few tenths to 2 inches with a large part of the region averaging better than an inch.  The least rain was around Waverly moving   However, looking at the forecast, there is some indication that this pattern of good rainfall is easing up a little bit.  Not that we are necessarily headed for a dry spell, but both the frequency and amount of rainfall is becoming less, and this comes at a time where cotton is beginning to make a boll load with a higher requirement for water.  Cotton can use as much as 2 inches of water per week during the peak bloom and boll setting stage.  I would say we are entering that stage on the oldest cotton and the younger cotton is not far behind.  With that being said, we continue to maintain some chances of isolated to scattered thunderstorms in the forecast on what looks like a very promising cotton crop.  Along with a higher moisture requirement also comes a period of higher insect sensitivity so be sure and walk those cotton fields and check out the daily updates at commonwealthgin.com.

Interesting Observations and Trends - Mid July Lull 

The typical cotton field has needed or is needing some growth management this year because of close to perfect and sustained soil moisture for our region.  Each year is different and even with this good moisture, I am surprised that the cotton is not exploding in growth, only growing at a steady pace making all pix decisions an easy choice.  Some trends explain more aggressive than average growth include application of all the nitrogen on small cotton (sometimes from starting early, and sometimes for finishing early on the later planted cotton), and some vigorous varieties that include 1646, 2038, and Phytogen 443 that make squares slower and do not respond well to lower pix rates once they are big  Of course, soil type is always a factor and productive sand is putting on a show this year.  I also believe some of this late cotton that is just getting 20 inches tall is at risk of explosive growth in the coming weeks as it will bloom late, and it is easy to forget about pix in August.  However, there have been more fields that are not growing that aggressive.  Again, I believe variety partly explains this observation as the determinant varieties like 4550, 4936, 4990, 2012, 2020 and particularly Phytogen 400 tend to have a bushier growth and/or respond well to pix.  Gappy stands also bush out wide more than upright. 
Other observations have been the strong square load and generally high retention (except for a few hot plant bug situations) which also helps explain less aggressive growth.  I am seeing situations that would be a signal to hold up or delay pix applications for now.  A good example was a field that had some very early pix followed by a second application is starting to bloom high with only about 6 nodes above white bloom.  Another field was full of large squares and a few blooms getting started and only 24 inches tall.  In these situations, the cotton is in check for now.  There is some evidence that the cotton planted around May 4 through May 9 prior 40-degree nights does not have an aggressive root system and has not grown at the pace of the cotton planted both earlier and later than this period.  Ultimately monitor the plant to determine growth management and only use these types of comments to help fine tune your plan.  I am sure you will find some Phytogen 400 growing ‘like the deuce’ or some 2038 that just cannot get going.  And some big, beautiful cotton planted in the middle of cold weather.
Cotton Developement:
I have started changing my mind some this week about fields with variable growth or gappy stands.  Instead of matching the pix rate on the biggest cotton in the field, use a happy medium or put a low rate on now, and wait till the end of next week before getting extremely aggressive on these variable fields.  By around July 25th, these fields will have all the squares on it that will end up making a mature boll with an early October defoliation goal.  Uniform but late cotton will benefit from squares all the way into early August.
Oldest cotton is entering the high sensativity stage of 2nd to 5th week of bloom.  For now, the general situation is fairly calm like it used to be.  In addition to the sweep net thresholds, high square retention and less than 15 to 20% dirty blooms coorelates well to not having a problem.   Some fields have had higher plantbug numbers and we are picking them up but most are not at threshold.  I think we used to get some isolated flareups back in the day, but we just didn't pay as much attention as we do now.  Still, the big event of plant bug and Stink bug infestation that comes from drying down corn could begin in a week or 10 days.  An increase in the moth flight is a good indication that this will occur.  More than half of our cotton will have bloomed for 2 or 3 weeks and will be ready for that acephate/bifenthrin spray once these fields hit threshold.

7-16 stats
Heat units & stage – first bloom variation of 6 days based on node of first fruiting branch location
                   1059 since April 26 (in Second week of bloom.  increasing crop sensitivity)

                    1006 since May 1 (Finishing first week of bloom)
                    913 since May 15 (In first week of bloom Now)
                    872 since May 20 (first bloom July 14)
                    815 since May 25 (first bloom expected any day)

                    729 since June 1 (expected first bloom in one week)
Next rain – 50% Friday pm, then Sunday.
Winds –   mostly under 10 mph, Saturday 12mph. 

Variable fields from Middle of May due for Pix sprays in coming week to 10-days 

We have maintained nice soil moisture for several weeks now without getting any general leaching rains.  That is a big deal moving into the middle of July as a high percentage of our cotton will begin blooming over the next 10 days.  The early planted cotton mostly began last week and was uniform and has already had its first pix application.  The cotton planted during the cool weather cycle in May and into the first warm week following that cool weather is all about the same age and is variable because of cotton that emerged late because of the dry conditions during the second half of May.  This represents two thirds of our total acreage and is ready for that first pix application this week on into next week depending on the growth.  This is the cotton that can fool us because it still looks so much smaller than that early cotton, but it is passing the 20-inch stage, and some is over 24 inches and is growing faster than the early cotton.  Without blooms on it, this is a good window for growth regulator and some imidacloprid with low to moderate plant bug numbers or for scheduling purposes.  High plant bug numbers need a different insecticide.

Cotton Developement:
Guage you Pix rate based on the larger cotton in the field.  Theoretically the smaller cotton will not intercept as much of the spray and will not suffer from over application with the high soil moisture.  Blooms are comming after about 850 dd-60's on this crop.  The small cotton is generally healthy only it is young becasue of late emergence so will bloom more like late May planting dates.
Overall bug numbers are increasing with hot regions beginning to develope. Highest numbers are double threshold although the incedince of this is low.  Imidachloprid is not as good of a solution after cotton gets large or starts to bloom.  Orthene has a quick knockdown of everything.  Transform holds up better in blooming and larger cotton and remains fairly easy on beneficials although is pricey

7-12 stats
Heat units – 1000 since April 26
                    918 since May 1
                    881 since May 15
(blooms after 800)
                    648 since June 1
Next rain – scattered this coming weekend
Winds –   12 mph Monday afternoon, under 10 after that. 

Cotton Growth 

Elsa is expected to move through bringing another nice rain for our region Thursday.  This will keep the pump primed for cotton growth in our region which surprisingly doesn’t appear too wild.  There are some notable observations related to variety.  The full maturity varieties that make their first square around the 7th node have younger squares on them and typically need a more aggressive pix approach on strong land.  DP 1646 has been the most popular example of this, as well as 2038.  The growth of these varieties is often offset when we plant them on sandy fields.  The more determinant varieties that set first squares around the 5th node have larger fruit and bloom sooner.  ST4550 is the new leader of this type of variety and even though it grows vigorously, it has a strong response to pix.  I emailed or mailed a newsletter regarding pix and insect management at the end of last week.  If you are going to be a new customer, or missed it, please give us a call.
 As far as plant bugs are concerned, I haven’t seen much pressure on small cotton, and even the cotton that needs pix has good fruit retention.  However there are spots that have threshold and some whole fields.  Prior to bloom, we have gotten acceptable control with AdmirePro.  Yesterday I checked fields that where at threshold last week and where sprayed last Thursday with admire Pro.  Results have been emailed to you.

The Heart of a Farmer 


June has been a busy month for farming as we carry out the plans we made back in the winter.  Coupled with spraying and fertilizing corn, getting wheat picked, beans planted and various and sundry things with peanuts, we are looking for that July halfway point.  For cotton, we consider blooms to be that indication of transferring our focus from offensive management to defensive management.  That will occur in early July for the oldest cotton, and a month from now in the young stuff.  The offensive part of growing a crop tends to be execution of what we had already planned on doing.  During the second half, we spend a lot more time putting footprints in a field than wheel tracks. That is where the heart of a farmer shows up.  It is sort of like farmers are the caretakers of the land, but the crop is their own.  It can be like parenting, coaching, or teaching children being both challenging and wonderful all at the same time.  As the crop matures, there will still be things to do, but a lot of the success will be out of our hands, and we can only hope we did the right things when it was young, and the Lord will take care of the rest.

Oldest Cotton:
I think we can expect good responses to pix applications with this wet ground on cotton in that 20–25-inch stage after fertilizer has been applied and it has rained on.
Plant Bugs were very low last week.  Looking in some different fields today (Monday) I have been able to find more in some of the cotton that was large.

6-28 stats
Heat units – 750 since April 26 (blooms after 800)
                    670 since May 1
                    400 since June 1
Next rain – Friday/Saturday over an inch possible
Winds – Below 10 mph thru Thursday
Scorch Risk – Higher this week than last week

May 1 Heat Units Hit 600 yesterday,  About average. 


Comfortable temperatures again return to our region.  Nevertheless, we are about average for heat unit accumulation for this time of year, tracking the same thing we had in many of our high production years.  The main standout fields for advanced development are the fields planted in April.   This early cotton only represents a small percentage of acres, it has been the first to get thrips sprays, weed sprays, the first to get the top-dress, and they will be the first to need scouting and pix.  However, for most of the cotton, be careful about trying to make a late crop become an early crop.  Stay on track based on plant development and not the calendar.  Some of our latest cotton will not need the final top-dress applications for another couple of weeks which is about when the early cotton will begin blooming.  I am getting a few calls about some folks that say there is some pretty cotton in the field, but other parts have small cotton that does not seem to want to get going.  This is generally because it did not come up until early June, so its only about 3 weeks old and is not supposed to be big yet.  It is time for the first split of nitrogen on the late cotton so a little ammonium sulfate will get it going but it is not ready for the full load if it has less than 5 or 6 leaves.  The late cotton often ends up the bigger than early cotton, so trying to push it too hard can provide unintended consequences.
We will have to constantly remind ourselves that the primary characteristic of the 2021 crop is divided by the cool and dry weather in May which created erratic emergence dates such that about half of our cotton falls on the late side of development, nevertheless it still carries as high a yield potential as some of this beautiful April planted cotton that seems a month earlier.
It is a good time to get on some Dual, Warrant, or Outlook on this smaller cotton with these low temperatures and humidity.

Rule of Thumb: when an average variety has 5 or 6 leaves, it will bloom in a month (full season varieties need 6 or 7 leaves for this rule)  This is about where the cotton that emerged after the Memorial Weekend rain is.

Beginning Mid-Season Insect Mangement


The strategy for mid-season insect management in the old days was "stay out of the field". 

Insect management for cotton at the beginning of my career focused on getting thrips under control and then keep insecticides out of our cotton fields through July to preserve beneficial insects.  Then the major bollworm moth flight coming out of corn began and we kept a coating of pyrethroid insecticides on cotton during August to protect bolls from worms.  Next Bt cotton came on the scene and now in the third generation of this technology, it is still pretty bullet proof for keeping worms out of our fields. Now, our major focus has moved to plant bugs during squaring into early bloom, then along with stinkbugs, during the boll establishment stage.  This is about an eight-week period where it is not uncommon to apply different classes of insecticides depending on the stage of the cotton, the actual insect species, and intensity.  This early time of the year, the plant bugs are somewhat isolated with a few hot pockets, plus the cotton can quite easily compensate for low level square loss.  Nevertheless, it is time to start looking in those oldest cotton fields which will start blooming in a couple of weeks, the goal is to hold at least 80% of the squares prior to bloom.  Even loosing 30% to 40% of squares prior to bloom is not a problem, only we need to be sure and treat.  This preboom period is also the time where we can get fair control with Admire Pro since we will primarily have adults only.  And while it also kills the bug type beneficials, it is soft on spiders and wasps.  Once we are getting ready to bloom, imidacloprid will not work and we need to switch to Transform only if at threshold and try to hold the hard stuff like Orthene and Bifenthrin till the second or third week of bloom.  Check over at the blog archive on the left column of the main menu to see ‘the bloom projection’ blog. 

The primary reaction trigger is no doubt to scout.  One little variant I would promote is to be conservative and if you are borderline threshold or are in those traditional areas where we have some flare ups, use Admire 2 weeks ahead of bloom while it will work and try to save you from spraying the more expensive Transform.

Projecting First Bloom


June is presenting some ideal temperatures and has not been as hot as what we have come to think of as typical.  In addition, the night time low temperatures are still in the low 60’s which helps to lower the overall humidity.  At this point in time we are on track for the cotton that was planted early to begin blooming approximately 65 days after it was planted.  That means that in two weeks or around July first, some of that April planted cotton is going to have a bloom in the field and the cotton planted in early May will certainly be close behind with blooms right after the fourth of July.  However, beginning around May 6 temperatures took a 10 day pause and rainfall took a 3 week pause creating a bit of uniformity for our Middle planted dates.  S Cotton planted during the middle through the end of May had variable emergence and although the stands have become good to very good, the overall age is non uniform.  The cotton that was in moisture during this planting window emerged on time and has around 5 or 6 leaves on it and the seed in dry dirt emerged after the Memorial rain and has about 2 true leaves.  Overall this is about a 9 to 12 day age difference.   This lack of uniformity can impact some of our management decisions.  I would give the most consideration for weed management, insects, and defoliation based on the young plants, and I would manage the growth based on the older plants.  We know that since the later planted cotton does not go through the cold cycles of May, it blooms quicker than early cotton so roughly 45 to 50 days after emergence, we will get blooms from the mid and late planting window.  That will be the second half of July.


Use these blooming estimations to time final fertilizer applications.  For a once over top-dress trip, shoot for finishing two weeks prior to bloom.  For a split top-dress application apply the first split by the 3-5 leaf stage and the second split can go about a week pre-bloom.  5 leaf cotton is a month away from bloom.  If you were planning to split nitrogen but your cotton got to 7 or 8 leaves, then forget the first split and put it all on.

Back on Weeds?


The dry weather in May was like watching Lawrence of Arabia crossing the dessert.  Now June so far has been more like finally getting that drink of water through a fire hose for more than half of our region.  At least all the area has plenty of moisture for now.  This week, there is much less rain predicted in the forecast.  It certainly seems like we are going to have plenty to do getting the weeds controlled followed by some fertilizer in the not-too-distant future.  Some folks where missing some rains last week and have gotten a good start on weed trips, while others have been delayed.  The weed control trip might need to have several chemicals mixed in to accomplish several objectives with one pass.  The emphasis must be on killing the resistant palmer and ragweed before they get too large, so that means this trip must either have Liberty or an Auxin mixed with Roundup.  I think we will have success killing some that might be a bit bigger than we normally think primarily because of the tenderness of plants.  There are a few situations involving potential for antagonism, some leaf scorch, and various other points.  One is that the Liberty is not that effective on large grass.  Adding Roundup can improve grass control slightly but not as good as Roundup by itself, so if grass is large, I prefer just making a separate Roundup trip once grass regrows.  Another issue occurs when mixing Dual, Warrant, or Outlook with Liberty or Roundup creating potential for leaf scorch.  It essentially is only cosmetic, and with mild temperatures and low humidity, seems to be less.  Scorch seems to increase when mixing more chemicals into the concoction.  Scorch is similar with Roundup or Liberty except on Extend varieties which show a bit more scorch with Liberty mixtures compared to Roundup.  I would generally not be too concerned about scorch with the milder temperatures, although in the upper 80’s to over 90 degrees, you will have less scorch by spraying Dual type products alone or with low surfactant Roundup.  Use 20 gallons per acre with Liberty or Auxin mixtures.
Final thought, top-dress time is a good time to get on a half-pound of boron, particularly with liquid.  Then you do not have to worry about foliar application at early bloom.

Topdress - One Shot or Two?


We are passing the 5 leaf stage on our April planted cotton with the early May planting not far behind.  This oldest cotton will need inputs at different times compared to everything planted in the cool weather of Mid-May and especially the cotton that is just emerging in June.  Many fields in these second two scenarios have two ages of cotton in the same field that will keep things interesting; however, for the most part, the early crop is fairly uniform and becoming much more advanced.  This oldest cotton is now safe from thrips and will be at the top dress time soon.  Some farmers split the topdress nitrogen particularly on light soil which can include potash and this trip should be made immediately, even on the young cotton.  Most operations will make just one application of nitrogen topdress to bring up the total amount of applied nitrogen to between 100 and 120 pounds including the earlier applications.  The timing for this single application is when you can start to see some squares, basically between 6 and 10 leaves or 10 to 16 inches tall.  Even the 12 leaf stage is not too late, but you are getting closer to bloom by then and you need rain to activate it prior to bloom. The oldest cotton will be on the front side of this stage around the weekend and the latest cotton will not be there until July.  

Last week and perhaps later this week, there are some areas that have had a deluge of heavy rainfall that could create some of the typical yellowing that has made many operations plan on the split nitrogen application using ammonium sulfate on the first shot.  You almost know that light land will start looking hungry soon.  Be careful not to put too much nitrogen on young cotton too quickly (5 leaves or less) as it can become wild with frequent rainfall.

Weed Control and finish up with Acephate

This week will be the end of evaluating cotton stands as there has been enough heat and moisture for the cotton to have filled in the gaps.  For the most part stands are going to be excellent to acceptable.  At this point, I would not consider any 3 foot space as a gap.  I would accept up to 10 percent of the field with gaps up to 10 foot or less as I believe the cotton adjacent rows and plants in the gap compensate for up to 90% of the yield in even a skip row.  Mathematically, 10% with 10 foot gaps is only a 1% yield compromise.  I think we are now turning to the early season management programs of weed control.  We primarily need to clean up all emerged weeds and consider a residual product on cotton that is growing well with at least 2 new healthy leaves out.  Another big job this week will be to finish up with acephate sprays.  A buildup of beneficial insects in June is one of the key strategies we use for midseason insect management and that does not begin until we are done with acephate.
Cotton Stands Should all work out.

Considering the hot conditions early, followed by extended cold, and then dry conditions in May, the cotton stands approach phenomenal for what would have been predicted.  I believe the success in part was that along with the cold weather we had dry conditions at the same time which we have learned as long as you don’t get that packing rain, good seed will eventually come up.  The success in the dry period that started when we missed a good chance of rain on May 17th came from planting deep that week, and then planting shallow from May 24th till it rained on May 28th.  The May 28th & 29th rain should be the equalizer that has sprouted almost all the shallow planted seed to fill in the gaps.  
Overall, the seed is in fact sprouting based on fields I have looked at for the last couple days and will be pushing out in the next couple of days.  Hopefully this anticipated rain will keep the ground soft, but cotton has much more pushing power when it is warm compared to cool, so I expect a high success rate for adequate cotton stands.  Cotton is also not very population sensitive and compensates well for not being perfect.
The risks we took that ended up working out was planting in cool soil, planting deep in dry soil, then after continued dry conditions planting shallow and waiting on a ‘timely rain’ hoping it would come before too much time passed.  Interestingly, the only perfect stands happened the last week of April and the First week of June which are our two bookends.  All the best calendar days (May) had some challenges and carried these risks.
For the first week of May, when it was warm, the cold weather moved in before it emerged AND some got a packing rain before it got out.  That is where many of the borderline stands have been and where we had to do some pecking to make it good enough. 
The second week of May was a cool spell.  It seems to have stayed dormant during the cool weather and if it was in moisture came up when it got warm.  However, we have been a little concerned if it was in enough moisture during the cool weather to swell up, but the moisture left it before it could sprout.   We have been wondering whether these seed stayed healthy, and it looks like for the most part they have done well.
The third week of May was dry for everyone that missed the early May rain.  Many folks planted deep and we even saw cotton come up from being planted an inch and a half to almost 2 inches deep, but just like the cool weather planting, the lucky thing was we did not get rain which allowed it to come out. 
Then the forth week of May with drought continuing made many of us switch strategies to planting shallow expecting the Memorial Weekend rain to bring it out.
Ultimately, everything seems like it is going to work out in the end.  That is cotton for you…  I love it. 

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