Texas High Plains cotton needs a rain, especially for dryland production but also to help growers keep up with water demand on irrigated fields.
Kerry Siders, Texas AgriLife integrated pest management specialist for Hockley, Cochran and Lamb counties, says the weather pattern needs to change.
“The dryland acres have made hardly any progress the last couple weeks,” he writes in a recent newsletter. “I know we are not keeping up with the water demands of any crop. We need a good soaking rain event across the whole South Plains.”
Heat is not helping the situation.
Siders says he’s seeing a few more blooms and small bolls but he’s concerned about limited moisture contributing to a compressed bloom period.
“When I estimate when a field will begin blooming and it occurs 3 to 6 days sooner, I must understand why and explain to a producer the potential up or down sides. Basically the fewer the nodes above white flower (NAWF) the greater likelihood of a short bloom period, or not taking advantage of time to set harvestable bolls. When you reach 5 NAWF technically you are at physiological cut-out. Potentially the plant will be blooming out the top in two weeks.”
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That’s a problem. He says producers want cotton plants to take full advantage of the bloom period to develop harvestable bolls. “The earliest bloom period for some cotton in the far north and west reaches of Cochran and Lamb counties would be on August 15. Down near Ropes, I feel comfortable with August 20 and possibly August 25.”
He’s seeing this compressed bloom period in fields with a short water supply. “It’s a direct relationship to water availability and the ability of the plant to grow a sufficient plant to produce a respectable yield. So those fields that are going to blow through the bloom period in just a couple of weeks represent exactly how dryland cotton is produced.”
He warns growers of possibly errors they could make with this plant/water relationship. “Be careful two or three things can happen: First, it is a short crop and you continue to spend money on a big crop; Second, you back off too soon on water in fear that you will have a short crop and it forces it to be a short crop; Finally, the best possible scenario is that you have too few NAWF now, so it holds there for a couple of weeks producing more fruiting nodes and the bloom does not catch up with the top and it produces a respectable yield.”
Siders says these possible outcomes drive home the importance of watching the NAWF value.
Other management factors growers are considering include growth regulator application, fertility and insect control. “I have not seen any situation in which a grower needs to apply a growth regulator,” he says. “Growers should try to finish up any fertility over the next couple weeks, before peak bloom.”
He also recommends that growers continue scouting cotton for Lygus and aphids. “We should continue to scout for fleahoppers until near bloom.”