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  Blog Archives  09/26/22 8:13:35 AM

A lot of acreage meeting fully mature approaching Round 2 of defoliation on Saturday (edited 9-23 am)
9-22-22
We have had a lot of advancement in the maturity of the cotton crop in the last week.  A lot of cotton is moving into the ready stage at the same time.  Full season varieties planted early, and early season varieties planted right through the middle of May have a lot of examples of being ready.  This represents a large portion of our acreage.  In addition, many of these fields have areas that were delayed early or otherwise have tremendous boll numbers in the top (amazingly) that require a little more time.  After a cool day and with the expectation of cool weather cycling in again next Thursday, I think the best defoliating conditions for cotton over the next 10 days will be this Saturday (9-25) through next Tuesday (9-27).  I think it will be beneficial to take advantage of these conditions to hit and spray fields averaging 4 NACB.  The exception might be medium and later varieties and or planting dates in the second half of May, or if you have no way to get it picked for more than 3 weeks and still have some green spots.  After walking in a lot of fields, I am optimistic about our prospects.  There is almost no hardlock in this crop and that just might be the trick for putting some icing back on the cake.

Premature Defoliation vs Target Maturity
9-20
This early part of cotton defoliation, some farmers want to push defoliation before “all the rules” are met for maturity.  Later, we will get to the question of when some farmers like to drag their feet usually because they are busy with other crops or other priorities.
For the purposes of this blog, I am sticking with the “jumping the gun” question and considering the loss of revenue vs justifications.
The main 2 targets (or rules) I use are 4 nodes above or 65% open bolls.  I only use the boll cutting method to confirm if I am waiting that I am actually waiting on a good boll with developed seed and not a junky water boll.
Bolls move about 2 positions or about 15% open every week with typical fall conditions. 
If the field is at 6 NACB and around 50% open, yield will improve about 7 – 10 % in a week to reach the target maturity.
If a field is at 8 NACB which should correlate with about 35% open, then the yield will improve 15 – 20% by waiting two weeks to reach target maturity. 
Quality also improves through maximizing micronaire, and improving leaf drop (a mature crop defoliates more cleanly)
There is also some evidence that the early, high yielding cotton responds more predictably and can even benefit with higher yield by getting closer to 80% open if it has 10 or more nodes with bolls.  Late cotton maximizes yield closer to 60% open likely due to the lower heat that comes to improve things in October.  In other words Waiting assumes plenty more warm days follow the wait.
 
Premature defoliation does not get a picker in the field very much sooner (although perhaps a few days quicker) because the immature bolls will still open slow compared to letting them mature more.
However perhaps premature defoliation can be desirable when other priorities or unforeseen events (like unpredicted weather) will prevent timely defoliation later.
 
Bottom line if you are chasing the maximum yield whenever you defoliate, use high boll opener rates because opening those last bolls will pay for the couple of bucks extra in cost.  Then wait for it all to open. 
 
Typical boll opening speed by positions after defoliation:

NACB Warm Days to open
3 7-10
5 12-14
6 15-17
7 18-21


Last Week Of Summer Temperature
9-19
Temperatures will exhibit summer like conditions this week until a front arrives on Thursday evening.  We could even see a nighttime temperature in the 40’s Saturday morning.  Looking out to the long-term forecast there is still no indication of significant rain although nobody would be surprised to see a sprinkle come from the cold front on Thursday evening.  It’s just nothing to get excited about.  After a coolish weekend, next week looks like a lot more sun and temperatures up to about 80 which might represent the end of hot weather.  As we move forward, a lot of folks are finishing up with corn.  And peanut harvesting is well underway.  Cotton will also reach a nice stage of advancement during the remainder of September.  We are moving past the heat unit benchmark everywhere except the coolest areas.  The fields that are holding better yield prospects as well as varieties that don’t set a low crop still need this whole week to get closer to full maturity, but a lot of early planted fast maturing varieties are reaching 4 nodes above cracked boll this week allowing some early defoliation.  We should see hundreds of acres sprayed this week, but it will be next week before we can defoliate thousands of acres.  We are tracking 8 days behind 2019 in Terms of Heat Units at the Research Station.


Late Season Observations
9-16

  • Boll Load looks good on most varieties.  Should be plenty of facebook pictures of more than a dozen varieties that will do over 3 bales. 
  • Lodging without wind (411, 3195)
  • Earliest & fastest maturing (360, 3195, 4550)
  • Rampant sometimes unstoppable growth in bottoms or random big plants on light land / dry areas when pix is minimal.  Also, when pix applications are late (cotton reaches 30 inches prior to bloom with no pix) or delayed until after bloom begins (2038, 1646).  This condition on these indeterminant varieties is causing us to have to wait on some early planted fields.  Although the wait should pay off.  Still only mid-September.

 
Preharvest Variety Expectations:

Company Favorites Hopeful disappointment
Deltapine 1646,2038, 2115, 2012/2020 ThryvOn, 2239 2115 early vigor?
NexGen 3195 3299 3195 lodging?
Phytogen 360 & 400 411 (lodging?)  
Stoneville 4550, 5091, 4990 4595


Maturity Assessment - About 8 days behind 2019 in heat units

9-15-22
SUMMARY - This week we are hitting the 2100 heat unit mark for cotton planted on May 1.  In 2019, it was September 6.  Middle of September is not offering many fields that are ready, only a few.  Otherwise this crop has a lot in common with 2019.  Look at your records to see when you started defoliating that year.

In last several days, I have observed that 2100 DD60’s is not getting the average cotton ready for defoliation.  Even on some early planting dates, the bottom land or fields overall that are holding higher yield are staying green and there is nothing white coming up in the top yet.  Variety could be another variable and overall, it looks like another 7 to 10 days will improve the speed of defoliation and the yield as we get those green areas to meeting the 4 nodes above cracked boll rule and having a better color change.  Only a scattering of fields is looking ready, and the characteristics of these fields includes seeing white across the tops, golden or reddish leaves or even heavy natural defoliation, early planting dates, early maturing varieties, and season long dry conditions.  At this point, the take home message is patience.  If 25% or more of the field had the green still in them or even a more cutout look, but no white getting up high in the plants, then you are making money by waiting.  I think if you hit 6 nodes above cracked boll, then wait another 5 to 7 days.  Then use the highest boll opener rates.  Getting cotton mature will get the picker in the field as fast premature defoliation plus the cotton will weigh better.  It is easier and faster to open more mature bolls.  Seems like on the average in these warm conditions it will take only 10 days to open a mature bolls 3 or 4 NACB (Nodes Above Cracked Boll).  But closer to 2.5 weeks to open when you have 6 NACB

2022 Defoliation Ideas
2022 dry conditions are causing heavy natural defoliation.  Excellent defoliation without busting the bank is expected in favorable weather.  If temperature is warm and wash off is minimal, stay heavier with Dropp and lighter with Folex/Def to reduce leaf stick.  If you have leaves stuck or clean defoliation, our precision ginning system makes adjustments.  NO CHARGE FOR INTELLIGIN.
Defoliation timing impact on Micronaire
Timely defoliation maintains micronaire.  The top bolls have the lower micronaire.  Delaying defoliation allows micronaire to increase with higher risks of deductions particularly with no top crop.  If you defoliate too early, you also may not open the top bolls resulting in picking with closed bolls and higher micronaire.
 
Top recommendations for defoliation-Temps in the 80’s:

  1. 2-3 pt. Prep + 3.2-4.8 oz. Dropp + 3-6 oz Def - $15-18 (very Good).  Rain sensitive.
    • More Prep or Dropp improves performance in warm sunny conditions
    • More Def improves performance in milder, cooler, drought, or with afternoon wash-off.
  2. 1 qt. Finish + 1.6 - 2 oz Dropp + 2-4 oz. Def - $20-23 (Better if weather questions).  Needs less time before rain, less sensitive to environmental conditions.  Def optional unless weather is questionable.  Add extra Prep or increase Finish rate for faster boll opening.
Tweaks:
  • Mild temps (mid 70’s) - Use the higher end of the range for Def and lower end for Dropp
  • Hot (upper 80’s to 90) – Use low end of the range on Def with Prep and leave it out of Finish
  • Faster picking desired - add more Prep (do not precondition)
  • Harvest Delays possible – increase Dropp by 25% and reduce Def by 25%
Preconditioning with Prep is RARELY better. (mainly for Pre-Freeze on late cotton):
  • Does not seem to get the picker in the field quicker.  If the field is almost ready to defoliate, the fastest way to get the top bolls open is to delay defoliation and let them mature.  Then just add the extra prep into the defoliation recipe as described above for faster picking on more mature cotton.
  • it costs more by adding trips and possibly knocking out more cotton.
  • It does improve overall defoliation if you wait.
  • It can safen late cotton if you expect a freeze within a week when the cotton needs more time to mature.
Herbicide Products (Good Defoliation):
These products are desirable for areas that are sensitive to the odor of Def. as a substitution for the Def and still provide good defoliation in the tank mixes listed above.  Some require adjuvants so check labels.    
  6 oz Def equivalent 16 oz. Def equivalent
Resource 1.5 oz. 4 oz.
Aim 0.4 oz. 1 oz.
ET 0.75 oz. 2 oz.
Display 0.25 oz. 0.67 oz.
Ginstar (see below) 5 oz.  +  1.25 oz. 12 oz. + 3 oz.

Ginstar:  Has the two ingredients Diuron plus Dropp.  Table shows the Def + Dropp equivalent
Adjuvants, nozzles, volume:  Oils increase penetration of cuticle and provide quicker kill and increase leaf stick risk.  Only use oil based on Herbicide label; Surfactants improve low volume coverage.  Use nozzles that provide excellent coverage (low drift, large droplet nozzles used for auxin herbicides are not good). 20 gpa.

Cotton Maturity Projections
8-29
This week, I will begin to prepare a table to simplify efforts to track when to begin checking fields for maturity based on heat units and weather.
As of today's date, the most advanced cotton will be north of 460 with Waverly reporting 1900 DD-60's.  This is probably because this area had a better planting season with less clouds and more rainfall.  It started out of the gate with a 33 to 150 point advantage over other areas.  The DD-60 count started on May 1, so cotton planted in April has more.  Cotton planted around May 15 or earlier is only about 3 days behind early May.  I'll have a table on here by Labor Day week to track all of this, but for now, our target of 2100 DD-60's to start looking will be around Monday September 12th for the earliest planted, warmest, and sandiest fields.   I think we will have some fields ready that week after Labor Day week.  What might make us wait longer depends on how much top crop these early fields have, so we need to look. 

Mature Cotton moving back into a Lull

8-15-22
The middle of August is representing the point where more than half the cotton is blooming out.  Back in the day before global warming, we used to say August 15 was the last effective bloom date.  In those days, we also said that you needed to dig all your peanuts and defoliate all your cotton on October first.  That is not the way we do it now.  Generally, we don’t have any risk waiting until the middle of October to defoliate which also means that a bloom the second half of August can make a mature boll by the second half of October.  Only this year, the fields that will be blooming late will be the cotton that was planted late.  Based on heat units, cotton maturity is a week ahead of last year and right about average for the last decade. I am seeing all the early planted cotton and most of the middle planting window begin to bloom out and cotton is safe.  Many of these earliest fields have a chance of being ready for defoliation in September depending on heat over the next 45 days.  As for now, the cotton planted the second half of May that has not been sprayed for two weeks probably needs looking at.

The respray decision is like a three-legged stool
8-10-22
The majority if not all the cotton has been sprayed in the last two weeks for insects.  Cotton that was last sprayed in July is getting on our minds again about the benefit of another trip.  Cotton that wasn’t sprayed until last week probably will generally be ok until next week.  The bottom line is that the ultimate decision to treat or to respray is based on 3 risk factors, or possibly safe factors that we need to consider.

  1. Does the last spray still have some residual activity in the field?  We sort of consider 14 days’ worth of residual benefit from an application of a pyrethroid like Bifenthrin plus Acephate, or about 7 to 10 days from acephate alone.  If it is dry, this benefit lasts longer and if it is raining a lot, the residual benefit is reduced. 
  2. Is the crop susceptible to damage?  Cotton’s most susceptible stage to insect damage is during the 3rd through the 5th week of bloom.  The first spray often occurs during the second or third week of bloom so the respray decision is often protecting the upper bolls.  Cotton planted in the early window is in the 6th week of bloom and yield reductions are less likely even if a few bugs are present.  Although heavy infestations on cotton with a lot of marble sized bolls can still benefit.  The late planting window is very susceptible to damage and the middle planting window is a mix but is generally in the 5th week of bloom currently.
  3. Are insects re-infesting the field?  Current scouting efforts are not finding much in the fields unless they haven’t been sprayed in August.  Next week as we get further from the last spray, we might find an increase.  Some folks just assume they will return if the plant is healthy.  And that is a good assumption on a high yielding crop with good soil moisture that meets the first two reinfestation criteria above.

For general scheduling, I think the early cotton that was sprayed less than 14 days ago has gotten pretty safe and therefore lower risk, and the late cotton or cotton with 5 or more nodes above white bloom and good soil moisture will maintain a lot of susceptibility for a couple more weeks.

Big Insect, 2nd through 6th week of bloom.
At the beginning of the third week to the end of the 5th week is the most important period to protect cotton bolls against insects.  At the end of the 5th week of bloom, the likelihood of significant insect damage is low.  6th week of bloom treatments are worth considering only with good conditions for top crop to develop along with heavy insect pressure.
 
3-Bt Gene varieties
I am seeing several strategies that make sense for 2022 for 3-Bt Gene varieties depending what you have already done. 

  1. Scout and treat at threshold.  10% boll damage is a significant component for threshold.  Plant bug is 2 per black sheet shake, although just finding extremely small nymphs alone have a hard time causing boll damage.  This season most fields have been at threshold at least once either early or now, but most fields will be developing threshold again soon.  Acephate alone prior to the major Moth flight.  8 ounces for plant bugs usually takes care of the issues early (like second week of bloom).  Once the big insect event gets larger and stinkbugs and CEW moths become more significant adding Bifenthrin and acephate is going to give the broader control and lasting benefit.
  2. Where AdmirePro was used pre-bloom, I am finding less than where nothing has ever been applied but it is just borderline threshold, a little above or a little below.  Usually by the end of second week of bloom, some fields will need looking at and likely treating.
  3. Where Transform was used at early bloom, I am not picking up thresholds yet.  IT seems likely that this product can hold us till the older philosophy of spraying the third week of bloom with Acephate plus Bifen.
 
2-Bt Gene DP 1646
This old favorite is still planted on close to 25% of the acreage.  It is susceptible to worms and relies on a lot of beneficial insects prior to the major moth flight and the premium worm product after the moth flight begins to maintain low to no worm damage.  DO NOT USE ACEPHATE ALONE in DP 1646 just prior the major moth flight.  After the moth flight begins along with egg laying, use Prevathon, Vantacor, Besiege (has low Karate rate), or Elevest (has bifenthrin) which have the premium worm material.  This will provide similar results as 3-Bt gene cotton.  Add acephate for Stinkbug or plant bug improvement.
Premium Worm Product use:
Here are the equivalent rates.  Use the Med-high rate on younger cotton that has been blooming less than 3 weeks and/or when the moth flight is expected to be heavy and long lasting.  Use the lower rate on earlier planted cotton and lower moth flights.
 
Product Active ingredient Med-high Rate Low rate
Prevathon 0.43 20 oz 16 oz.
Vantacor 5.0 1.72 oz. 1.38 oz.
Besiege 0.835 10.3 oz. 8.2 oz.
Elevest 0.89 9.6 oz. 7.7 oz.


Questions about Respraying and Late season Growth Management
8-3-22
In light of the trip being made across cotton to clean up the ongoing insect invasion, one of the common questions that comes up is about growth management.  Another question being asked is about whether this will be the last spray for a field or whether it will need another trip.  The answer to both questions can be generally determined by the what the canopy of the cotton crop looks while making this current trip.  In general, when you can see the blooms up in the top of the plant, it tells you there should be a strong boll load that has already bloomed, and you are protecting the vast majority of the bolls you’ll harvest.  In addition, it tells you that the plant has reached it’s final height.  Even if it grows a few more inches, it will shrink that much by September.  We still tend to put a little pix in it to take care of bottoms or areas with doubled up nitrogen.  On-the-other-hand, much of our cotton has blooms lower in the canopy.  When you can’t see blooms in the top, you are probably more than 6 nodes above white bloom and the cotton can still grow.  Adding a pint of pix with moist soil keeps cotton with lower blooms in check.  There is also a greater probability that cotton that is not blooming out of the top on this trip will need another protective insect trip compared to cotton that is blooming out the top.  Basically, it will be the early planted cotton that is blooming out the top.


7-26
Pix Recommendation
Planting period is an indication of when it will bloom.  Assumes good land and good moisture.  Increase rates for more aggressive growing conditions and inputs.  Decrease or delay for dry conditions or light soil.  If you have made an application less than these rates, just subtract out what you applied from these totals.

Planting Period 20 - 26” 27-29” 30-34” 35-39
April 0 0 0 0
May 1 - 14 0 0 0 8-12 oz.
May 15 - 22 0 oz. 0 oz. 8-12 oz. 16 oz.
May 25 0 oz. 0-8 oz. 8-12 oz. 16-24 oz.

 
Pix application for second or later applications
Once cotton has bloomed for two weeks or longer, we are getting past pix benefits.  I did shrink some cotton by one inch with 36 ounces last week that had gotten 48 inches with no pix.  Second application is made as row middles come together during first 10 days of bloom.  If the middles do not close during first 10 days of bloom, then delay pix.
If you were late on first trip, or had a wash off, then a second application within about a week is likely when soil moisture is good. 
Aggressive approaches are recommended for the late planting dates or replants when soil moisture is good.
Cotton heights during the third week of bloom of 36 to 45 inches is desirable.  Its getting a boll load by this point that should start holding it.  If your cotton gets bigger than you like, consider starting earlier.  Using high rates late is a good indication that the first shot should have been quicker.



The July Insect 'LULL'
7-19-22
Every year certainly has unique qualities.  This year has shown up a little bit like an old friend.  It reminds me how it used to be several years ago when we used to call early bloom period for cotton a lull.  This lull was predominantly related to the lack of insects in cotton fields.  It was characterized by very high numbers of squares in the cotton, a few blooms July 4th weekend but the average first blooms were closer to July 10.  The big insect event was focused on when corn began to dry down and bugs would move from the corn fields to the cotton fields.  This would also be the time that the big moth flight would begin which was the most visual indication that it was time for a trip in the cotton fields.  Of course, now in 2022, we have gotten more sophisticated about checking for plant bugs and that dynamic causes some preventative type of insecticide applications; nevertheless, as I walk through fields this year, there has been a lack in dirty blooms and abundance of squares.  This will change soon and is becoming evident as we use the black sheets in blooming cotton to check for bugs.  Cotton that began blooming during the fourth of July is officially beginning it’s third week of bloom; however, next week will be the third week of bloom for that mid-May planted crop.  The late May cotton has not started blooming yet, so the management of insects will vary.


7-20
Pix Recommendation Update
Planting period is an indication of when it will bloom.  Assumes good land and good moisture.  Increase rates for more aggressive growing conditions and inputs.  Decrease or delay for dry conditions or light soil.  If you have made an application less than these rates, just subtract out what you applied from these totals.

Planting Period 20 - 26” 27-29” 30-34” 35-39
April 0 0 0-8 16 oz.
May 1 - 14 0 0 8-12 16 oz.
May 15 - 22 0-4 oz. 4-8 oz. 16 oz. 24 oz.
May 25 8 oz. 12 oz. 16-20 oz. 1 quart

 
Pix application for second application
Second application is made as row middles come together during first 10 days of bloom.  If the middles do not close during first 10 days of bloom, then delay pix.
If you were late on first trip, or had a wash off, then a second application within about a week is likely when soil moisture is good. 
Aggressive approaches are recommended for the late planting dates or replants.

Mid-Season Managment - Insects focus shifting, Growth, and leaching.
7-14-22
Insect Management after bloom
.  Once we keep greater than 80% square retention early, the focus turns to boll damage and monitoring for stinkbug and worms as well.  Once we find a bloom and squares are loaded, then we should begin to increase our insect focus more towards 2nd or 3rd week of bloom.  REMEMBER – the goal is not to keep bugs out of the field, but to keep squares at 80% prior to bloom and bolls from getting damaged after bloom.  We can live with a few bugs.
UP TILL NOW – This year has been less pressure than last.  Obviously more spraying is occurring by folks that schedule a spray automatically for prevention.  The big event will be when corn dries, and cotton reaches 3rd-5th week of bloom.  I am expecting this to be a heavy stinkbug year.  It seems like when the early part of the season has good moisture, plant bugs are heavier and when it is dry, stinkbugs are heavier.  With the early and middle planted cotton, basically we have mostly done what we are going to do with the AdmirePro and Transform and now it is a waiting game for that week 2-5 boll protection strategy primarily with Acephate and then Acephate + Bifenthrin once moth flight begins.  Some of the latest cotton that is not yet blooming or just beginning to bloom could be scouted and respond appropriately with AdmirePro or Transform.  On late cotton, if you cannot get Transform at first bloom and your pressure is below threshold with good square retention, you will be able to wait for acephate.
 
Growth Management.  The early trips matter the most. Ground is wet in most places

  • The first window of application is prior to bloom using 8 to 12 ounces from 22-inch cotton to 27 inches.
  • If it is your second trip and you have some blooms, then use 8 to 12 ounces on 30-to-36-inch cotton.
  •  If you miss this window or your cotton just went crazy and got 30 inches before you could get too it, then just add the first and second trip together for about a pint on 30” or 24 oz. on 34-inch cotton.  HIT IT HARD if the ground is moist and you are late.
  • Do everything possible to get some pix on before the rows meet at prebloom or early bloom
I am seeing some blooming 26"-28" with dry ground that does not need any pix.
 
Fertility
Most of the fertility strategies are done by first bloom except boron.  Two things come to mind:
  1. If you did not put boron in the Layby Nitrogen, then foliar Boron is needed at early bloom.  The longtime recommendation is for a half pound but get at least a quarter pound on.  Product name doesn’t matter, only the % boron. 
  2. Any rain over 3 inches that moves through the soil profile can leach nitrogen on light soils with clay very deep.   We usually have a little cushion, but some areas have had much more rain.  In my experience, it you’ve had leaching, you need plant food on the ground within the first couple weeks of bloom, not on the leaves.  Even if you spray it on with 15-20 pounds of urea, the root uptake is what helps.  Foliar feeding with a small rate has been unsuccessful for correcting leaching.  Fertilizing after third week of bloom is likely more harmful than helpful.


Pix Recommendation for first application July 12 to July 15
7-12-2022
Planting period is an indication of when it will bloom.  Assumes good land and good moisture.  Increase rates for more aggressive growing conditions and inputs.  Decrease or delay for dry conditions or light soil.  

Planting Period 20-24” 24-28” 28-32”
April 0oz. 0 oz. 8 oz.
May 1 - 14 0 oz. 8 oz. 12 oz.
May 15 - 22 4-6 oz. 8-12 oz. 16 oz.
May 25 8 oz. 12 oz. 20

Second application or delayed first application of Pix will occur as canopy exceeds 32-36 inches, coorelating to when the rows are beginning to meet. If cotton reaches this stage with no or few blooms and no pix has been applied then cotton is growing much too fast and is wild, likely heading to 4 feet tall.  Use rates similar to the first application or if no pix has been applied use 20 - 24 ounces if moisture is high.

Pix Recommendation for first application June 28 to July 5
Planting period is an indication of when it will bloom.  Assumes good land and good moisture.  Increase rates for more aggressive growing conditions and inputs.  Decrease or delay for dry conditions or light soil.

Planting Period 20” 24” 28”
April 0-4 oz. 6 - 8 oz. 12 oz.
May 1 - 14 4 – 5 oz. 8 oz. 14 oz.
May 15 - 22 6 oz. 10 oz. 16 oz.
May 25 8 oz. Unlikely Not possible




2022 Cotton Growth Management Strategies
6-28
There are as many growth management strategies and pix use philosophies as there are consultants, crop advisors, and farmers.  Pix was registered by BASF in 1980 and after 42 years, it may represent the single most researched input in cotton. 

Being aggressive or passive have both produced successful results but for exactly opposite reasons, and hardly ever in the same season. 
Ultimately any comments that are given as ‘absolutes’ are usually wrong at some point.   Having flexibility is a better virtue for managing cotton growth than having a strong deliberate strategy for every year and every variety.
 
Here are some rules to be able to drive between the lines:

  • Average proper growth rate prior to bloom:  H:N ration = 1.8 (divide height by number of nodes) means your on track.  Apply pix if conditions improve or if you are more than 1.8
  • Never apply pix in dry conditions with stalled out cotton or that is behind on growth rate
  • With average soil moisture and fertility, cotton will grow about 50% more after blooming begins if square retention is 80% or better.
  • First bloom on 24 to 28 inch cotton is about the right size.
  • Don’t try to make a tall growing variety into a short plant with pix.  (If you like short cotton plant varieties that like to be short and still yield well)
  • Prior to bloom, don’t wait until a tall growing variety is over 30 inches before applying first pix.  If it has been blooming for a week, 30 inches is not too tall.
  • Gappy cotton does not get as tall as high population.
 
The following application guidelines are right up the middle and allow for adjustments in a later spray to stay on schedule.  This assumes early moisture and fertility have facilitated cotton reaching 24 inches prior to bloom which favors pix use.
  1. Prior to bloom apply 6-12 ounces of Pix on 24 inch cotton
  2. Second application at early to first week of bloom, after it rains, 7 to 10 days later, more than 7 nodes above white bloom
  3. Third application is needed if cotton passes 42 inches prior to the third week of bloom and more than 5 nodes above white bloom.

Prior conditions that are dry might have the cotton blooming before reaching 24 inches and delaying the above schedule. 
Otherwise, aggressive growing situations (rain, variety, or soil) might have you bump this schedule by a lower rate earlier and on smaller cotton that is really stretching out with few or small squares.
 
Remember you cannot shrink it.  If you already made 2-3 trips, you are fine if you're blooming is high.  If there is extra nitrogen or weather conditions changed dramatically, then monitor closely.

Plant Bug Management, Spray Scheduling, and Scouting
6-22-22
Plant bugs are in the environment before cotton is even planted.  They slowly build and generally reach higher intensity as time passes.  It is the insect that lasts the longest and can do at least some damage for about 6 weeks if they are present.  
 
There are several components to this plant bug management part: 

  1. Scouting/determining insect numbers.  This is not an insect to try and eradicate.  Our goal is to keep the numbers low enough, so yield is not hurt, i.e. below threshold.
    1.  Prior to bloom, the thresholds are 2 bugs per 25 sweeps or 20% square loss.  (Square loss is a bigger deal to me as drought stressed cotton on the early planted cotton benefits from loosing squares like this year.)
    2. After bloom we use a black sheet and the threshold is 2 bugs per shake. 
    3. Also, dirty blooms indicate the presence of plant bugs.  (No specific threshold for dirty bloom but less than 10% is usually below threshold, and more than 20% correlates with thresholds well.  They cause the same spots on bolls and warts on the inside of a boll that stink bugs cause.
  2. Insecticide options based on time of year or crop development
    1. During June and prior to cotton blooming, neonics work in Va.  This is also a time when we do not usually need to treat except in the historical hot spots.  I prefer AdmirePro due to cost, but Centric might be 5% to 10% better.  This year on an early hot spot, I got 90% control with AdmirePro applied June 15 on 8 leaf cotton.  80%, then 65% is common and by the time we get a bloom or when we are finding juveniles, control with AdmirePro drops below 50%.  Then we must switch insecticides.
    2. Transform will be the first spray for most folks just prior to bloom to second week of bloom.  Neonics are ineffective, and we still don’t want to crash beneficial insects with things like Orthene or pyrethroids so Transform fits this window well.
    3. Second through fourth week of bloom is the most critical period to crash plantbug numbers.  8 oz. acephate has been our go-to insecticide during the peak of the season or extremely high numbers.  Adding Bifenthrin makes sense when corn is drying, moth flight & egg laying, and stink bugs are going on.
    4. Bidrin is a replacement for Orthene but is the most poisonous (skull & Crossbones) to people.
    5. Diamond doesn’t kill. Instead, it stops juveniles from developing.  Tank mixed with Transform early or Acephate later, it can extend the control interval by about a week and is useful to reduce total sprays in heavy pressure.  This would be based on scouting information.
  3. Susceptibility of Cotton. 
    1. During squaring prior to bloom, we are mainly focused on square retention.  Loss of squares is not as critical, particularly on early planted cotton as the plant can compensate.  Loosing some of those early squares on drought stressed cotton might be helpful.  In replant situations, the older cotton does not need protecting as much as we have to wait for the replant anyway to start squaring prior to protecting from plant bug.
    2. The second through the fourth week of bloom is the most critical and we have the most yield response from control.
  4. Seasonality and spatiality and environment.  Basically, there are variations
    1. by year (dry areas, light soils with small cotton, and stressed cotton have less pressure)
    2. As the summer progresses, the numbers naturally increase.  In June, typically only find about 10 to 20% of scouted fields reach threshold.  Increases in July are common.  When corn dries down and by August, they are everywhere.
    3. geography (rivers, swamps, ponds, eastern areas have historically had more pressure).
    4. in other vegetation nearby (other flowering plants in spring, or juvenile growing plants like pine seedlings harbor plant bugs.  They also build up in corn)
  5. Making a Spray Schedule if you do not scout focus’ on protecting the cotton at the most sensitive periods.  It should also still have an element of some field survey looking at both the damage and the presence of the plant bug.

The primary two sprays would be after week one of bloom with Transform and then again around week 3 or 4 with Acephate plus Bifenthrin.  If pressure is high, it might take some diamond in with the transform to get a longer interval between sprays. 
The secondary two sprays are either Admire Pro (or Centric if you want 5% to 10% better control) about 2 weeks before bloom or a second acephate spray around week 5 of bloom.  Early cotton is more likely to avoid these secondary sprays because the pressure is usually low during the pre-bloom period, and the cotton cuts out earlier.  Late cotton is a little more sensitive to loss of fruit and has less time to compensate.

Layby Nitrogen, Sulfur, and Boron
6-14-22
The in-season fertility plan is to have all the fertilizer applied by first bloom.  Typically, this involves Nitrogen and Sulfur and Boron.  However, some farming operations apply part or all the potassium in-season as well by either applying it all shortly after planting or splitting it between pre-plant and Lay-by.  What we have done up to this point has an impact on not only the amount of final nitrogen we need, but also the timing as we don’t want all the nitrogen out prior to having squares on the plant.  Here are some ideas to help put a plan together for final nitrogen application.

Total Nitrogen
ON-THE-AVERAGE, the best amount of total nitrogen to maximize yield is 120 pounds. 
However, in my opinion, this can create an intensive management requirement by also stimulating a favorable environment for excessive growth and heavier insect pressure.  Maybe another way to put it, is that lower nitrogen rates make cotton easier to grow and reduce input requirements but also do not allow for the trophy type yields. 
Use less nitrogen if:

  • Highly diversified operations that only have certain weeks that they can deal with cotton and struggle to make an extra trip.
  • Cotton planted after May 25
  • On fields that carry a lot of residual nitrogen with excess growth history
  • Behind rank peanut vines
  • When using animal waste or chicken litter
  • You notice heavy development on low vegetative branches.  A sign of high N
Use more nitrogen or add multiple splits when:
  • Leaching is a concern
  • Early planting is more forgiving of the negatives of too much nitrogen.

Timing:
NORMALLY we make a single shot layby trip, the cotton crop only needs about 20-30 pounds for the first 6 weeks of its life.  Then nitrogen uptake increases quickly.  It needs the rest of the nitrogen (60 to 100 pounds) during the next 6 weeks.  This puts the best timing for the layby application occurring once squares are easily visible on the plants but still a couple of weeks before blooming if you make just one in season application.  This is normally about 6 weeks after planting, 8-11 leaf cotton, or pinhead square (it’s all about the same).  If you are pushing, first square is around 6-7 leaf cotton and this is acceptable but not optimal.
By heat Units – pin-head square is around 575 DD60’s which represents the single split layby timing.  Since May 1 we are 500 to 540 as of June 13. Which is above average
By the Calendar – Shooting for 6 weeks after planting is a close estimate, but this year, maybe a little faster.  Early planted cotton is normally targeted for Mid-June Layby.  There is not much early planted cotton this year that doesn’t have some replants, but it is making squares now.  The middle planting window has the most acres, and the Layby timing should be June 18 to 28.  Late Cotton will not be ready for Layby until the very end of June or early July. 
Multiple Splits just time the nutrient application closer to plant use and can help by spoon feeding on less productive fields that are prone to leaching.  Cotton gets hungry looking after big rains, but yield potential is only so good so rather than just applying high rates to adjust for leaching, adding an extra split keeps it going without breaking the bank.  This looks like 20 pounds at planting, 20 to 30 pounds at 5-leaf, and the final amount closer to bloom at about 12-13 leaf or 3 weeks after first split.
Disadvantage of applying all the nitrogen prior to squaring:  There are multiple problems with this.  In general, the problems of early application are like applying too much.  It can create the rank growth problem requiring more aggressive pix management and more pix trips.  It delays maturity by delaying square development. It makes the cotton a better source of food for plant bugs and increases insecticide requirement.  It also exposes all the nitrogen to loss from leaching at a time when the plant cannot use it.
Materials
AMS – is a great material, very stable, and is miracle grow for that early split or preplant.  You can get all the sulfur for the season with about 100 pounds.  However, it is too expensive to use 100% at Lay-by.  Plus creates more acidity than other nitrogen sources.
UREA – is a more affordable dry but is unstable and the most susceptible to loss.  Therefore, it must have a safener to reduce volatility or ammonia loss.  Blending with AMS offers sulfur if you still need it but does not spread as uniform as the to materials have different density.  AMS slowly breaks down the safener when they stay mixed for long periods.  UREA/AMS blends are my least favorite because of lower consistency.
UAN Liquid - (32, 30, 28S, or 24S) are the sweet spot for price, stability, and yield.  Applied with a knifing or injecting rig 8 inches to the side of cotton offers an efficiency gain allowing you to do the same thing with less nitrogen compared to dry Urea.  This rig also has an availability gain being closer to the plant.  Dribbling in the middle works well also most of the time except on light soil when early rains leached some.  Light land roots grow deep and not very wide until later.  For light land it is better to apply a little AMS early to keep the plant growing when dribbling the liquid later.
Sulfur
The typical requirement is only about 25 pounds, however part of this typically is done in-season as sulfur leaches like Nitrogen on light soil.  An early application of AMS allows for using Pure Urea or 30/32 UAN for final nitrogen.
Boron
Applying ½ pound boron at layby will supply the needs of the crop and is simpler to do.  Foliar B is still a good system as it mixes easy for foliar trips, but sometimes we don’t need the trip prior to bloom but we do need at least part of the boron by first bloom.
 
SUMMARY:
I would feel good about cutting to a total nitrogen rate of 80 to 100 pounds when several of these conditions are met:

  • No leaching of early fertilizer
  • history of rank growth and cotton plants remaining green historically during boll opening
  • Peanut vines from last year uniformly covered the ground
  • Late planting
  • Spoon feeding with multiple nitrogen trips. 



Cotton Chores and Strategies for Early June
6-2-2022

Cotton Development:
Our management strategies should focus on the plant development more than the calendar.  Specifically, if you have planted cotton over a 4-week period, most likely your earliest fields will need the implementation of strategies a couple of weeks before the later cotton.  That includes weed control, Acephate trips, Nitrogen application and the initiation of Pix or plant bug management. 
Thrips
In the normal rainfall areas

  • Seed treatments only need to be treated at first true leaf or about 2.5 weeks after planting.  We started this about 2 weeks ago.  Cotton that was planted a week ago still has 10 more days before it needs acephate.  Even if you want to finish that up, it doesn’t make sense to jump the gun just for the sake of finishing on this most recent planting because it is still protected by the seed treatment and early sprayed acephate will wear off about the same time as the seed treatment.  It is a false since of security because you go into week 3 with unprotected cotton.  There is also a chance that this late cotton might outgrow the thrips pressure.
  • In-furrow treatments have a better chance of not needing an acephate spray.  I have seen some fields that should not need it, although I am seeing some damage during the third week after planting.  Nothing bad.  I am seeing more damage in small-seeded varieties like 2038 and 2115 (some 2020 looked great).  I still think we should let the weed situation drive the trip when using in-furrow unless you see heavy damage.
In the heavy rainfall areas, all the treatments have been diluted and quicker thrips breakthroughs and more damage has been observed.
 
Weeds
  • In the normal rainfall areas, I do not see any injury from Reflex or Cotoran.  The Reflex fields are cleaner.  The Cotoran is still the best on ragweed, but palmer breakthroughs are more common as well as grass and some other weeds.  I think the 24 ounce rate of Cotoran is too low and a full quart (which is still the low rate) would be more successful on most of our soils.
  • In the heavy rainfall areas, there is more noticeable Reflex damage and the Cotoran fields look healthier.  
  • During the approaching mild week, we have a good opportunity to get some D/W/O (Dual/Warrant/Outlook) applied with less scorch risk.  Cotton needs to have two healthy leaves out.  Expect more scorch from a tank mix of D/W/O plus Liberty only on Dicamba varieties.  D/W/O plus Roundup is fine on all varieties. 
  • The Roundup+ Liberty tank mixes don’t make sense to me because of cost and the antagonism of Liberty on grass control to Roundup.  While this expensive tank mix would kill some small grass that Liberty might normally miss, I would either use Liberty and deal with the grass I miss later or consider Roundup plus an auxin for resistant weeds.

Post Plant, EARLY, or otherwise Pre-Squaring Fertility
Basically, we are talking 2 to 6 leaf cotton, is still too early to have all the nitrogen applied.  However, in areas with the heavy rains, the application of 20 to 30 pounds of Nitrogen along with sulfur can give this young struggling cotton the boost that it needs.  Ammonium sulfate is the best product for this job.  This is also the time to get all the potassium applied if not done at planting.  It can allow you to delay your final nitrogen applications until late June or otherwise closer to bloom. 
Normal top dress for just one in-season nitrogen application occurs at the 7 to 10 leaf stage or when you can see several small squares on the plant.

Resistant weeds and thrips are Here
Pre-Herbicide and In-Furrow insecticide allow delaying first trip.

5-19

First true leaf insect sprays.
We typically have timed our first thrips spray to occur when the first true leaf is just coming out of the bud.  This first true leaf timing also correlates with about 2.5 weeks after planting which seems to be pretty much the window of protection with seed treatments only.  I think it is reasonable to use the 2.5 week after planting timing to make our thrips spray this year when only seed treatments have been used and no in-furrow Admire or Aldicarb.  That means that the cotton planted in April is already getting late for Orthene and cotton planted early May is ready now.  But the cotton being planted right now will have 3 leaves on it and may be getting close to safe before 2.5 weeks pass. 
Weed considerations.
Favorable weather has resulted in emerged resistant ragweed and palmer on beds that will grow fast and require control now, or at least soon.  Escapes are more likely to persist the larger these weeds are.  These larger escapes are also usually the weeds we fight the most all season as they are harder to kill after they are hurt when they survive. They tend to mean quicker resprays which raises cost and if the second spray misses them then pulling them is often the last resort.  A big mistake will be to spray just Roundup and Orthene at first true leaf as most all operations have one or both weed species to manage.  These are the effective strategies that will clean up this early pressure:
Before Emergence the benefit of residual will last for 4 to 6 weeks

  • 1 quart of Cotoran + 1 quart of Paraquat behind the planter.  Best for Ragweed and good on palmer and rotating away from PPO. Use 24 ounces of Cotoran on deep light sand.  Keep in mind that cotton will emerge in 3 days for the next several planting days
  • 12 to 16 ounces of Reflex + 1 quart of paraquat behind the planter.  Best on palmer and good on ragweed.
After Emergence tender weeds should be easy to kill with heat and soil moisture
  • Liberty (rarely need to mix roundup with Liberty.  Liberty will kill 2 inch grass)
  • Auxin with Roundup. (Orthene with Enlist + Powermax is hot on 1-leaf tender cotton)

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER (this might be more meaningful for another year)
The sweet spot for me is to delay that first trip across cotton primarily for economic and/or efficiency reasons.  Either weeds or thrips can require an early spray two weeks after you plant, however, when you use residual herbicide behind the planter and an in-furrow insecticide (both of which are optional) then you can often delay that first spray trip until a month or more after planting.
 

Time for Plan B - Putting Strategies together for the second half of the planting season
5-12-22
We have lost 10 days of early planting 3 years in a row.  In the winter we look at the whole deck of cards and put plan-A together assuming we have all the options on the table.  Now we are approaching the halfway point with a week left in the optimal window and the whole late window remaining, operations that did not plant as much early cotton as intended or find out next week that some replanting is in order probably need a Plan B.  Virginia and the NC State line have long history of expecting 2-3 bale cotton planted in both the first half and the second half of the planting season, although the strategies are not the same.  Be encouraged as the main yield risk for early cotton is a dry hot July and the risk of late cotton is a cold October.  Based on recent decades, a dry July occurs a little more often than cool October, but really both have worked well.  Later planting is like growing the same crop but in a different way.  
 

Strategies to Maximize 2022 success – Second half of Planting Window.

Variety Selection – These are generalities, and each variety can have tweaks to make it fit better in an area it is not optimal for.  I think of varieties in terms of planting window and less for soil type.  All varieties work in the optimal window. 

  • Best Varieties for early and optimal planting dates: 1646, 2038, 2127, 2239, 5091, 443, 411, 350, 3456.  Finish these up early next week. 
  • Best Varieties for the Optimal through Later planting dates: 2115, 4550, 3195, 4990, 400, 2020, 2012, 4595, 360, 390, 4936, 340.  Good for heavy or light soil in middle to later planting dates except for two (see below)
  • Varieties that specifically are best during last week of planting into early June: 3195, 360 are best, but 4550 and 2115 are strong.
  • Exceptions:  The best varieties like 4550, 2115, 1646 and likely 5091 & 3195 can travel to areas that you normally deviate from this categorization.  They are the best because they do well when they are not supposed to.  If varieties have a lot of special conditions like light land only or heavy land only, then they are not our best options.  4595 is the shortest variety we have making it questionable for early planting and light soil (we’ll learn more this year).

 
Growth Characteristics by planting date: In general, later planting produces more robust growth.  It matters more than variety characteristic.  Variety height difference is measured in inches and planting date height differences are measured in feet. When managed well, it takes less days to hit each benchmark and sort of catches up.  For example, while later cotton blooms later, it only takes about 50 to 55 days till bloom compared to 65 days for later cotton.  Implications of this impact pix, pests, and soil type considerations.
Soil Types:  Simply the plant development of later planting favors light soil the most which has a problem with growth and excessively early bloom leading to premature cutout.  Productive soil will require more intensive growth management and extended insect management into August when planted later.
Delayed emergence from planting last week.  Cotton planted in April through Sunday May 1 should be up or it has a problem.  Planting on Monday & Tuesday May 2&3 is the borderline and was trying to come up prior to cold weather and heavy rain prior to emergence may have it struggling. If it was planted late Tuesday or Wednesday (5-4), then it has not had enough heat to get it up whether it had big rain or not.  Early next week, our decisions will be easier to make.  Where it doesn’t rot, it has a chance.
Replanting.  Optimal stand is 31,000.  Adequate stand is 20,000 with only 3-foot gaps and not finding 10-foot gaps side by side.  I would error on replanting below 20,000 in May.  If you leave it, cotton compensates with limb bolls and top crop so manage it to allow this later fruit to mature. (mid to late August trips)
This could be debated, but my view is generally to replant the whole field if it has spots of poor stand throughout OR make two fields if only part is inadequate. Spot replanting creates intermingled examples of early and late cotton, and we are not able to manage it for optimal success.  The early planted gets too much pix or replanted area does not get enough and gets defoliated before it is mature.
Leaching rain: Anytime you have one event with more than 2 inches move through light soil, or 3 inches of average soil, nitrogen and sulfur have been moved lower.  Potassium is a concern on deep soils but not as much when the roots reach the clay subsoil.
Pest management: later planting just shifts everything later.  Dampening off is less of a risk as late cotton grows off quicker.  Cotton also gets safe from Thrips quicker.  Plant bugs, stinkbugs, and worms naturally continue to increase as the season progresses and later planted (or gappy) cotton will have more susceptible bolls from natural boll progression.
Population: The flexibility of cotton to thin population and compensation applies more to early planting dates.  In the latest planting dates, a good stand is more important.
Planting Depth:  Error on planting shallow for early planting dates because cotton will wait in dry dirt, and you have time.  Later in the planting season, emergence soon after planting is more important, so if it is dry and no rain coming before predicted emergence, then I will chase moisture if I’m hill dropping.  Stay shallow if rain is in forecast.  Last year planting deep worked well for later May in dry areas.  This year so far, shallow is the ticket.

Some Cool Weather Perspective.
5-10-2022
Question of the week:  How much development should cotton have with zero heat units?
Our expectation for cotton to emerge or develop a sprout, or otherwise make some progress towards having a stand begins about a week after we plant.  Then the questions begin. On Sunday and Monday, we recorded zero heat accumulation and now the forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday continues to indicate zero heat unit accumulation.  Five days total of zero heat.  That means zero development for 5 days… right.  It is just simple math, but if you take your expectation of normally coming up in a week and add 5 more calendar days when nothing is happening, then you get 12 days to wait.  EVERYTHING is stalled through Thursday. It takes 50 heat units to get a stand.  Cotton planted Monday (5-2) and maybe Tuesday at Franklin should be coming up, but it should look the same on Tomorrow as it did on Mother's Day.  It will be this weekend (maybe May14) before we see cotton planted this past Wednesday pushing through. 
How often does this happen?  The colder early May’s were 2013,2017, and 2020.  The years that had a warm early May were 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019.  2016 and 2021 were in the middle and 2022 will be also.  We will have an earlier start than last year because soil moisture will allow for earlier emergence.  Last year we had half the fields affected by June emergence after it rained Memorial weekend.
 
The take home message is that final success is not correlated to how warm or cool May is.  Other factors made the good years good and the bad years bad.  The important thing is to pick the good days to plant, whether early or late or in the middle, and manage based on plant development.

Seed Quality
4-27

Seed quality has recently become a hot topic.  From a historical perspective, we have tended to focus on cool germ, particularly when planting in less-than-ideal conditions.  Anything above 65% was and still is acceptable, only higher cool germ was and still is preferred if planting in marginal conditions.  If planting in good to excellent conditions, the cool germ is not a big deal.  The warm germ indicates the germination in favorable condition.  Warm germ standard is 80% and a 7% variation is legal.  All bags say 80% however, if it falls below 73%, then the bag must indicate this.  One observation that seems to apply to all seed in cooler soils is that the emergence is irregular, and seedlings may emerge over a much longer period.  In warm soils, the emergence is much more uniform.
SO, WHAT CHANGED?  It goes back to 2019 when we had very good planting conditions, but some seed lots were not coming up.  A recall was made by some companies.  And in some cases, the tested warm germination was below 25% in some cases.  Apparently, some seed was rushed to the market prior to the germination results.  Aside from the many explanations, NCDA began a seed testing program to have a third-party program in place.  Now more questions are asked, and more data is easily available.  This awareness is a good thing.  Ordering is made earlier and new varieties are coming to market quicker and from different seed growing areas. 
There isn’t a lot of research on correlating yield to cool germ or warm germ.  The yield data correlates to final stand and cotton has a wide range for optimum.  Irregular emergence has pluses and concerns.  The advantage of different ages of cotton is that each plant has a different nutrient and water pull during peak bloom that may allow the variable aged field to go through less stress than uniform fields.  On the other hand, slower emerging plants can experience loss of seed treatment protection at a younger age, and defoliation, PGR, and insect sprays need to take into account the younger plants that are mixed in with the more mature plants.  We have observed this over the years, and it is just part of the dance we do with cotton.
Bottom line is the recommendations have not changed.  Expect and verify that the warm germ meets the standard (80% germination +/- 7%).  You only need to account for cool germ if you are forced to plant into cool soil.  65% is the accepted standard for cool germ.  For the most part, we wait out these spells. 
An optimal Final stand is 29,000 plants per acre (2 per foot in 36” rows).  When planting 43,560 seed (3/ft) we have a good bit of cushion.  One good plant every 12” is sufficient.  Take note of the fields with variable emergence whether from dry conditions or seed variability as this can be helpful with future management decisions.

Added Risk factors for Early Planting
4-22
Both early and late planting carry some risks compared to the optimal planting date in May.  Early planting is typically April through about May 5th.  The risks can often be worth taking as there are plenty of cases of April or June cotton yielding higher than Mid-May when those risks are managed.  For early planting dates, the primary risks are:

  • Early Bloom resulting in heavy boll set during July.  July always has the most hours of sunlight of the year providing more history of excessive heat, or faster drought stress from missed rain.
  • Light soils are particularly sensitive to the June Bloom initiation issue
  • Typically early planted cotton will start cracking bolls in late August and early September which tends to still have the summer humidity.  Rainy spells combines with humidity to create hardlock. Rain of course can happen anytime, but with cooler nights later in September, later boll opening typically has less hardlock.
  • Early planted cotton develops slower if the cool spells that cycle in last for extended periods.  Seed treatments wear off and thrips and dampening of can be of greater concern.
  • Packing rain during cool spells has more of a negative impact due to lower vigor from cotton.
Management for all of these ideas include planting the better soils first; Using full season varieties or at least tall growing varieties first; watch weather closely for potential for packing rain prior to emergence; consider liquid in-futtow to extend seed treatment pest protection; and don't plant more than a third early.  Walk away from early planting if the conditions don't line up for predicting success.  Currently I think we have through Sunday for some good April opportunity, with the rain on Tuesday being the issue to watch.  Currently less than a half inch is forecasted, so we should be fine.



Soft Start for planting Cotton this weekend
4-20-22
The last frost day is supposed to be April 15 for our zone.  Ha Ha.  But Wednesday morning greeted us with a nice frost.  That is why most cotton people say don’t even think about planting cotton until after April 20.  Nevertheless, more years than not we have an opportunity to plant cotton in April, with the expectation of a strong holdup after a few days of that nice warm weather.  Then once that passes, we can usually go hard at it.  And even though we will see a cool night or two in May, those holdups are minor.  For the last two years, we’ve waited 7 to 10 days in May for the warm weather to stay.  This year is setting up to be more typical with that first planting spell hitting this week and just as expected we will have to wait some next week but at least the waiting will still be April.  Many will plant for a few this weekend while others will say, just forget it, I can plant fast so let’s just wait till May.  If no packing rain comes Tuesday, this early stuff should be fine.  Typically have our optimal planting is in May, so waiting also makes sense.  One other issue will be different for the early planting this year compared to last year.  In 2021, cotton was coming out of the ground in less than a week on what was planted in April prior to the May 5
th cool down.  This year, the cotton that gets planted this weekend will not come out of the ground until after the cool spell.  This is primarily only a problem if we get packing rain, and at this point, we are not expecting this to happen. 
OK – Here is the Sermon
I personally feel fine about planting through Sunday (still need to go to church or at least have a quite time). But I would like a couple of warm days after that final planting day.  I would “not, never, and probably regret it if I did” plant a determinant, early maturing variety on deep light sand in April.  Use indeterminant varieties like 1646, 2038, 2127, 5091 on good soil if you plant in April.  Light land management is more about fertility timing and planting date.  All the top recommended varieties work on light soil if you get the planting date and fertility correct.  Another way to put it is: group your varieties based on planting date (and management style) more so than soil type.


Planting in the early Window.
4-18

The opportunity to plant cotton will occur earlier this year (4-21 to 4-26) than last year (4-27 to 5-3) based on temperatures meeting the desired requirements for successful sprouting.  The total window for planting cotton based on calendar days is from April 20 to June 10th.  That does not mean that this wide of a window is recommended or optimal.  However, it represents an opportunity for some folks who are seeing the benefits of either early or late planting dates.  We can talk about late planted cotton when that time comes, but here are my thoughts on how early planting looks for 2022….

  1. Calendar date – even if weather conditions are favorable, before April 20 is just too early because I have seen bigger disasters on the extreme side of earliness, particularly when you stack up early varieties, heavy pix use, and light land on top of early planting.  
  2. Temperature – no seed we plant has more sensitivity to coldness than cotton, although it is still mighty tough.  Most of the time the early period has more challenge with this.  Temperature forecasting is pretty good and it works out pretty good when we get close to meeting the following rules:
    1. Above 50° air temperature at seed depth for 48 hours (10 DD-60’s).
    2. Desirable to have 20-25 DD-60’s in first 5 days &/or 50 over 10 days.
    3. Above 60° at 4 inches in morning.
  3. Rain – or moisture is tricky.  Rainfall forecasting has not been as good, and our mistakes have had bigger penalties because we got more rain than we were supposed to get or missed that one that made me plant shallow.   Packing or heavy rain prior to emergence can be a challenge and seems to explain yield reduction better than temperature.  On the early side, I make better decisions (shallow planting or wait for a better day) if I expect the forecast to be wrong and get more than they said.
  4. Slower growth early.  While it can explode out of the ground, it just sits still during the cycling cool spells.  This means the planting fungicides and insecticides wear out before the plant gets safe.  As a result, thrips and dampening off can be more of an issue during the early window.
  5. Early blooms are likely.  Read in the ‘Planting Forecast’ about this risk and reward.

For many operations, putting it all together means getting a third early before the optimal date, a third during the optimal window, and a third in the later part. I have seen some folks get out in the early window finish planting before we even get to the optimal window.  I like to start early, but not finish early.  First week of May is still early.
Wow, What a Battle
April 13 2022 

We often talk about commodities fighting for acreage during the March-April-May time frame which often represents a great time to forward price the commodities we are planting.  I don’t think I have ever seen a display of fighting for acres like cotton is aggressively doing this year.  The way to add income now that booking decisions and many planting decisions have already been made is to increase bales.  If you haven’t booked many beans or corn, then the solution is easy.  Put cotton on the best land.   Some folks will indicate putting corn on their best land will get their average corn yield up; however, that happens with cotton too, including irrigation as long as you stop irrigating at cutout, and cotton pays better.  I know, most decisions are made, but take a look.  On my spreadsheet, every acre converted to cotton adds a couple of Benjamins to the bank in the fall.
 
Roundup Formulations.  This is confusing.  When you compare the active ingredient, there are 3 classifications on the label.  One is the acid equivalent which is the uniform and correct comparison. The second is pounds per gallon of Salt.  And the third is % of the salt formulation. Each salt has different weights also, but the salt is inactive.  USE THE ACID EQUIVALENT or A.E.

Rate Acid Equiv
lbs/g
R/U generic 41 PowerMAX
1&2
PowerMAX
3
Comment
lb. A.E./gal   3.0 4.5 4.8 Acid equiv/gal
Low 0.56 24 oz. 16 oz. 15 oz. tiny weeds
Standard 0.75 32 oz. 21.3 oz. 20 oz. Standard – on time
Medium 0.93 40 oz. 26.65 oz. 25 oz. Happy medium
High 1.125 48 oz. 32 oz. 30 oz. No Prisoners
 
Now that we are dialing in rates for the situation, some weak links might show up that can be managed.  When Roundup was cheap and plentiful, we could just use extra as our management strategy.
  • One is that the correct rate of Roundup needs more than 30 minutes before rain.  Wait when rain is within 2 hours is the best solution.  
  • Cool days also slow down everything.
  • Water Conditioners:  Usually problems will not show up if you mix, then immediately spray.  It is only when herbicide mixture remains in tank over longer periods that R/U or Liberty become reduced.  Here are the particular issues:
    • High pH (over 7.0) can reduce activity over time.  Go to a pool supply store, amazon, or Walmart and get some pH test strips or pH kit.  Roundup will lower the pH by 1 or 2 points so if your water pH is in the low 7’s, then you are probably ok.  If it is way over 7, the cheapest solution is muriatic acid found in hardware section.  A gallon can treat 800 to 1600 acres (8-16 oz./1000 gallons).
    • Hard water has minerals that bind up Roundup over time.  Iron is noticeable by rust on the ground around the faucet.  Calcium, Sodium, Magnesium, & Potassium all contribute.  A water test can show a problem or eliminate a concern.  Regular old ammonium sulfate, AMS is the universal solution whether you buy it in a jug or dissolve your own. 

NOTE: DO NOT USE water conditioners when spraying ExtendiMax or Engenia

Cotton Market Breaking the Records it already Broke + Hot Weather Rates for Burndown.
April 11 2022 (edited 4-12 due to competing prices for commodities)
The last 20% run-up in price for cotton has been a game changer with New crop approaching $1.20, although farmers have a tough time changing commodities this late.  I fully expect most of the undecided fields to become cotton fields now offering double the net profit compared to the next crop with average yields.   Sometimes we plant cotton on the poor land and corn on the better land.  This year, we will make more money on better land planting cotton.  For example, net profit for cotton beats corn by $200 on average land, but by $362+ on better than average land as yields for both crops improve.  Corn however did pass peanuts putting peanuts at 3rd place.  Soybean prices are still similar to where they were several months ago. 
Going forward another difference we can make on our bottom line are management decisions.  
Burndown
With burndown currently going on, here are a few decisions and the way I think through it.  Back in the day, we used the Roundup Original at a quart per acre for burndown with nothing added (This standard rate was 0.75 lb of acid).  Overtime we migrated to adding 2,4D or Dicamba, but in addition we increased the R/U rate to 1.123 ibs of acid which has likely been overkill but it was cheap through last year.  This year folks have pulled back about 16% on Roundup which should work well, but we’ve had cool nights and some marginal spray days including rain two times last week so we probably did need that little extra rate kick.  Looking at the first part of this week with a strong improvement in the forecast I think performance will improve.  It offers more confidence in the lower rates.  At the lowest, I would use the standard R/U rates (32oz. Original = 22.3oz. PM2 = 20oz. PM3) with the auxin in there.  In warm rain-free weather, 20 oz of PM3 could be good enough and will work as good as 24 oz in less favorable weather.  It might even be perfect most of the time, but it doesn’t have to be. 
1.5 to 2 oz of Valor has been standard for years, and is safe for planting after about 10 days particularly if strip tilling and or getting a rain.  The 2 oz rate gives you 6 weeks of control, and 1.5 oz. will last a month.  This could have some implication when you consider this is a good year to come behind the planter with either Reflex or Cotton.
FOR Gramoxone, we are pretty much looking at only using it in Sunny Warm weather and a flat rate (2pts of the 3lb stuff or 3pt of the 2lb) with 20gpa.  Heavy tillering cover crop is harder to kill early with it when it is young, but once the seed head is in the boot, Gramoxone will get it.
USDA Projects Virginia Acreage Will Increase 17%
April 1 2022

And that might be low based on the fact we planted 103,000 acres in 2019 when cotton did not have as good of a price advantage as it does this year.  The focus for us during this crop planning stage for the last few months has been primarily on the increase cost for inputs.  It is dramatic with Agricultural inflation at about 40% just compared to last year.  Just as impressive is the increase in cotton prices, up 50% in a year.  The other crops are also up but not enough to be more profitable than they were in 2021.  Another factor for 2022 that will be different from the last 3 years is that we most likely will not have any extra payments from the farm program to fall back on and only insurance offers a safety net.  As a result, I see the strongest case for cotton to be put on undecided acres since 2011.  The chart below shows the net crop income after all expenses for average yields and April 1 prices for last two years:

  Corn Cotton soybean peanut
Year 140 bu. 1000 lbs. 45 bu. 4500 lbs.
2021  $ 106.00  $ 111.00  $ 109.00  $ 252.00
2022  $   97.00  $ 220.00  $   -7.00  $   95.00
 
While all the commodities will pay their bills and leave a little on the table for cushion, no commodity can make up for the loss of last year's income like cotton.  Here are some Bullet points that explain why some shift in acreage still makes sense:
  • Offense - Cotton has the best offense based on simple math of (price X Yield)- Input Cost.  Corn and peanuts are tied for second.  An average yield of soybeans is only breakeven.  Basically, cotton will be peanut money for this year and peanut will be like last year’s cotton money.
  • Defense
    • Peanut can tolerate temporary drought similar to cotton.  The safety net may not be as good, but the sensitivity to a wet fall is not quite as bad either.
    • Cotton is tied with peanuts for defense.  If you knew there would be a poor production year or price collapse, then cotton has the best safety net.  In addition, we can manage cotton through challenges.
    • Some say soybeans have good defense based on being the cheapest to grow, but with gross receipts so low, the offense struggles. The old saying that the best defense is a good offense makes soybeans third on defense.
    • Corn has a problem as the highest user of P and N which are the inputs that are up the most and corn has the highest increase in cost of production at 50% over last year
  • Rotation – Peanuts must go where they go.  Plant cotton on the best land.  To put corn on best land requires either yields of 180 bu. or prices of $8.25/bu. just to tie cotton.  Some folks put cotton on the poor land because it will carry that burden better.  And while that is true, the total revenue for the farm will be higher with cotton production on the highest yielding ground.

Sailing Into the Wind
3-28-2022

The record levels of Agricultural inflation impacting the cost of producing food and fiber seems like being at sea on a sailboat with a strong wind coming head on.  How does a sailboat sail into the wind?  First of all, it cannot sail directly into the wind.  You can google the physics of it, but basically it can sail at an angle for a while, then tack in a zig zag pattern making progress.  Interestingly, the harder the wind blows, the closer angle you can run into it.  We frequently have a head wind.  Sometimes it is dry weather coming that we did not know about or a storm system in the fall, or even cheap commodity prices.  There is no doubt that we have a lot of experience at sailing into the wind.  This year, like many, we need to identify the obstacles and set a course and figure out when to tack.  There are two obstacles I think we need to watch and basically tack before you get to them. 

  • Cutting corners to save money.  You cannot save your way to success.  There are about 6 key steps for cotton that must be done to have the opportunity to hit the high yield mark.  The yield will drive us forward and cutting corners is like getting in shallow water where the keel of the boat hits bottom.  It is smart to use less fertilizer on fields with high residual soil levels or spraying weed control on small weeds so you can use the standard rate rather than the high rate.  These strategies do not compromise yield potential.  I don’t hear much talk around here, but I know it is a thing in circles to switch to something like a soybean and not invest in it, but the same argument applies to all commodities. 
  • Spending more money than your safety net structure provides.  For most operations and this year, the major cornerstone for this is Insurance and STAX Revenue.  It also has an element of individual financial strength that might allow one operation to take a risk (such as their marketing plan or perhaps using a more expensive like aldicarb that could increase overall yield potential) that a young person with higher debt load cannot take.  Exceeding your safety net is like being in deep water with a short anchor rope.

Tach before you run into either of these obstacles.  If you think about it, our region averages two-bale cotton, but the average is made up because half the time we do better, and half the time we do worse.  We must put our best foot forward to maximize our chances of success with full awareness that the unexpected can happen and we might have to drop the anchor and wait for better winds.  It looks like we can win this race as long as these obstacles remain in full view.

Ideas to streamline Fertility without losing yield.
3-21-2022

Phosphorus (P)
For over 90% of our fields, the phosphorus levels have built to at least high minus levels.  Although P is somewhat unavailable in cool soils (that’s why starter helps in corn), cotton, peanuts our soybeans are planted in warmer soils.  My recommendation for this year is to apply zero P on soils testing high in P (36+ at VT lab).  Apply 25 pounds broadcast to medium soils (12-36 at VT lab), and 45 if P is low.  Fields testing low in P typically have soils with high clay content that tie up P and broadcasting phosphorus is not as effective as 2X2 placement.  You can cut P rates in half with starter application.  This will be a year that some products like POP-UP infurrow application of low rates of P will be promoted, but research on this practice has shown this does not work.
Potassium (K)
There is more variability in residual levels of K.  Higher CEC soils can be high (over 176 at VT) and are often medium (75-175).  Low (less than 75) is not uncommon on light soils.  In peanuts we have learned that you can grow a crop without applying K if it is medium or higher and peanuts require as much K as cotton does.  My recommendation for soils testing low in K is 90 to 120 # K2O.  I think you could apply zero K on a medium level of K just like peanuts on good soil; however, my recommendation is to apply 90 on M-, 70 on M, and 50 on M+.  If you get high residual potassium levels, then you will NOT get a response to adding any more K on that field.  Some folks are not comfortable going to zero on K but ...  Average cost for most of our cotton production for K should be based on an average application rate of 75 pounds (right up the middle) or 60 if you go to zero on those high soils.  Net cost of K of about $45 to $50/acre.
NITROGEN is the most important and the most valuable
Even though it also costs almost three times what it did, it will make you money.  We have moved to the point of going to 120 for a standard recommendation.  There are two key areas that this could be modified lower.  Keep in mind that reducing nitrogen on soils with high residual levels can increase yield.

  1. Wherever you are supposed to be, you can cut it by 20% when knifing just from efficiency over broadcast. 
  2. Residual nitrogen can be measured, but we don’t do it.  One day maybe.  For now, all you can do is estimate.  Give credit to peanut vines (30-40 is conservative).  If you have fields that makes cotton, get 50 inches tall even with 2 or 3 pints of Pix, then there is some extra nitrogen in that land and you can cut back.

Another consideration is the leaching factor for the lighter soils with low CEC.  3-4 inches of rain in one event will remove half of the applied nitrogen that the crop has not taken up yet.  We are most vulnerable right after topdressing which is where the cotton has not used it yet.  To manage this risk, consider two in season applications to ‘spoon feed’ nitrogen.  This extra nitrogen split is more important than potassium splits that don’t seem to matter as much.
Final comment is to reduce AMS applications which is closer to $2 a pound than $1.  125 pounds is all we need on light soil.  Peanut rotations and high CEC soils may need even less. 
Applying these principles for nitrogen would perhaps get us to an average of 100 pounds applied for a cost of $125/ac.
 
Total fertility cost for this program for our region will still be $170 by managing, which is a savings of $100/acre over just going same ole, same ole.  Let me encourage you to trust decades worth of soils research that support the ideas I have here.  We must try and keep our budget below $900

PRIORITIZING Lime in periods of low supply

3-9-22
First, each lab does a similar job of assessing pH and the lime recommendation is simply a formula that relies on a target pH, a current pH, the soil acidity rating, and CEC using recent previous liming history to tweak the recommendation.  Virginia Tech target is 6.2.  This is conservative because root growth doesn’t suffer until pH drops below 5.8.  The problem with a 5.8 is that there are places in the field less than this, so you really don’t want it to be this low.  The amount of lime is calculated using the other numbers and if it is less than 500 pounds required, then the recommendations is going to be zero.
 
General observations that contribute to variability.

  • Dry year samples seem to have a lower pH than when the soil is wet following good rain in summer.  Samples for the ’22 crop are calling for more lime and may actually be more accurate.
  • Winter samples trend toward higher pH than fall samples unless still very dry.
  • Nitrogen creates acid so Corn and cotton, and wheat rotations have a higher drop in pH year over year than soybeans and peanuts.  (I figure about 800 pounds of lime to neutralize the acidity).  You can sort of assume that if you plant corn/cotton/wheat, and apply a half ton of lime, then your pH will be stable year over year.
  • Best range for cotton pH is 6.2 to 6.5.  Over pH 6.5, micronutrients can become less available.  Examples are zinc in corn and Mn in legume.  pH approaching 7.0 is a problem with micronutrient unavailability in all crops.
  • Some of the lime will activate as soon as it rains and warms up, but larger particles will still be activating the following year.
If lime is hard for you to get this year, here are some ways to prioritize the most critical fields:
Highest priority:
  • Anything below 5.8 will have reduced root development.  If it is below 5.5, then crop failure is possible.
  • Light land going to corn or cotton at 6.0 if no lime in 2 years.  Light land needs less lime at one time (because of low CEC) than medium soils, but it also needs it more often (because of low CEC).  Low pH is common on problem growth areas particularly on sand hills)
Medium Priority or Borderline fields:
  • pH 5.9 or 6.0 that just had lime last year could still go up.
  • 2022 soybean or peanut fields at 5.9.
  • Rounding up on a low lime recommendation for 2022 cotton or corn is normal, although this year, we might not have enough lime to do this.
Low Priority Fields – no Lime necessary this year.
  • If you are 6.0, going to soybean or peanut, then you should be fine.
  • Any 6.2 pH fields.
  • If you have at target of 6.5, then pull back from that goal this year.  Plus, pH over 6.5 can be a problem for low micronutrient availability.
  • Sense we pulled samples in a dry fall and early winter; we do not need a cushion for these low priority situations. 


Coming up with alternative PLAN A options
3-7-2022

This coming growing season continues to face ever increasing input costs and potential for shortfalls in some of the Plan A inputs.  This will cause us to consider some of the other production management options that have not been our primary “go to” approaches.   While things will not proceed as usual this year, it also does not seem desperate with cotton primarily because of downside protection with STAX locking in $900/ac of revenue on the average
Here are some management ideas to begin investigating that are within normal cotton production.

  • Apply nitrogen in a dribble or injected close to the row to increase efficiency by at least 80%.  This will make 100 pounds act like 120 broadcast dry.  Dribbles in the middle do not accomplish this.  Injecting is more stable than dribble.  Savings of $20
  • Reduce total N on 21 peanut vine fields.  Savings $25 to $40
  • Eliminate Phosphorus applications to cotton on soils testing H- or better.  There is also very low to no response to phosphorus application even if soils test lower.  Savings of $25 to $40.
  • If you cannot use liquid, apply coated (ESN) or treated (Agrotain) urea to replace high rates of AMS.  If blending treated Urea and AMS, some of the challenges are the inaccurate spread patterns and AMS degrades the treatment once blended if not spread quickly which increases urea loss.  Consider adding the AMS with the potash, or just switching to liquids.
  • Soil applied residual herbicides ($8-$12) decrease trips with Roundup or Liberty ($15 - $22). 
  • Valor in burndown, Reflex or Cotoran behind planter
  • Dual, Outlook, or Warrant after 2 leaf stage. 
  • Staple overtop. 
  • Envoke overtop of larger cotton or directed on smaller cotton.
  •  Layby rigs with nozzle directing could include Zidua or diuron
  • Use the low rate when weeds are small for timely Roundup sprays particularly when mixing with auxins.
  • Separate tank mixes of antagonizing herbicides like Clethodim (Select) w/most other herbicides, Roundup w/Liberty
  • Substitute Gramoxone for Roundup in the Burndown trip when it makes sense.

Choosing Safety net (NC deadline Monday 2-28.  VA deadline Tues 3-15)

2-25
In this analysis, Southampton represents the middle of yield as well as geography.  When it comes to the insurance component, the counties with lower yields (Suffolk, Greensville, etc) will have lower insurance costs along with slightly lower insured amounts of money. 
For expanded explanation for Choosing Safety Net Options, click “Johnny’s Expanded Blog”.  Here are the bullet points:

  • For cotton base, the price triggers for PLC or ARC payments based on current projections would occur below $0.70.  If prices drop that low, we will have already crashed and therefore I do not consider the cotton base a safety net for 2022.
  • The insurance/STAX guarantee should be set between $1.03– $1.04 representing a trigger almost 50% higher than the cotton base.  Cost for the grower is only 15% of the total cost so it is the best deal and the best thing to buy.
  • Base payments trigger only for price, but insurance & STAX trigger on revenue (yield and price).
  • Hypothetical costs for Insurance plus STAX are estimated below).  Notice as you increase insurance coverage and decrease STAX the total gets more expensive but covers more personal risk.  Also, higher yield and prior claims will increase price.
Ratio:
Ins/STX
STAX
Cost
Insurance
Indivdul frms
Insurance
Comb’d frms
Total
Individual
Total
Combined
70:20 $18.92 $22 $9 $40.92 $27.92
75:15 $16.10 $30 $13 $46.10 $29.10
80:10 $12.09 $45 $24 $57.09 $36.09
85:5 $6.76 $65 $44 $71.76 $50.76
  • Like car insurance, you don’t want a claim to get your premium back, it is there in case you have a wreck.     
  • As a marketing Strategy – STAX is worth the cost for the price protection alone.  The fact it raises you yield protection based on the widespread county situation is a bonus.
Recommendation (from Johnny only, this is not indorsed by insurance companies or Commonwealth gin)
  1. I think buying STAX should replace the PLC/ARC Cotton base for 2022.  Sign up for STAX at Insurance company and tell FSA that you are not participating in the cotton base program this year (only grain and peanut base).  Trust Me.  I hope you don’t get a payment from STAX meaning that we had a good yield and a good price.  WE are only 4 cents away from a STAX payment as I am writing this currently.
  2. Buy Enterprise Units (combined farms) instead of Optional Units (Individual Farms).  This allows a higher level of insurance across the operational offering more coverage for disasters. This recommendation is based on the general philosophy of focusing on making the best crop and minimizing insurance except when necessary.   I found out yesterday that Crop insurance (just like car insurance) has recoupment points when you ever make a claim.  If you do Optional Units and get a claim on one farm, then the next year your insurance will cost more than your neighbor who did not make a claim.  Pretty fair.  That’s why Folks who farm for insurance in other regions get to a point where they can hardly afford it.  It also removes the burden of subsidizing other people who make a log of claims.  So, to keep insurance affordable, it should be used for helping with big income problems, not small ones.  HOWEVER, be sure to insure your financial risk.
  3. Deciding which ratio for Underlying Insurance/STAX.  80/10 looks like the sweet spot to me.  It is not much more expensive than 75/15 or 70/20 and offers a little better personal yield insurance.  If insurance triggers based on a price drop, then the cheapest insurance will be the best, but who has a crystal ball.  I do have some folks that do STAX only which is the cheapest.  This offers good protection for market drops and County wide yield problems, but if you have the small area of drought or torrential rain.

Agricultural Inflation - 
2-21-2022

The news reports the annual inflation rate over last year in American at 7.5%.  This is the highest inflation has been in 40 years; however, based on the rising cost of inputs, farmers are expecting inflation to have a 40% increase over last year.  While prices on commodities are also expected to be higher for 2022, they are not up enough to allow 2022 to equal 2021.  The average price increase is 17.5% although cotton is double the average.  The third component of yield will ultimately determine the profitability of the net income of farming operations. 
 
All is not doom and gloom and perhaps still shows some promise, although the challenge is steep.  There are some steps we can take to limit downside risk as well as ramp up revenue.  Change will be in order.

  • Expand acreage of crops with the widest margin.  Last year, peanuts had the best margin, and all the other crops were about the same in second place, so it did not matter what you planted as much as it will this year.   Cotton prices are up the most for 2022 and peanuts the least although peanut input costs also are up the least.  My general budgets show profit margins at current prices are similar at 1000 lb. cotton, 5000 lb. peanuts, 180 bu. corn, and 58 bu. Soybeans.  Plug in your numbers and plant the money makers.
  • Singulation of trips (only one target pest per trip) will increase total trips, but lower input cost.  When input costs are relatively low, the most effective, and even profitable strategy is to mix multiple inputs together with multiple targets at high rates and make one trip.  Last year we could mix an herbicide or two, an insecticide, and a growth regulator and add some extra surfactants and even some extra “yield booster secret product” together and the total cost would be less than $25 dollars.  Often the cost of finding out if you had the weed or the bug was higher than the price of the product, so it just made sense to add it in for “insurance”.  Heck, Roundup was cheap enough to use as the surfactant.  This year, the cost of that same trip might double or more.     
  • Singulation of (Trips part 2). Not only is the high price going to discourage mixing up a cocktail, but the availability of unlimited use of an input will not exist.  Adding something cheap because you are going over the field may not be an option if supplies are limited causing us to use the input when it is a priority.
  • Expand acreage of commodities with highest insured yield.  Cotton will float to the top again for this category as the only crop with STAX.  It looks like STAX will cost less than $15 to bring up the average county revenue to over $900/per acre revenue floor.  Basically, it creates a target for all other commodities.  Cotton covered with STAX is a good way to stabilize a farming operation if everything goes south (Hurricanes, drought, War, inflation, Supply chain problems, Government mistakes, etc.)  The cost of STAX is similar to an application of Roundup.

Cotton Market Insights.
February 10, 2022
Yesterday Jarral Neeper, President of TruCott Commodities and the author of Cotton Market Opinion on our webpage, lead the Ag Market Network’s Cotton Market Roundtable discussion of the latest cotton market news on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Joining Neeper on the cotton panel was:

  • Dr. John Robinson, Texas A&M University
  • Dr. O.A. Cleveland, Mississippi State University
  • Kip Butts, cotton market analyst
  • Pat McClatchy, Executive Director, Ag Market Network.
Here is the podcast of yesterday's Marketing insights CLICK HERE


For Customers:
Click Here daily Market Opinion by Jarral Neeper


Ideas.
January 31, 2022
There are several topics that are catching my attention on this last day of January. 

  • Since the Variety Report Card publication, we have learned about some seed supply challenges and I have thought of some ideas for how to make the next choice…(see expanded blog)
  • A variety question keeps coming up about planting a couple of brand-new varieties that have only been in the 40-foot OVT’s (maybe a few acres in the whole state) and were below average.
  • Running Crop budgets last week has my head spinning as I am sure it does you as well.  It’s not a picture of doom and gloom at all, only you would think that with the increase in price for new crop that we would be looking at the best ever.  Maybe it could be, but IN FACT, the more things change, the more they stay the same...  Cotton is often number 2 for profit potential, but recent price moves make it challenge number one for our area.  I like looking at the risk side by considering break even prices, break even yields, and safety nets.  Cotton also seems like it is going to win out as usual on the safety net side of the equation, and possibly for price as well having the higher price margin between break even and current price.
  • The Cotton Base Safety net has been noted as protecting price at around 68 cents and no yield help.  HOWEVER, STAX is on track to provide a safety net with a high price and 2-bale yield.  You sign up for STAX at the Insurance office, but you MUST tell FSA that you are not participating in the cotton program this year.
As January turns into February, we will be averaging in our insurance price and beginning to make some fine-tuning management and equipment decisions.  Here are some discussion starters:
  • Nitrogen layby rig – saves $35 to $44/ac. from material cost Plus efficiency gains
  • Planting population maximum effectiveness – saves $15/ac plus produces easier to manage cotton
  • Invest in better in-furrow thrips.  Extra investment on front side to improve weed management and reduce or eliminate early acephate sprays.  Allows use of base seed
  • Use 2-way seed treatments when availbable (fungicide + insecticide).  Nematodes are lower risk in Va. and seed trtmts have low nem. efficacy and effectiveness - savings $10/ac.  In-furrow is more effective on broad spectrum and efficacy for problems. 


January 31, 2022
Tips on Replacing a good performaning Variety that is unavailable or has concerns

Since the Variety Report Card publication, we have discovered the total lack of DP 2115 seed supply in the region, and not enough 5091 to meet demand.  In addition, one of my favorite varieties because of a broad fit for many of Virginia situations is 4550.  The problem with 4550 is certainly not performance or seed supply.  The concern is the herbicide factor of no auxin considering high cost and a tight supply of Liberty adds expense and risk to an already bulging budget.  I think there is a focus on the top 5 when there actually is very little separation of performance with the top 12.  The easier to grow varieties could enhance production.  My attitude is – NEXT.  When picking the next choice, remember to compare varieties with similar characteristics when looking for replacements and not the last name (like ST, DP, NG or PHY).  A good example is that 5091 and 4550 Stoneville have different characteristics and do not compare to each other as well even though they have the same last name.  Also 400 and 2012 bring similar characteristics to the table even though they have different last names.



January 19, 2022
HERE ARE SOME COMMON SCENARIOS AND VARIETY CHOICES:

  1. ALL AROUND BEST FIT.  If it is in the planter then roll.  Multiple soils, management style, and planting dates. 
    1. 4550 (Where 333 worked well, then 4550 is better.  And vice versa.)
    2. 2115
    3. 2038
    4. 5091
    5. 1646 (if you check all the boxes listed in the Varity narrative)
  2. Early planting and hot summers.  Do not plant lightest land early.  Mainly focus on stress tolerance, higher fruiting taller growing.  Here are some top picks
    1. 2038
    2. 2115
    3. 1646 (if you check all the boxes)
    4. 5091 on good land
    5. 4550 (although be careful with heavy pix rate when planting early)
    6. 411/443
    7. 2239 (this needs confirmation with more data but try a few bags)
  3. Late Planting and cool summers.  The fastest squaring and blooming varieties with low first fruit will excel the shorter the growing season is
    1. 4550
    2. 2115
    3. 360
    4. 3195
  4. Easy Growing, lower Management, Vacation Cotton.  Typically short and forgiving.  Better suited for operations with limited resources, good land, or a lot of other enterprises.
    1. 3195 cuts out very well.  Possible sensitivity to premature cutout planted early.
    2. 2012/4990
    3. 400
    4. 4595
    5. 2020 (particularly for variable soil types planted later)
  5. Light soil.  Light land variety characterization is where varieties go to die.  Typically, we are doing better with delaying planting until after May 10 on light dryland cotton.  Light soil suffers quicker from July heat stress or droughts during bloom and high micronaire.  Delayed planting shifts blooming into the milder conditions and shorter days of August.  However, this strategy sort of knocks out the full season late maturing varieties.
    1. If you plant light land early and take the yield hit, then try the full season varieties that often have not done well in plots for the last couple of years.  Also, varieties in group II above should be the better top choice varieties.
    2. If it is good peanut ground light soil, see the other categories above.  
      1. Top choice for mid-May or later: 2115, 4550, 5091, 2038.  The later it gets then 4990,2012,2020,400 float to the top.
      2. If you plant earlier in May: 2038,5091, 4550, 443/411, 2239, 2127
    3. If it is poor azz sand, then it is a death sentence to select a variety for this, but these fields are often variable with some good land.  In that case, if the better part of the field is still sort of light, then plant a tall and fast maturing variety during the back side of your planting window.  The better part of the field produces rank cotton, I like a shorter and early type cotton planted during the second or third week of May.  Varieties in Category III. or IV. above would be target varieties.

 

 
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