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  Blog Archives  06/09/21 9:24:02 AM

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. 
With Rainfall in Forecast, Making plans for next week

Happy Memorial Weekend.  Maybe Memorial weekend is the new holiday for getting that all important big rain we need to break a drought.  This rain is crucial for activating corn nitrogen, and improving cotton, peanut, and soybean stands.  I think we are going to have some decisions to make on cotton next week regarding replanting vs. waiting on sprouts to come through.  The first question will be ‘Is seed that is in dry dirt now going to sprout after the rain?’  The easy answer is for cotton planted over the last 10 days.  Sunday May 16th was the first good planting day we had since about Wednesday May 5th.  This seed had no exposure to chilling injury and if it was in moisture, it came up, and if it was shallow and in dry dirt, then it is waiting on moisture and should sprout about 2 days after the rain this weekend.  You should be able to be confident in the seed and if it is not too deep it should come up.  Not much cotton was planted from May 6th to May13th, then we got going again, but kept getting sub-50-degree nights through Saturday.  This period is the one that is a little more iffy.  I think some seed stayed semi-dormant in the cool weather and once it started taking up a little of that cool water, it started drying out and may have trouble going again.  We should know within about 48 hours of good rain.  Also, expect the seed treatment to play out in 18 to 21 after planting date, so seed that have been in the ground a while will not have much thrips protection when they emerge.  It will be important to make these decisions early in the week so we can finish planting or replanting by the end of next week for maximizing our cotton success.
The next observation I have made this week is how much better the cotton is looking than it did last week during the beginning of the hot weather.  I think it had a recovering root system last week, and this week, it is getting a healthy “growy” look to it.  Its not big, but it is making leaves. 
Couple of comments:
  • Orthene works better in dry weather than wet weather because it doesn’t get washed off.  The planting treatments do not work quite as well, making acephate sprays more important, particularly seed treatment only.  Make those acephate sprays at first true leaf or by 21 days after planting.  That would be all of the early planted cotton at this point
  • Admire Pro and Temik have been very good and may be better this week than last week as roots have started going.  You can see how they buy us a little more time.  Still there are those random fields that pop up so check fields that have in-furrow but are not being sprayed at the first true leaf.
  • Much of the pre-emergence herbicide effectiveness is lost so I expect a big flush of weeds to begin next week.  Be careful not to apply Dual, Warrant, or Outlook now on small cotton that is not making a couple of big true leaves during scorching conditions.  However, these herbicides will be helpful to get our residual herbicide levels back up in a couple of weeks.
  • The contrarian play in the US seems to be to plant cotton since with soybean acres spiking.  Luckily, we have the good track record with planting in the first week of June and hopefully approaching soil moisture to restore cotton fields to awesome yields, and just in the Knick of time…. Prayerfully.

Maybe it is going to rain.  Thrips on the radar

Dry conditions persisting in the region have agricultural activities slowing down.  Wednesday is the hottest day and then a cooling trend will take us into the weekend with some prospects of catching a shower of rainfall at the end of the week.  Actually other than Wednesday, there is some mention of rainfall in the forecast for several days this week including Tuesday, although the hope of getting the ground wet is pretty low.  Fields throughout the area that have been planted over the last 10 days need some rain to achieve a better stand.  It really is all over the board.  Thrips are able to do well in dry weather and the treatments work better when we get some rain.  As you consider the thrips sprays, you can check for the insect as well as the condition of the true leaves  coming out of the bud.  Spray seed treatment cotton when the first true leaf comes out with 8 ounces of acephate.  With the cooler May, it is taking the early planted cotton almost 3 weeks from the planting date to reach this stage.  With variable cotton emergence, all plants are not at the same stage so we sometimes drag our feet if the first plants look clean.  When stands are variable I like to wait for the late emerging plants to get out prior to spraying unless major thrips damage is observed.   Overall, in-furrow treatments hold longer and usually allow us to wait  for spraying using weeds as the initiator of the first foliar trip
Planting Continues and Dryness too.

We will continue getting some acres planted through the weekend as farmers continue to find some fields with moisture, and sometimes where it is just powder.    The system that seems to be the most successful this year is planting with a strip till rig right in front of the planter where the ripper shanks pull up the needed moisture and the planter immediately puts the seed in the ground and presses it firmer.  In this situation when the ripper shank is finding some moisture, farmers are planting about an inch deep dropping single seed or up to an inch and a half if hill dropping.  Other systems such as turbo till, disking, or ripping days out in front of the strip till rig have involved moving dirt and planting without having a shower of rain in these systems has dry dirt too deep to get cotton seeds in moisture.  Leaving the cover green for longer periods of time pulls moisture out of the land also.  These systems work better to plant shallow and let the next rain germinate the seed and bring it up.  All of this isn’t really information that we didn’t already know, only it has been a long time since we have had this little rainfall during the cotton planting season.  There is no perfect system, and this year posed additional dilemma’s to debate such as planting in cold ground with a little bit of moisture vs planting in warmer ground deeper, planting early, planting late, planting shallow, and planting deep.

There are a few chances of rainfall next week, but still not very promising, maybe just hopeful.

The other matter at hand involves spraying acephate on April planted cotton particularly if it only has a seed treatment.  The seed treatments typically last up to 3 weeks.
Weather forecast drives Agricultural Decisions.

In agriculture, we rely heavily on weather forecasting to make weekly decisions.  With an expectation of dry, warm conditions that promote fast germination and emergence of cotton seedlings, we can dramatically change our planting system from what you might call normal.  The key practices that are different right now are that we must plant over an inch deep to about an inch and a half to find moisture which is about twice as deep as normal.  Some farmers use kickers to remove the dry dirt off the seedbed and plant in moisture at a normal depth, only the row is down in a bit of a trench.  Both strategies would backfire if we got heavy rainfall before emergence, but that is not in the cards.  In some situations, the moisture is even deeper than two inches and it that extreme case, the best strategy is to plant in shallow dry dirt and wait for that next rain to bring it out.  (Whether it rains or not, this strategy seems better than doing nothing as it gets the best insurance locked in, you have seed in the ground to make a crop, and you still have all your other options on the table.) Another decision is whether to apply those residual herbicides which need rainfall within a couple weeks to activate them.  Thrips also seem to thrive better in the hot dry conditions, plus cotton is growing slower.  Ultimately cotton is made for these decisions as it is so resilient and responsive to management.  Cotton has offered much stability to our region because of the flexibility it provides as well as probably the best insurance protection of all our commodities, but it must be planted. 

Overall, this season is dramatically different in many ways from normal, hey, but that is just normal.

No rain for 10 days.  Plant crop with best insurance.

Here is the bottom line, it is dry.  
  • If you can plant cotton an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half deep into moisture, then with no moisture for 10 days, you will have a stand.  The key is that the moisture stays with the seed long enough to get a sprout, we used to do this every other year, but it has been almost 10 years since we have seen this widespread drought.
  • If you cannot find moisture, plant the crop with the best insurance.  For most farms it is cotton and if we get some rain, you have a cotton crop, and if we don’t then at least you have more options plus the best safety net.  
Here is the deeper discussion of this thinking:
I was a bit disappointed yesterday when they told us we were going to miss the rain; however, I am feeling better now as I have looked at several fields over the last couple of days and the moisture is better than I thought accept primarily where the cover crop is still green.  I even found good moisture in turbo tilled land that had at least one rain on it. It has been drier than this before and we had some success planting deep. So, it takes getting the seed over an inch deep to be insured of having it in enough moisture to get out.  I have seen it come up from two inches deep when hill dropped when no rain came, but that is too deep when there is any chance of rain at all.  
Still there is some risk involved and a few folks that have never had any rain since the middle of April or the extra dry situation are asking about the practicality of dusting in cotton shallow to let the rain bring it up versus planting beans in June whenever it rains.  (Right now, it looks like no rain until early June).  Cotton is almost always the best option over beans when things are good or when things are bad since cotton has the best safety net.  But how about when soybeans are $14.   Here are the points I would look at.
  1. In the good scenario, the deep planted cotton in moisture up will probably yield the best of everything.  But that is the reality that we have always had for this year.  Price movement for the rest of the season probably depends more on the rest of the country and the world than what we decide, but if we have a crop to sell then it should be good.
  2. In the bad season if dryness continues, that will result in poor stands of cotton or soybeans planted in dry conditions.  Yields of either are likely going to move back to averages or worse if we have dry conditions in August also.
  3. The bad scenario turns toward the defensive posture of the commodities and with high prices, that mainly focuses on Insurance.  You have to compare 83 cent times cotton farm yield vs $11.81 times soybean farm yield.  On the average, it is going to be around 80% of $830 compared to about 80% of $375 for beans. 

For farms with good cotton history, it makes the most financial sense to start the field off as a cotton field for the defense that can offer.  Plant deep if you can get good moisture and it will be up in 5 or 6 days.  Or plant shallow if you are bone dry and hope for a rain during the first week of June, you can always turn it into a soybean field after a rain if that makes sense and still benefit from the cotton defense.  
The other option is prevented planting, but I think the winning strategy is to plant the commodity with a combination of the best defense and offense on a farm by farm basis.

(Side note:
There must be some wierd irony about a cotton gin not recommending planting cotton last week in the cool weather.  In actuallity, I would have to play it the same way if I had to do it over again,  Hind site is ahellofasite though)
Dry weather Challenges.

With no reasonable chance for rain for the rest of the week our soils are getting dry.  This creates the conversation of planting depth for cotton.  With the current forecast, I am comfortable planting an inch and a quarter deep as it will be out of the ground before we get a rain.  The key is to be in good moisture where we can be confident that the seed will sprout when planting deep.  Planting with hill drop plates also adds another layer of confidence as two or three seeds are stronger than one when pushing through.  The hill drop solution is actually more beneficial if we get rain on deep planted cotton.  The variability of our soils is also a challenge, particularly with the hard land that works up into small clodds in these conditions.  If the seed bed is cloddy, it can dry out more quickly and this is not a situation where you want to have deep seed.  If you cannot find good moisture at an inch to an inch and a quarter, then the best thing is to plant shallow and let the rain cover it up.  Folks call this dusting it in.  As far as normal activities, the cotton that was planted in April is getting to the stage for a thrips spray if it only has seed treatment.
Stepping back a little bit from the day to day and look at 40 days.

We typically have 40 days to plant our cotton crop (April 25 to June 5). The factors for planting cotton focus on temperature, heavy packing rainfall, dry seed beds, and the calendar.  Currently we are in the middle of the planting season by the calendar, and I would estimate about half the acreage is in the ground, but some individuals have a good bit to go.  The main delay for the last week has been temperature.  There has only been 1 good day for planting and two marginal days out of the last 7.  Currently we are faced with cold night temperatures for the rest of the week ending Saturday night.  Folks that have a long way to go are evaluating the risk of planting during these relatively warm Sunny days as the week is winding down with these chilly nights.  We have a few factors on our side.  One is the dryness of the soil reduces the negative impact of cold as well as seedling disease.  Also, we have more hours of warm than cool during a 24-hour period.  Also, the soil is not getting as cold as the air where the seed is.  Also, there is a chance of rain but not till Monday and we really need it.  Taking all these factors into consideration, I am looking at Friday as a marginal day, Saturday is acceptable, and Sunday is good for planting.  Do what you got to do for the end of this week, but next week is going to be better (particularly if we get that rain on Monday).

We don't know from year to year when the best planting dates are up front, but if we break up the planting periods into 10-day periods, the second one that we are finishing up with will probably have the weakest start because it takes the longest to come out, and the best 10-days could be this third period that begins Sunday.  Either the fist one or the fourth one will be second place.  Anyway, that's my guess.  So if you didn't plant much cotton between the 6th and the 15th, don't worry about it, you are still in a position to win.  Overall, I think this planting season is not going to be a huge factor in our success as I am expecting reasonable emergence from most of the 40 days.

Sweet Spot for Planting usually begins May 10th.

We are just now getting into the sweet spot for planting cotton in Virginia as well as northeastern North Carolina.  For a reference point on the calendar, I use the days between May 10th and 20th to represent this part of a wide planting window.  All of May is a great month for cotton planting and the stories of extremely high yield occur in a wide range of planting conditions including the date.  The sweet spot is the intersection of the most positives and the fewest negatives that can happen year to year in cotton production.  The most consistent high yields both in research and on-farm conditions occur from planting in the middle of May.  Some positives for early planting are earlier maturity, but hot July temperatures add risk from premature cutout or boll opening during tropical weather.  Later planting produces more vigor in seedlings, but usually needs an extra August pix and insect spray.  I would estimate we had about 40% of our acreage planted in an early window from April 27th till about May 5th which is when we began to hold up because of low temperatures this past weekend.  Most of that cotton is up or close to cracking.  Now it is looking like we will get our middle window for this year between May 13th to the 20th.  The late window usually does as good as the early cotton and that late window will not even begin for another two weeks.  We normally plant about 20% planted early and 60% planted in the middle.  If we get 60% planted by the end of next week, there won’t even be much late cotton this year.  In summary, the normal 10 days of 'the Sweet Spot' will be reduced to 7 days because of cool nights.  We can wait out this current cool weather for the next few days and still have more than 2 weeks of good May planting conditions.  Even planting through June 5th has favorable track record for Virginia.
Cool Weather is NOT the Main Thing, but it is a thing.

I had a good phone call this morning from one of my Virginia Tech Crop guys.  He took me to school a little bit.  He (RK) got an explanation from another VT buddy (BM) describing why it is not a good idea to plant cotton in front of cold weather.  In my defense, at NC State, they do not make us crop boys take animal science classes or either it is just that if you go to Virginia Tech, you automatically know about cows, not sure which.  At any rate, apparently being the son of a Hog specialist did not automatically give me a heads up on how important colostrum is for the proper development of newborn calf.  So, for the other NC State folks and Clemson too: Colostrum is that first milk for mammals that has high bioactive compounds to give the newborn the best possible start to life.
For plants, the seed already contains beneficial compounds, but require proper temperature during the first 48 hours for them to be fully activated.  Cotton is botanically a tropical plant, so it has the highest minimal temperature requirement of the primary crops we grow.  Sure, we have all seen cotton planted in unfavorable temperatures and still come out of the ground, but if it does not get its ‘colostrum’ it will not thrive as well and will not withstand future stress as well.
I have been told many stories of how cotton was planted in unfavorable conditions and still made 2-bales.  When we don’t get heavy rains in these cool periods, even though the cotton seedling is compromised and does not have full immunity or strong vigor, it can still give a good stand and make a crop, so some folks just take the risk. 
I have often said how we start is not as important as how we finish.  Rain during bloom and boll fill is the biggest crop maker.  Poor weather at the end is a bigger problem than poor weather at the beginning.  Along with variety selection, pest management, and fertility, getting a good start is certainly one of the top-6 BMP’s.  I always believe the good thing can happen even with a challenging start; however, I still want some colostrum in my newborn so I will wait out the next few days on planting cotton.

10 Degree Daily Temperature Drop = No Heat.

I don’t know whether to talk about the weather now or wait for the forecast to change to something I would rather talk about.  The good news is that we are getting some rain following a hot and windy period that really dried out the surface of our fields and this was increasing the difficulty of creating a good seedbed.  However, the unfavorable part of this forecast is that they have completely changed the temperature expectation from above normal to below normal levels.  These 10 degrees drop of both daytime and nighttime temperatures might save on the ac bill, but it wipes out cotton heat units turning fast emerging cotton into a seed that won’t sprout in the ground for about a week.  It certainly looks like a no brainer for us to hold up planting for several days and if things don’t change, even planting next week will only be acceptable, not wonderful.  I still prefer planting into cool dirt that is going to warm up over warm dirt that is getting ready for an extended cold spell.  Check the daily planting forecast at commonwealthgin.com for updates.
Seeding Rate & Final Stands.

I covered this a couple of weeks ago with respect to acres per bag.  However, this focus's in on tweaking seeding rate based on goals and risk management.  There is currently some research going on regarding seeding rate and plant population for Virginia conditions at the TAREC by Dr. Frame.  The research points to final stand and evaluating plants per acre or per row foot as a means of describing the goal we are after.  It looks like 3 to 4 bale yields are maximized once we reach 2.5 plants per foot of row which represents a final stand of 36,300 plants per acre.  In general, we get 80% emergence or better when planting in acceptable conditions.  That takes 3 seed per foot to accomplish this.  So, most of the time, most farmers need to set up to plant 3 seed per foot singulated (the Southeast Virginia word for single spaced), 2 seed hill drop every 8 inches, or 2-3-2-3 (plugging up extra holes) hill drop every 10 inches, or 3 seed every 12 inches to plant 43,560 seed per acre.
When can seeding rate be reduced to save money?
  • 2.0 plant final stand if consistent meets yield goals except in very high yielding conditions.  Final stands around 25K to 29K are fine.  This is not a goal, because we rarely have the uniformity of soils and condtions not to have week spots if we had a goal this low, but if we end up here, most of the time it is optimal.
  • Under very good temperatures, soil moisture and fast germination, with no packing rain, then there would likely be better than an 80% stand allowing seeding rate reduction.
  • Light soils typically produce better stands than heavy or crusty soil types.
Under one or several of these scenario’s, I am extremely confident in reduced seeding rates, but I would not drop below 2.5 seed per foot or 36,000 seed per acre.
What about Hill Drop?  Basically, hill drop is primarily an attempt maintain final stand goals in less-than-optimal seed bed conditions, crusty or heavier soil types, or with variable depths to provide better pushing power.  It does not produce better or worse yields, it only adds planting flexibility to the farmer with variable soils and conditions.  Usually in 12 inch hill drop, a 3 plant hill or a 1 plant hill make the exact same number of bolls when side by side.  There is usually a runt plant when 3 are together, but it does not impact yield as the other two make up.
Do I ever need more than 3 seed per foot?  Almost always NO.
  • Adding 1 seed per foot increases cost $33/acre.
  • If you are pushed to plant in conditions that would have you predict less than 80% germination, however at 60% emergence and final stand you still have 26,000 plants at 3 seed which should be enough.

There is that area of extremely high yield that theoretically and mathematically would make one speculate that you could push populations higher to make more yield.  30-inch rows make the same argument.  In practicality, the high population more often reduces the real potential by competing with itself, increases the canopy density making insect control more critical and affecting hardlock risk.  High plant population naturally reduces fruit retention.  It also increases management requirements and reduces cottons ability to compensate for stress because of less overall fruit per plant.
Planting population / Seeding rate. 

How many seed do I need to plant?  Pretty simple question, and not too complicated of an answer for cotton.  In short, set the planter for 3 seed per foot or 43,560 seed per acre and drive. 
Going a little deeper.
Cotton is a plant with the ability to make way more bolls on each plant than we could ever hope to harvest.  This fact is observable when you count how many bolls a plant can make when it is on the end row with no competition.  However, high population cotton is managed differently than low population cotton.  A thinner stand makes more bolls on the limbs and second positions than a thicker stand. Thinner stands produce broader plants with lesser height relative to thicker stands.  A thicker stand is more likely to grow taller with less bolls and can suffer more from temporary drought than thinner stands.  A heavier population will also mature more quickly because each plant does not have to make very many bolls.  And of course, there is the issue of seed cost.  Dr. Frame, Virginia Cotton Specialist is currently conducting research in this area to help us fine tune this aspect of cotton production.  He is looking at variety, planting date, and seeding rate variables on final stand and yield.
The summary for where we are today:
The following numbers assume 80-90% stand and 36” rows.
Final Stand Goal: 29,000 to 39,200 plants per acre. 
Seeding Rate goal: 2.5 to 3 seed per 12 inches
Seed per acre: 36,300 to 43,560
Acres per PHY, DP, NG, and DG bag (230K): 6.34 to 5.28 acres
Acres per Stoneville bag (220K): 6.1 to 5.05
Tweaks – The primary conditions that impact final stand include:

  • Seeding rate
  • Seed quality & cool germ
  • Seed size (45 pounds is average): Small seed (1646) carry more doubles and need less vacuum and have weaker pushing power.
  • Planting conditions: weather, seedbed, etc.
  • Packing rain pre-emergence – particularly when cotton is trying to push.
  • Dry seedbed.

Burndown Window, one scenario is pushing us . 

Last week, we got a start on cotton land burndown treatments.  Beautiful weather during this period provided conditions for excellent results.  It is not urgent yet but we are definitely in the burndown window.  This week, we have some nice weather for Monday and Tuesday, but the Wednesday afternoon suggests a mid-week shower.  There is still a good amount of time for burndown and overall, I would still consider this early.  We still have great flexibility as well as success with later burndown for scenarios that include matching up the auxin herbicide with the varietal tolerance of those herbicides such that there would be no waiting period.  (examples would be using 2,4-D in burndown with Enlist varieties and dicamba in burndown with extend varieties). 

Get Going if 2,4-D on Non-Enliist
The priority for burndown this week is if you would like to plant a non-enlist variety during the first week of May and use 2,4-D.  You could spray 2,4-D this week and plant anything the first week of May.  It is already too late to use 2,4-D in the burndown if you wanted to plant the last week of April with non-enlist varieties because the waiting period for 2,4-D is longer than 2 weeks.  Dicamba offers a shorter waiting period if you are getting pushed up.
Continuing to wait or proceed slowly makes sense as well for operations who are using a two trip program or matching auxin with variety, particularly if you do not have much ground cover this year.

Brake Herbicide Brings Value...at a cost, quite a cost. 

Brake can be a game changer, but is it worth it?  Here are some benefits:

  • Brake is safe to cotton.  Perhaps the safest residual product.
  • Low solubility – it takes a lot of water to activate but lasts longer.
  • Excellent Palmer, Spiney and Redroot pigweed control. 
  • Good on Crabgrass and Goosegrass as well as cocklebur and tropic crotan.
  • At 21 ounces or more, it can reduce (but not eliminate) the need for in season weed control trips once it is activated.  Also, it can reduce the need for a Dual/Warrant/Outlook (D/W/O) trip at 3 to 5 leaf stage because it is good on grass and excellent on palmer.  [Some folks are concerned about the group 15 (D/W/O) scorch risk, but I have only seen it as a concern when you also add Liberty to the grp 15 herbicides on Extend varieties.  For Enlist & Liberty Link varieties, Liberty plus D/W/O is just like Roundup plus D/W/O.]
Here are some challenges or hurdles:
  • Low solubility takes a lot of water to activate so needs a companion partner like Reflex in a palmer situation.
  • First - it is for farmers that have already moved to a preemergence program behind the planter and are looking to take it to the next level.
  • Cost is high at over $20 - $25/acre.  That low rate of 16oz. is not going to bring all the benefits discussed in this blog either.  It also needs to be paired with either Reflex, Warrant, or Cotoran so you are pushing $30
  • ONLY FAIR to Good on Ragweed.  A lot of folks give it credit for ragweed, but it is the Cotoran in the tank mix that is giving Brake its good reputation for Ragweed.
When I put all this together, I am not seeing it on widespread acreage. Here are some situations that would find the most value:
  1.  Palmer Pigweed is the only weed Brake is rated excellent on. - The most benefit is with high palmer or resistant spiney pigweed sense those things keep coming up until you get complete shade.  Warrant or Reflex would be needed with it to handle the early emerging weeds since it takes a while for the Brake to get activated. 
  2. Highly diversified operations benefit from reduced trips.
  3. RAGWEED?  I am not sold on it for Ragweed because it is only rated fair to good which means less than 80% control.  Cotoran rated excellent is caring the load for preemergence on ragweed.  Ragweed doesn’t seem to be as aggressive with later flushes, plus Liberty and the auxins are awesome on it.   For ragweed, use 1.5 pints of Cotoran on light soil and 2 pints on soils with medium or better soil textures & organic matter.  A pint of Cotoran by itself won’t last.  D/W/O are poor on ragweed.

Burndown Now or Wait?

Sunny and warm weather through Thursday will provide us with a good run at getting some burndown applied on cotton land.  It is not urgent at this point as we are three weeks away from the beginning of a late April planting window and 4 weeks away from Early May.  All options are outside the herbicide waiting periods so you can spray anything you want this week.

Roundup Equivalency Rates & Formulations
Roundup Original - 32 to 48 ounces
PowerMax 2        - 22 to 32 ounces
PowerMax 3         - 20 to 30 ounces

Waiting Periods
By next week, we will need to pay a little bit more attention.  Here are a few reminders on the waiting periods:

  • 2,4-D has a 3-week waiting period representing the longest waiting period for varieties that are not tolerant to 2,4-D. (Enlist varieties by Phytogen are tolerant and there is no waiting period with 2,4-D for Enlist.)
  • Dicamba’s waiting period is about a week less than 2,4-D for varieties that are not tolerant to dicamba.  (Xtend varieties are tolerant to dicamba and have no waiting period for planting.
  • Valor has a 10-day waiting period for strip-till/planting, but for no-till, you need more time and rainfall on all varieties.
  • NON-Auxin varieties are ST4550 & ST5471
 Using these rules, you can calculate that spraying 2,4-D next week would prevent any April planting of varieties except for Enlist, while you could use dicamba next week and still be safe for all varieties planting the end of April.
My personal preference is to leave green cover on the ground until closer to planting when possible.  This takes more management but leaves more protection for sandblasting after emergence.  We also need to use either dicamba or 2,4-D in the burndown.  This leaves us 3 options:
  1. Use 2 trips.  Spray (2,4-D or dicamba plus Valor) now when you have a waiting period to deal with.  Then come back with roundup to kill the small grain cover closer to planting.
  2. Just wait till closer to planting and match up the variety to the auxin for a once over trip.  If you get withing 10 days of planting, you cannot use Valor with this strategy.
  3. Just use one trip and spray early enough to meet all waiting periods.  You will not have any herbicide concerns, but there will not be much cover if it we have a lot of blowing conditions after emergence.

In-Furrow & Seed Treatment Review.

Dr. Sally Taylor put in a good reminder for us on her blog about how the formulation for Velum has changed this year.  Basically, Velum used to have premixed imidacloprid (AdmirePro) in it called Velum Total and controlled nematodes and thrips.  The new formulation is just Velum as a single ingredient, and we will have to add imidacloprid to the tank for thrips (i.e., Velum is not a stand-alone product).  This is a good thing for me because it did not have quite enough imidacloprid to give us the 9.2 ounces for Cotton.  More farmers are also adding AgLogic back to their program and some of the companies offer us a 2-Way seed treatment as well as Base and 3-way.  5 years ago, everybody just used 3-Way treated seed on every acre, but now there are at least 6 different programs that make sense.  I thought I would summarize how I see putting these options together, hopefully to remove some confusion.
There are 3 options to consider when ordering seed.

  • 3-Way ($85-$100/bag) is the most popular for folks who use nothing else in furrow.  This offers fungicide, insecticide, and a low performance nematicide. (in-furrow nematicides are high performance)
  • 2-Way ($35-$40/bag) or Standard has been offered by Deltapine for 2 years and is catching on for folks who do not find a benefit from using the weak low effective nematicide or have nematode genes in their variety.  There is a little room for research on this $10/acre decision.  Retail outlets that treat seed locally can also make a 2-way treatment for any manufacturer.
  • 1-way ($0) or Base seed is only treated with fungicide.  It is what we used to use back in the day with Temik and works well for folks using in-furrow liquid or AgLogic.
A couple of questions could be:
  • What is the best program?  I think the best was Temik and now is AgLogic on base seed.  Lasts longest, best on thrips and nematodes, better cotton grow-off, higher yield and probably won’t need any Orthene so your first spray will be driven by weed control.  A close second is in-furrow imidacloprid with Velum as an optional addition. Also 3-way treated with timely Orthene will be a close second.
  • Should I still use treated seed if I am using imidacloprid in furrow?  In my opinion, imidacloprid in furrow on base seed is better than seed treatment only because it lasts longer.  If I had not ordered seed yet, I would be comfortable with base seed and save some money for Velum if I had a nematode concern.  If I had treated seed already, I would use in-furrow imidacloprid if I thought I might have trouble getting back with Orthene at 1st true leaf.
  • If I only have one set of tanks, would starter fertilizer be better or in-furrow liquid?  I would call this a coin toss; they both help with healthy grow off and can have a beneficial impact often and yield advantage sometimes.

Burndown Blog.  Much more flexibility.

The forecast this week calls for some rain again, although, we seem to be moving into more typical weather for the time of year.  After some rain on Tuesday and again at the end of the week, we are supposed to see a good week next week to continue to get those winter and early spring jobs caught up.  I think the first thing we are going to face that might be changing a little bit will be how we tie in burndown programs and preemergence programs for managing weeds.  One rule that we have for cotton is to start clean, meaning that you do not want any living (uncontrollable) weeds in the field prior to cotton emergence.  What has changed is the auxin technology on our seed offers us the opportunity to delay or eliminate some of the more aggressive burndown programs that we used to do such as splitting burndown trips to get the resistant horse weed early with 2,4-D along with using a high rate of Valor to keep them from coming back.  The label said to apply 2,4-D a month before planting so we did not hurt the cotton (although we learned that we could cheat a little bit on that interval without adding risk).  Some folks would split apply burndown because we did not want to kill all the cover so early that there was nothing left at planting time to protect us from sandstorms.  Now with Enlist (24D burndown) and Xtend (dicamba burndown) varieties, there is no waiting interval before planting so its safe to delay burndown till much closer to planting.  This delay also offers some flexibility on the Valor use which can be eliminated if you are planning on going behind the planter with some Reflex or Cotoran when you are planting close to burndown timing.  For folks using non-auxin varieties (ST4550 & ST5471 are the main two) I would stick to the older approach of earlier burndown of dicamba a couple weeks before planting.  Valor will still make sense for this strategy to keep it clean.  If splitting this trip, go out with dicamba/Valor early and come back with Roundup or Liberty.  I would probably pick Roundup for the burndown cleaning up grass and save the Liberty for the first trip after emergence.  I also do not like mixing Roundup with Liberty because there is so much antagonism with the Roundup greatly reducing its benefit.  

Don't forget that if you use 2,4-D and plant Xtend, then you still have the waiting period jsut like with 4550. Dicamba is a little more forgiving with the waiting interval when used before 4550 or enlist varieties and better (although slower) on horseweed.

FSA & Insurance Office - PLC or ARC or STAX What makes the most sense? 

The reason we can say it is all good with cotton is because if the bad thing happens, the safety net/farm program makes it a good thing anyway.  The decision of how to participate in the farm program for 2021 is not as cut and dry as it has been for the last several years.  But it is not that hard either.  First the easy part is that peanut base still looks like a PLC no brainer and Soybeans will be ARC since the reference price is a good bit lower than historical prices.  Cotton is the one that might need looking at more intensely.  There are three options: PLC, ARC, or STAX. 

  • If your farm does not have any base, or just a little bit of base on that has a good amount of cotton, you should sign up for STAX for a safety net.  You cannot sign up for PLC or ARC on a farm that has STAX, but STAX essentially offers a similar floor for farms with little to no base at between $700 and $800 per acre depending on which county.  STAX signup is at the insurance office.  STAX calculations also line up better with the crop year with price discovery occurring during harvest.  PLC price discovery occurs during the winter and spring of the following year.  
  • For farms with a base similar to or greater than the acreage of cotton that will be planted on them, the decision is between PLC and ARC.  Signup for these programs is at the FSA office.  PLC is what we have been doing which has a specific yield per farm that does not change and triggers on the reference price for seed cotton (price of lint plus seed).  This is part of what turned 2019 and 2020 into the good thing in the end.  This year ARC looks better than it did before because both price and yield have been increasing from 10 years ago which is when PLC yield was determined.   One way ARC differs from PLC in that it is a revenue trigger (price and/or Yield), while PLC has a price only trigger.  Also for PLC, the support level does not change where ARC follows recent history.  I like ARC a lot for 2021 and some farms could benefit from switching, but PLC can still make sense in some scenarios.  Plus, if prices and yield stay good, neither will pay.  
  • By County, this is the Revenue floor projected in 2021 for ARC after the 86% is applied:
    • Southampton - $809, IOW - $774, Surry - $713, Sussex - $732, Suffolk - $703
  • PLC payments are specific for farm and not county when there is a price trigger.  Operations with high farm yield relative to the county might see more value to the PLC system.
  • Be sure and let both FSA and Insurance no what you are doing and in some cases, you could have some farms in a cotton base program and other farms in a STAX program.  Both agencies need to know.

It is all about risk management.  Booking cotton is a good way to manage price risk.  Not booking might be risky but we can hedge some of this risk with insurance and the farm program decisions above which are low cost to no cost hedges.  Options are an expensive way to manage this risk, so I like spending some time looking at these Farm Program and Insurance options which are much cheaper.  
In Summary, people that do not book very much, or people that only insure in the 70% range could look at the STAX, PLC, ARC decision differently than people who insure at higher levels or book a high percentage.

Weed decisions match up with Variety Choice

Making pre-season management decisions for cotton with regards to weeds requires consideration of variety, herbicide choices, location of other plants, crops and trees that could be sensitive to some products, and just overall trip management planning purposes.  All our varieties are tolerant to both Liberty applications and Roundup and similar response to residual herbicides.  Here are some points to consider when picking fields or making herbicide plans.

  • If Palmer is your target weed for management, dicamba has been good when sprayed with Roundup.  24-D has not been quite as good.  Therefore in Enlist systems with palmer, better control is observed if you mix Liberty with Enlist One than using Roundup with Enlist one or Duo.
  • One point to consider could be tank mix partners when using Liberty on Extend varieties (Delta Pine, NexGen, and Dynagrow and some Stoneville).  See the label for tank-mix partners.  Mixing Dual with Liberty on Extend varieties does cause significantly more leaf scorch on Extend varieties than it does on Phytogen or Liberty Link Stoneville (4550 or 5471)
  • Using either Cotoran or Reflex behind the planter is desirable for all cotton systems.  However, when using non-auxin varieties (basically ST 4550 & 5471) using Cotoran or Reflex preemergence is a must if you have palmer.  It is also a big help if you have ragweed but not as critical.
  • You already know, but keep in mind that non-Extend soybeans and peanuts have more sensitivity to Dicamba drift and non-Enlist Cotton has more sensitivity to 2,4-D drift.
  • Use an Auxin plus Roundup or Liberty for your first post weed trip (usually the thrips spray time).  Do not use Roundup by itself first if the field has any resistant weeds.

Some Fertilizer Prices Spiking - Some Adjustments Make Sense

Some of the ingredients we use for fertilizing our crops are on a price roll just like the commodities we plant.  For cotton, we have some options that will insulate us from this.  Some good news is that potassium and some of the nitrogen sources have not changed much at this point.  One of the ingredients going high is Urea for nitrogen blends and is currently over 50 cent per unit compared to 44 cents for liquid.  Urea used to be the economical ‘N’ ingredient, but this year it is one of the highest.  Urea is also the most environmentally sensitive ingredient that we use, plus we also spend money on safeners which adds more cost.  I think last year, even with the safeners we lost some urea nitrogen where there was no rainfall longer than 10 to 14 days after application.  The other ingredient is phosphorus and the price on that is even more extreme at 63 cents currently.  This is a problem for crops like the grains and produce, but not so much for cotton which is planted in warm soil compared to corn and wheat that spend a good amount of time in cool soil.  At least cotton also does not need much P and our soils are charged with residual P levels that give us a lot of wiggle room in any given year.  In fact, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, they say our soils have too much P.  Banded phosphorus (starter fertilizer) has a strong efficiency coefficient that allows for rate reduction.  Dr. Frame did Phosphorus research in Southampton county in 2019 and got no yield response from adding phosphorus on LOW P soils, so we can definately have confidence on soils testing in the medium levels or better.  Organic animal waste is super charged with P and builds P.

My fertility recommendations are going to use these points to make some low-risk fertility adjustments this year that account for these facts.   I am excited about the 2021 cotton success. 

Price Surge is a Game Changer. (edited 2/19)

With the way the ground and the forecast are, we have more time to sit at the computer or with a piece of paper and pencil and to some figuring.  The recent price moves in the commodity market appear to be a game changer in our analysis.  When I put in the prices today verses last month a couple of things are standing out.  One is that the commodities are no longer equal in net profit with average yields.  At current prices, profit from 1000-pound cotton equals 4400 pound peanuts.  Here are ideas ideas to think about that we might not have thought of a month ago:

  • Being able to lock in cotton in the 70’s takes care of a lot of market risk, however, locking in cotton in the 80’s prior to planting is a game changer as far as creating financial wholeness.  (Commonwealth Gin's contract is rated amoung the best in the region for allowing for premiums in good years, however in bad years, it shines offering the ‘ups’ on off color cotton that you get from long staple.)   
  • The current run of cotton futures in the 80’s will also manage a lot of risk by locking in a strong insurance safety net.  This price run could not come at a better time.  It essentially creates a profitable floor for price and/or yield loss and if we get a bad year (hopefully not), nothing will touch cotton. 
  • Over the years I have provided intensive management budget side by side with a base line budget.  Anytime cotton is in the 70’s or lower, the base line production system provides the most opportunity for profit.  However, as we move through 80 cents, the more intensive cotton management system shows more profit.  I am sure that I will share some thoughts of how intensively managed cotton can add income, but also expose some potential risks.  Management strategies need tweaking because when you change one input, it changes the characteristics of cotton growth and other aspects of cotton production.   
  • Take some time on these rainy days to consider a knifing/injection rig for Cotton which will allow you to either use less nitrogen or increase nitrogen performance without using more.  These rigs are like a turbo boost on your engine.  This is an offensive strategy
  • Consider in-furrow AgLogic (Temik), AdmirePro only, or Velum plus AdmirePro as a premium pest management tool at planting.  The primary advantage of the premium products is longer protection, and AgLogic provides overall yield advantage.  These 3 premium in-furrow options take pest management to the next level and allow for going back to base seed like we did in the Temik days.  Another option to consider is two-way seed treatments for less than half the cost of a three-way treatment to help offset costs of these premium options.  The push for this decision is because we not only have a variety decision but also a seed treatment decision.  Keep in mind that base treated seed still has the fungicide benefit.  This is an offensive strategy
  • Take a look at wider rows particularly if you are in 30's.  Yields are better and costs are lower and cotton is more forgiving of wet or dry weather events.  36 all the way to 42" is common in the south.  Wider rows are defensive, not really adding to yield but reducing loss and cost.

Cotton Budget and Big Ticket Items.

The cotton Budget is on our web page.  Click here:
I have a dryland budget that represents the best management practices for us.  I added a high input budget for folks that like adding extra inputs.  Some researchers call this ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at cotton.  I have also added a “cutting the corners’ budget.  Both using extra inputs or cutting corners does not improve cotton profitability over the base budget although if we have an exceptional yield or unique challenges, there could be some additional inputs that improve profitability.  On-the-other-hand, in a low production season, the cut-the-corner budget lowers your break even yield.  Certainly, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The proper use of this budget is to compare your expenses and use it as a tool to ask questions.  Your budget needs to have your numbers. 
Here are some big budget items that I do not have a good hold on compared to you, but I do have some input.
Labor vs Equipment is one of those areas where various operations have either more people resources or equipment resources and it is not uncommon for those to offset.  I tend to just try to be in the middle of both for budgeting purposes.  I do think that this is easier to calculate for labor as it is a direct expense.  The equipment side is a bit trickier due to equity and depreciation.  I usually figure that equipment costs are close to land costs.  The cost of running the equipment is in the variable cost side of the budget.
Land value can be all over the board.  Perhaps the most expensive and rewarding part of farming.  There is value to the security of safety nets that goes with the land.  There is also varying productivity of soils.  There is also productivity outside of the land based on management decisions.  I don’t mean to meddle in the affairs of wizards, but it is essential for us to be on our game and maintain better than average total farm income.  That usually means a high amount of cotton and peanuts which have offered us a generation of stability.  Cotton is probably the leader because it can hit more acres.  Profitability and land value has been helped by cotton by building base and who knows what the future holds.  Peanut money is good money on its acre, but acreage is limited by the rotation requirement.  I am not sure we will maintain bases of crops we don’t plant, but it is a crazy world, and who knows.
Thriving into the future is the name of the game and half of profitability is budgeting.  The other key is productivity of your personal operation. That is where I have seen Commonwealth Gin folks thrive by making better yields (averaging above the state yield) with arguably the most stable commodity for our region.  I am excited and honored to be on your team to help with enhancing farm profits, and I am stoked on the future success of agriculture.  This is going to be a fun year.


It Ain't Over Yet...  

There is likely 7,000 to 10,000 acres of cotton remaining in the field along with beans and spots of corn and peanuts that we cannot find a long enough dry spell to get at this point in time.  Nevertheless, time waits for no man.  While about half of us still have some work to do to finish up with 2020, all of us have to start looking at what 2021 might look like for our farming operations.  One huge difference for last year is found in the commodity markets.  The price of everything we plant is higher than last year.  So maybe 2021 will be the year we have been expecting for a while where all the commodities compete for acres.  Keep in mind that 2020 was setting up for acreage competition last January, only we know how that played out.  It was amazing how the defensive programs and safety nets kicked in when everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong and yet, we are here.  We really are not expecting the POP, PPP,  PLC , CFAP, and MFP to come into play not to mention crop insurance, but there is no doubt these safety nets make a huge difference for us.

That brings me to cotton, and I see a lot of blogs, newsletters, report cards, production strategies, and enterprise analysis to be coming out in the next 3 months.
Cotton was one of the best enterprises for 2020 mainly because of the defensive or safety net payments.  It will be interesting how our region responds in acreage when the rest of the country is cutting back on acres.  If the demand trend continues to increase, then greener pastures are in front of us.

The first job is to tackle variety ideas.  I think the idea that is weighing on my mind is how much we hope to avoid farming conditions that resembles 2020, yet we are going to be tempted to plant about 2 or 3 varieties that have only been tested in 2020 and performed outstanding.  We have always considered planting a variety with only one year or less of data to be quite risky. and perhaps this year, it would be even riskier than ever because the growing conditions from 2020 were extreme, rare and not likely to repeat.  As usually, the bulk of our acreage should come from the 2 and 3 year champions.  Keep one year varieties on low acreage.

The 2021 report card will help sort through this risk in more detail along with identifying the most reliable options for large acreages.


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