I received a request to review an article from the University of Missouri Alumni Association today about a local cotton producer. I was asked to provide a link for Missouri?s cotton production compared with the other states. One of the references that I found was from a Missouri Department of Agriculture Blog, ?Thinking Outside The Barn.? The featured article was, ?Cotton Crop is Valued in Missouri.? This was posted on September 24, 2010 during the Sustainable Cotton Summit conducted by the University of Missouri?s Textile and Apparel Management Department. The statement is as follows, ?There are 17 states that produce cotton and Missouri ranks 9th, but when it comes to cotton yield, we rank 3rd with some of the highest quality cotton in the industry.? In 2011, we only have projections, but these are encouraging.
To get an idea of our yield potential and our standing compared with other states, I looked at the Cotton and Wool outlook report dated September 13. On page 19, Table 11 has an estimate of planted and harvested acreage, yield and total production for the cotton producing states. Since last month, our estimated yield has increased by 57 pounds per acre. If you look at the total production for upland cotton, you will see that we rank 7th behind, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee. If you look at the projected yield per acre, Missouri is ahead of all of the Southeastern, Delta, and Southwest states. In the West, Arizona and California are estimated to yield 1510 and 1485 pounds per acre, respectively. Missouri is projected to yield 1092. The only other state with over a thousand pounds per acre is Arkansas at 1018. In the Delta States, Missouri is only ahead of Louisiana in harvested acres. With 365,000 acres, this is in contrast to 285 thousand for Louisiana.
Defoliation began several weeks ago but no cotton harvest has been reported, but we are close. Some of the early, non-irrigated cotton is expected to be harvested beginning this week end. In most years, cotton harvest begins around the time of the Delta Fair which is at the end of September.
According to the Missouri Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending September 11,ˇCotton opening bolls was 51 percent, 10 days behind last year, and 3 days behind normal.ˇ Cotton condition was 4 percent very poor, 9 percent poor, 30 percent fair, 54 percent good, and 3 percent excellent.ˇAt this time last year harvest had just begun and bolls have opened on 79 percent of the crop, 33 days ahead of last year and over 15 days ahead of normal.
The reason that I am excited about this year?s crop is that producers were able to overcome so much adversity. This would include the poor planting conditions that resulted in replanting. The early planted cotton had to deal with cool, wet conditions. The most serious challenge this year was dealing with the glyphosate resistant palmer pigweed. Growers were able to overcome this challenge by using pre and post emerge residual herbicides, the Liberty-Link system by Bayer CropScience, and with hoeing. The strategy is to hit the weeds in the 2 inch stage and to get the crop to shade out the seedlings. By not allowing the plants to produce seed, producers can reduce the number of seed in the field. This is a battle of attrition, by lowering the number of seeds going into the soil. Since this is a relatively weak seed, it is expected that eventually, the seed will not be viable. This will not be an easy task and it is also an expensive proposition.
A bright spot for Missouri producers this season has been the number of heat units that have been produced. This is also known as DD-60?s which is a measure of how much temperatures are available. Temperature is the driving force for all cotton growth and development.
From May 1 through August 15, we had accumulated 1917 heat units. This is the second highest number since 2003. Last year on the same date, we had 2102. On August 30, we had 2213 heat units which is the third highest since 2003.
In looking at our two top yielding years of 2008 and 2010 with 1106 and 1054, pounds per acre, respectively. Last year, we had 2446 heat units by September 1 but only 1673 in 2008. So there is a lot more things happening to produce higher yields than heat units alone.
According to the U.S. Drought monitor, all of our cotton area has been classified as abnormally dry. Again irrigation has really paid off. To see the impact of irrigation, look at the cotton outside of the pivot circle for comparison. Irrigation can pay off even in a year with good rainfall. The reason is that of timing. Producers can apply irrigation to prevent the cotton from being stressed.
To look at the forecast for the remainder of the season, the Climate Prediction Center is projecting higher than normal temperatures through October and less than average precipitation. So the conditions that are projected should allow timely harvesting.
We are now experiencing cooler conditions which might make defoliation more challenging. Also in fields with weed pressure, the herbicide-defoliant might have a place. Otherwise, the combination products with defoliants, boll openers, and regrowth inhibitors have always done well.
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Dr. Michael R. Milam is an agronomy specialist and county program director with University of Missouri Extension in Dunklin County.