Plant soon, but not too soon

Mississippi State University Extension Service agronomists recommend planting cotton during the last two weeks of April and the first two weeks of May.

“People who like to plant early have started,” said Will McCarty, Extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. “But be patient, and don’t get in too much of a hurry. We’re on the extreme leading edge of the planting window.”

Mississippi producers are expected to plant 1.25 million acres of cotton this season. Despite rather wet conditions over the winter months, agronomists do not expect any major problems with production.

“Although last fall was very unpleasant weather-wise for cotton farmers, I think they were surprised at just how good their crop yields were,” said John Coccaro, MSU Extension agent in the South Delta. “Growers seem to feel optimistic that with the current cotton varieties, they can make profitable yields given a good growing season and decent harvesting conditions.”

A growing trend among cotton farmers in the South Delta is the use of wider planting and harvesting equipment in an effort to reduce labor inputs and increase efficiency of their overall farming operations, Coccaro said.

Farmers will most likely plant the same transgenic varieties of cotton as last year, with the most popular choices being varieties with a combination of both the Roundup Ready gene and Bt technology.

“A lot of last year’s problems with the quality of cotton were weather-related, so I don’t see any drastic changes in variety selections this year as compared to last,” Coccaro said, adding that some farmers may choose to make minor acreage substitutions.

Cotton farmers in Noxubee and Webster counties worked in the fields over the last few weeks, treating rutted acres with burndown herbicide applications and tillage. Planting in this area will likely hold off for a few more weeks.

“We’re going to wait on planting until a little closer to May – it’s still a little early,” said MSU Extension agronomist Dennis Reginelli. Some producers may begin planting during the last week of April, but only provided a favorable extended forecast.

Acreage in Noxubee and Webster counties looks to remain about the same as in recent years: around 10,000 acres in Noxubee County and 13,000 acres in Webster County.

“We just need some good weather when we get closer to May,” Reginelli said.

In Chickasaw County, a local gin reported more than 1,400 bales of cotton harvested in the first months of this year. MSU Extension agronomist Bill Burdine predicted the Chickasaw and Calhoun county area will see about a 5-percent decline in cotton acreage this year due to rutted fields from excessive rain.

Keryn Page is a writer for the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service.

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