July 23, 2018
Weather this spring disrupted planting for cotton crops in south Alabama, leaving farmers across the Wiregrass concerned
Cool temperatures in April halted planting until early May. Hot temperatures and low rainfall in May made for difficult planting. Many growers stopped planting because of the dry conditions. When rain did arrive in late May, it rained constantly for a large part of June.
William Birdsong, an Alabama Extension regional agent of agronomic crops, said this mixture of odd weather conditions created an odd cotton crop season.
“It was hard this spring to get cotton planted and emerged in the desired time period,” Birdsong said. “It was also a challenging spring to manage post emergence weeds.”
Now, south Alabama is dealing with a split crop. Birdsong estimates that 50 percent of the cotton crops will be late. With what is essentially two different crops, farmers will have a challenge when it comes to making management decisions.
“When it comes to the later planted cotton, growers cannot treat this plant just like the cotton that was planted in late April or early May,” Birdsong said. “The cotton planted in late May through late June and some even in early July is a different animal than the early planted cotton.”
Managing Late Cotton Crops
Cotton normally develops slowly because it goes through a period of time where the temperatures are cooler. Later planted cotton grows during times with much higher temperatures which causes it to change rapidly.
Birdsong said management of late cotton crops is urgent.
“All nutrients, such as nitrogen, should be applied early, somewhere in the third to sixth true leaf,” Birdsong said. “Nitrogen doesn’t activate until it rains. If we go through a period with no rain, that cotton is not getting the nitrogen it needs. This slows the cotton’s growth and development.”
Birdsong said the time when the plant demands the most water is going to coincide with one of the driest times of the year.
“This late crop will reach peak water demand somewhere around the first of September. September is historically the second driest natural rainfall month for Alabama,” Birdsong said. “This certainly is concerning when considering the dryland late planted crop.”
Birdsong encourages growers to implement the proper management practices for this late cotton crop. For more information, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.
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