Cotton laid down in the field by Tropical Storm Gordon.
For most row crop growers in Florida, Tropical Storm Gordon had minimal impact. However, in the westernmost part of the state, much of the cotton suffered significant damage. Though the winds were not extremely strong, the combination of saturated soils and winds wreaked havoc on what had looked like a stellar cotton crop.
The western Panhandle had been blessed with ample rains throughout the summer. Prior to T.S. Gordon making landfall on September 3, many farmers were excited about the prospective yields for their 2018 cotton crop. In northern Escambia County, farmers reported rainfall ranging from 7-11 inches. Though the area did not receive a long period of high winds, the combination of waterlogged soils and wind caused a great deal of lodging in cotton that was nearing full maturity almost ready to be defoliated. Canopies heavy with loaded bolls and wet leaves laid down on damp soil and have not since righted their position. The bolls touching wet ground have rotted off the plant. The plants are matted throughout the field. Many farmers have shared their concerns with the difficulty of defoliating a field that has cotton laying across the row middles.
Though the winds from T.S. Gordon died down within 24 hours, the rains continued. It has continued to rain regularly since September 3rd. Not only is the cotton worse for wear, but peanut harvest has been steadily delayed by the rains. Greg Phillips, manager of Birdsong Peanuts-McCullough, said “Peanut harvest in the area has been greatly slowed by the rain.” He estimates that around 7% of the entire crop has been harvested, whereas if the weather conditions had been favorable, 15% of the year’s crop would been harvested by this time. He does report good grades so far, but he is concerned that further delays might cause a decline in both yield and grades.
The Agroclimate image below shows the total rainfall in inches from August 13th to September 25th. It is evident that the western Panhandle and Lower Alabama have received ample amounts of rain, but the story that it doesn’t tell is that all of this rainfall is coming at a time of year when conditions are generally starting to dry out for harvesting.
The image below from Agroclimate provides a good comparison of rainfall totals from the past 45 days to September 25. The map of the southeast on the left shows the historical average rainfall for this time of year The more colorful map of the southeast on the right shows the deviation from “normal” rainfall amounts. In the case of late summer 2018, T.S. Gordon brought in much higher than average rainfall in the areas shaded in blue and purple.
It will take some time to know the full extent of the impact from T.S. Gordon. Crop damage appears significant, but the full effects will not be known until after the completion of the 2018 crop harvest.
Cotton planted behind wheat, waiting to be side-dressed with nitrogen. Photo: Josh Thompson
Fertilizing cotton is always a major factor that affects yield in the Panhandle. Last year we saw plenty of cotton fields run out of nitrogen (N) during the summer with the relentless rains. We also saw growers trying to apply N, through irrigation or ground, when it was too late to do any good. So what are some fertilization guidelines that years of research provide us with?
Phosphorous and Potassium
Phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) fertilizers should go out prior to or at planting and should be based on soil test recommendations. These nutrients are essential for good early season growth and can be applied in a complete fertilizer blend (i.e. 5-15-30). It is not necessary to apply more than 20-30% of the total N at planting because the main N demand does not begin until cotton starts blooming.
On sandier fields it may be a good idea to split K applications, applying half at planting and half with N sidedress. This is because K can be leached in sandier fields. K deficiency has been shown to be a cause of some leaf spot diseases that occur later in the season.
Nitrogen and Sulfur
Nitrogen obviously has a major impact on yield. Research shows that side-dress N should be applied between squaring and first bloom.
Total N for the season should range between 60 – 120 lbs/acre. The amount needed will vary depending on soil type and yield potential. Greater yield potential will require a rate towards the upper end of the range, however, a low N rate does not necessarily mean low yields. With good rainfall, even some non-irrigated farms can make 2 bale cotton with 70 lbs. of N on heavier soils. Rainfall is usually a more limiting factor than N.
Sulfur is also an important nutrient for cotton production, especially in sandier fields. The recommended rate of sulfur is 10 lbs/acre. This can be achieved by using ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24S), liquid “28” which is 28-0-0-5S, or “K-mag” which is 0-0-22-22S-11Mg.
How late is too late for N?
Unfortunately, some growers learned this the hard way in 2013. Multiple years of research from Dr. David Wright and others has shown that applying N beyond the 3rd week of bloom will not increase yield. This is true even if the field is deficient in N. When it gets late in the season, cotton naturally begins to look pale green or slightly yellow. This occurs because the plant is sending its nutrient resources into the young bolls, and does not necessarily indicate an N deficiency. According to Dr. David Wright, UF/IFAS Extension Agronomist, excess N during late bloom has actually shown decreased cotton yields in some trials.
If you have more questions about cotton fertilization or production see Cotton Cultural Practices and Fertility Management or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
Fertilizer being transferred to a spreader truck. Photo: Josh Thompson
Palmer amaranth growing where the center pivot was located at the time of pre-emergence herbicide application. Photo: J. Thompson
Panhandle farmers are busy. Many are still planting peanuts and cotton, some are harvesting wheat and oats, cutting hay, putting out fertilizer and spraying for weeds and thrips.
Herbicide applications are going out in areas that are dry enough to get equipment in. Some fields are being overlooked and others not being sprayed on time. Timing of herbicide application for Palmer Amaranth (pigweed) control is critical now, as crops emerge and pre-emergence applications wear off.
Palmer amaranth can grow in excess of 1 inch per day and be next to impossible to control once it is 6 inches tall or more. If you see 4 inch Palmers on Friday, and you wait until Monday to spray, you will probably not get good control of those weeds. The goal should be to target weeds when they are 4 inches or less and combine foliar and soil residual herbicides to prevent new weeds from emerging.
With this in mind, it’s important to scout fields early for emerging Palmer. Getting herbicides out on time is easier said than done, given that there are so many other things that growers have on their plates right now.
Glyphosate resistant palmer amaranth. Credit: J. Thompson
This palmer amaranth in the photo above was sprayed with glyphosate over a week ago. Notice how it was damaged but survived, and the cutleaf evening primrose to the right did not. When escapes occur, weeds will need to be hand-pulled prior to seed production. If using Liberty Link cotton, be sure not to make more than 2 applications (1 would be better) of Liberty per season unless you want to develop Liberty resistance as well!
Palmer amaranth in peanuts. Credit: J. Thompson
The field in the picture above is a prime candidate for a paraquat (Gramoxone) + Dual Magnum application. Paraquat will burn peanut foliage, but is the best option for palmer amaranth that is 4 inches or less in height. Paraquat can be applied at true cracking and up until 28 days after cracking. Since adding Dual Magnum increases foliage burn, some growers choose to add 4 – 8 oz./ acre of Basagran to lessen the burn.
The following are basic recommendations for cotton and peanuts from the publication: Control of Palmer Amaranth in Agronomic Crops.
Planting cotton in Bascom, FL. Photo: J. Thompson
Its prime time for cotton and peanut planting, but the excessive rainfall last week brought planting to a halt. Some growers in the northeast corner of Jackson County, where soils are very sandy, were able to begin planting again this week. The rest of the region is still pretty wet, causing growers to plant hill tops and any area dry enough to get equipment in.
Hopefully, the dry weather will continue but its likely that there are some portions of fields that won’t be planted this year, especially south of Interstate-10.
Here a few key points to remember to start-off right when planting peanuts and cotton.
1.) Burn-down herbicide
Emerged Palmer in peanuts or cotton at planting will make it next to impossible to successfully manage. Make sure fields are Palmer free at planting, either by tillage or herbicide, and that residual herbicides are used at-planting to prevent new weeds from emerging. See IFAS Palmer control recommendations.
Always apply P (phosphorous) and K (potassium) fertilizer according to soil test recommendations at or prior to planting as both nutrients are important for early growth of peanut and cotton. Nitrogen (N) can be included with P and K for cotton at 5 – 20 lbs./acre either in a band 2 inches below and 2 inches to the side of the seed, or if using liquid, dribbled 2 inches to the side of the row. The rest of the N should be side-dressed between squaring and bloom. If fertilizer has already been applied, and there is concern about leaching, consider applying some additional K since it is subject to leaching on sandy soils. Phosphorous loss due to leaching is usually not a problem. See IFAS fertilizer recommendations.
3.) Seeding depth and rate
Cotton: Optimal planting depth is ½-1 inch. More vigorous varieties can be planted slightly deeper, however, it is best not to exceed 1 inch depth if the producer is not experienced with that varieties’ vigor. Optimal plant stands range between 2-3 plants per foot for 36 inch rows. To do this plant 2.5 – 4 seeds per foot or if using hill-drop plates, plant 2 seeds every 8 – 10 inches.
Peanut: Optimal planting depth is 1 1/2 – 2 inches. Optimal plant stand is 3-4 plants per foot. To achieve this, plant 4 – 6 seed per foot in single row or 3 – 4 seed per foot in twin row pattern. A higher seeding rate helps combat the effects of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, although disease pressure has been relatively low the last several years.
For more information on peanut or cotton production, see the Cotton Cultural Practices and Fertility Management or Management and Cultural Practices for Peanut or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
Peanut seed ready to be planted. Credit: J. Thompson
Peanuts coming up near Marianna. Credit: J. Thompson
Not everything planted before the rain got washed away. Credit: J. Thompson
A courteous tractor driver. Credit: J. Thompson
Cotton being picked near Dellwood, Florida.
It’s early November and there is still a great deal of cotton to be picked in Northwest Florida. Yield reports from Jackson County have been well below the norm, with yields being reported between 400 -1100 lbs. of lint per acre. Additionally, there have been some reports of poor quality grades.
The weather has been the main recipient of blame from cotton farmers. Cold weather in April followed by a dry May made planting on time very difficult for some farmers, especially those without irrigation. In combination with a difficult planting season, continuous heavy rains the entire summer stressed much of the cotton crop, severely reducing yield potential and delaying maturity.
Despite these setbacks, farmers are still working hard to harvest their crop and deliver to the gin. Considerable acreage of the late planted cotton has still yet to be defoliated.
Dr. David Wright, UF/IFAS Agronomist has some thoughts for growers with late planted cotton:
“Growers with un-defoliated cotton should keep in mind that cool temperatures significantly reduce the the ability of cotton bolls to mature. If we are getting highs of 70 degrees and lows of 50 degrees we are getting zero heat units and thus cotton bolls are not maturing. Additionally, we are now at the point in the year where we run the risk of having a frost.
A frost can completely eliminate the ability of un-open bolls to open. Such a frost acts by killing the bolls, preventing them from producing ethylene which causes them to open. My best recommendation is to consider making harvest aid applications on their final fields while the conditions are favorable.”
Some weather forecasts show daily high temperatures remaining in the mid 70’s until the middle of next week. This could help a few more bolls to open over the next week. Additionally, it could prove to be good weather for applying harvest aid materials. Grower’s must soon decide when its time to pull the trigger on harvest aid materials for late planted fields.
For more information, see 2013 Cotton Harvest Timing and Defoliation and Cotton Growth and Development or contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Agent.
Cotton stalks being chopped after picking near Marianna, FL.
Cotton modules stacked at the Clover Leaf Gin in Greenwood, Fl.