Despite heavy rains in northeastern Arkansas, cotton growers should think before pushing the panic button and replanting, said Tom Barber, Extension agronomist-cotton for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
“Remember, after the flooding subsides, it will take some time for the current stands to recover,” he said. “Seedlings may look yellow and off-color, but as the soil dries, oxygen will return to the roots and plants should begin to green back up.”
Storms April 30 through the first 10 days in May brought abundant rain, with a 60 percent chance of more rain expected in mid-May, the National Weather Service said.
Many producers in these areas were still waiting for water to recede and lower ends to dry before they resume planting, said Barber. However, some progress has been made.
“There are some areas where planters are rolling this week, and Arkansas producers could potentially be 60 percent to 70 percent planted by the weekend.”
Growers have a couple of options available to them. Some may be considering “spot planting” — filling in poor areas and leaving surviving plants in the ground — but Barber cautioned against it.
“In many situations spot planting is not recommended because late season management will be more difficult. As many producers remember from last year, spot planting is not as good of an idea as it sounds when you have some areas of the field ready to pick and the remainder is only 10 percent open.”
Spot planting is only viable within 14 days of the original planting date. If it’s too late to use spot planting, growers should evaluate what they have and make a decision on whether or not to replant.
There are several factors to consider when evaluating a stand.
“When evaluating the current stand, make sure to check the health of the plant both above ground and especially below ground,” said Barber. “The plants can look pretty ragged and still survive as long as the root system is healthy.”
Consider soil type and moisture when evaluating the stand. If the soil dries quickly, replanting decisions must be made immediately and carried out before the beds lose their moisture.
Plant distribution is another factor.
“If plant distribution is fairly uniform in fields on productive soils, good yields can be made with low plant populations, perhaps in the low 20,000 plants per acre range, or as low as 1.5 plants per row-foot with no or few skips,” said Barber.
“If the stands are broken with numerous skips, replanting is in order at populations below 30,000 plants per acre, depending on the size and frequency of skips.
“Data from the mid-South and southeast suggests that if you have 10-13 skips that are 3 feet or longer in 80 foot of row, then a replant will be justified.”
Growers who choose to replant should take variety selection into account. “It is not a good idea to plant a full season variety if the replanting date is the last week of May or June. An early maturing variety will do better when the season is shortened because of a late planting date.”
If replanting is necessary, continue to use insecticides and fungicides, especially if the first stand died from seedling disease. Use burn-down herbicides to kill the old stand of cotton and any weeds that may have emerged on the row.
Barber urged growers to keep things in perspective.
“Always remember, if you have enough cotton left to make the decision difficult, you probably have enough to keep.”