As harvest season ends, it is time to start thinking about seed selection for the 2021 planting year as well as management practices to improve soil health.
Brian Pieralisi, Mississippi State University assistant professor and Extension cotton specialist, discussed a few things to consider when purchasing cottonseed as well as how the Mississippi cotton harvest wrapped up this season.
2020 cotton harvest
As of the second week of November, Pieralisi said the state was finishing harvest.
"I think most of the state is done harvesting," he said. "I see cotton in some fields, but I would say it's coming to a close."
Pieralisi said they are finishing picking cotton as a part of variety trials. Yields have been average for the most part.
"There have been some fantastic yields in places around the state, but there have been some catastrophes in other places for various reasons," he said. "I would say most people are somewhere in the middle. They maybe weren't picking the yields they hoped for in August and September but were able to finish out the season with decent yields."
With storms from hurricanes in September and October, the rain slowed down harvest some.
"Most farmers seem happy to have been able to harvest their crop even if it wasn't what they had anticipated," Pieralisi said. "For whatever reason, some farms have been a couple of hundred pounds off from what they hoped for, perhaps from repeated rainstorms.
"A hypothesis of mine for why some people's yields were off is we had such a uniform fruiting distribution late in the season, and all of those bolls started to mature roughly at the same time. I think it might have added stress on the plant, or there was an unattainable nutrient demand. I'm not 100% sure, but that is one idea."
Many farms with cotton following corn picked some of their best yields as well as farmers with cotton behind cotton.
"As a group, there were some good yields in places on some of the earlier picked cotton that didn't get rained on, and cotton behind corn did well," he said. "The majority of cotton farmers are off by a couple of hundred pounds."
2021 seed selection
The 2020 preliminary yield data for Mississippi will most likely be published on the MAFES website in December at https://bit.ly/variety-trial.
"We'll put some tables up showing variety performance to help farmers decide what they need based on region, soil type, and production practices such as irrigated or non-irrigated land," Pieralisi said.
The number one thing when starting the planting season is to have a variety you trust to perform well on your operation and soil type.
"I think we'll see a push to plant three-gene Bt cotton in 2021 since that's one of the newest varieties," he said. "Three-gene cotton has been out for a little while, and the preliminary data suggest that some of these three-gene varieties are capable of performing as well as some of the two-gene. With the two-gene, you anticipate a couple of sprays, and hopefully, with the three-gene, you will not have to."
It's important to weigh out aspects such as yield potential to know if three-gene cotton will be right for your farm.
"There's no cut and dry line as far as the cost between three-gene technology versus two-gene," Pieralisi said. "It's all variety driven, and that's based on yield potential. Also, just because it's two-gene doesn't necessarily mean it's less expensive.
"The new Bollgard 3 appears to have good yield potential, which could cut down on some in seasonal sprays while still having a good yield performance comparable with Bollgard 2. A lot of the farmers I've talked to were impressed by some Bollgard 3 varieties, but some still prefer Bollgard 2. I think the shift of more people looking into Bollgard 3 is going to happen in 2021."
The fall is a good time for soil testing.
"If you do your soil testing in the fall, you will get your data back in enough time to know if there are any applications you need to make to address pH, P, and K," he said.
Depending on your soil type, some have also shifted to putting their potash or potassium out in the spring or making an in-season application.
"This past year I got a lot of calls about potassium deficiencies in-season," Pieralisi said. "Soil tests showed they were adequate, which could be a physiological problem based on the root system as well. Stay on top of the status of your soil, so you have time to make those calls earlier."