'Even May 35th cotton looks good,’ UT specialist says

Several years ago during a spring not unlike 2015, a cotton farmer supposedly said he would never plant cotton in June. He “might plant some on May 35,” he said, “but never in June.”

The comment came up again at a field day in Union City, Tenn., the other day when Tyson Raper, Extension cotton and small grains specialist with the University of Tennessee, said that “even the May 35th cotton looks good at this stage.”

Dr. Raper told growers attending the Monsanto Asgrow/DeKalb/Deltapine Field Day the 2015 cotton crop struggled early on with adverse weather forcing many farmers to replant their crops – some as late as June – or switch to soybeans.

“We had a very difficult start,” said Raper, referring to cotton in plots at the Monsanto Research Station in Union City. “This was planted May 18, and I’m impressed with the stand. A lot of the cotton that was planted in this window suffered through some cold night-time temperatures and wet conditions. It had a very poor stand, and a lot of that acreage was replanted.”

Farmers kept waiting for dry weather to plant and some switched to soybeans. “That was the most troublesome window, and, usually, that is our best window to plant in,” he said. “The best looking cotton was planted at the last of April and the first of May. That cotton looks really good, and we have some May 35th cotton that looks pretty good, too.”

“We’re ahead on growing degree days this year compared to last year and the year before. We had a very hot end of June and a very warm start on the beginning of July. And that allowed us to jump ahead. I think a lot of our June-planted cotton is very close to catching up with some of that early May-planted cotton."

Raper said he’s seen few fruiting gaps in cotton and has been hearing reports of good fruit retention rates of 85 to 90 percent or higher. Plant bug sprays have been minimal with many growers getting by with three or four applications for the pest.

The rains that occurred across west Tennessee and other parts of the Mid-South on the afternoon and night of Aug. 5 were also timely. “We may have knocked a few fruiting positions off, but we needed the water,” said Dr. Raper. “So I’m happy to have that rain.”

When he spoke on Aug. 6, Dr. Raper said growers were fast approaching the Aug. 12 date, which is historically when growers have a 50 percent chance of a white bloom making it to becoming an open boll by harvest in the more northern climes of the Cotton Belt.

“If we’re trying to protect blooms after that date, you may want to consider letting them go because you may not harvest them anyway,” he noted.

Growers may also want to begin relaxing their treatment thresholds as they get past the white flower plus 350 heat units that research shows is a good time to stop insecticide applications for cotton insects, he said.

For more on insect treatment thresholds, visit https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/PB1768.pdf.

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