Cotton Production Tips: Get a good start to growing cotton

The first 40 days after planting can set the foundation for a profitable cotton crop.

Achieving an optimum crop 40 days after planting contributes to an efficient season-long crop management system, including weed control, plant growth regulation, arthropod pest management, fertility, and harvest aid management.

Here are some important factors to consider for seed germination and plant development during the first 40 days after planting:

•Environmental stresses. Regardless of the tillage and crop production system, the optimum cotton crop would be free of stress from insects, mites, nematodes, seedling diseases, weeds, and other manageable factors, such as fertility levels and water availability.

•Seedling and root health. An optimum cotton crop at 40 days after planting would be a picture of health. In addition to being stress-free, the crop would exhibit healthy leaves, with roots extending into the row middles, and plants growing rapidly and uniformly. Earliness is important, with a height-to-node ratio of at least one (1:1) at 40 days after planting. The optimum plant would have seven to eight nodes and would be in the early stage of squaring.

•Uniform stand; adequate plant population. Crop uniformity has a significant impact on season-long crop management. A uniform crop allows for a more efficient crop management system, which ranges from application timing of herbicides and plant growth regulators to harvest aids. An adequate plant population would be at least 30,000 plants per acre and would not exceed 60,000 plants per acre. Ideally the minimum stand would have at least two healthy plants per foot, with no intra-row gaps greater than three feet.

The First 40 Days Initiative [4] is a product of university and USDA researchers, Extension specialists and crop consultants from across the Cotton Belt. This information is provided with the permission of the National Cotton Council and The Cotton Foundation.