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Oklahoma cotton needs heat units to finish upOklahoma cotton needs heat units to finish up

Oklahoma cotton farmers looking for another 900 heat units to finish crop.

Ron Smith 1

August 27, 2015

3 Min Read
<p>The small size of the U.S. crop will likely give us an ending stocks outcome similar to, or even smaller than those in 2014.</p>

Oklahoma’s cotton crop will need fair fall weather to catch up on heat units and overcome early season delays created by much-needed rainfall that pushed most growers into June to plant.

“We had a significant amount of timely rainfall that put the crop a couple of weeks late,” says Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University Extension cotton leader and resident director of the Southwest Research Center at Altus.

“Farmers were rained out of their fields for most of the month of May. Conditions turned dry in June, however. A few areas in the Southwest part of the state have received beneficial rainfall,” Boman said. “Other areas, especially dryland fields, need rain. 

“The crop is moving right along,” he said during a break at the recent Oklahoma Irrigation Conference in Fort Cobb.

Insect pressure has been light with no significant thrips infestations. “We saw a few fleahoppers but most farmers took care of that.”

Challenges remain as the crop heads toward maturity.


“We have something of a balancing act with this crop,” Boman said. “Irrigated cotton is late and probably does not have the yield potential we want. Hopefully, dryland production will make up for some of that.”

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Planting estimates, including numbers from the Oklahoma Boll Weevil Eradication Program, indicate a crop of about 200,000 acres. “That’s down a little from last year,” Boman said.

Making a profit on this crop, even with better soil moisture compared to the last four years, will be difficult. “The overall situation with the price and weed control difficulties creates a real challenge to make a profit.”

The weed issue is exacerbated by increased soil moisture. “Fortunately, a lot of folks followed Extension recommendations and used residual herbicides,” Boman said. “Even some of them had issues with weed control but we have to wonder what those fields would have looked like if they had not used a residual herbicide program. Residual herbicides did work.”

New technology coming

He said new technology expected to be available next year should help farmers deal with hard-to-control and resistant weeds. Monsanto’s XtendFlex and Dow’s Enlist Duo should have full labels for the 2016 growing season and will offer producers more options for timely weed control.

Boman says the 2015 crop will need to pick up another 900 or so heat units to mature. “No doubt this is a late crop. We accumulated 1,650 heat units from early June into early August. Now, we need a good fall,” he said. “We need to squeeze out as many heat units as we can.” Typically, the area around Altus, Okla., picks up 900 heat units late in the season. If that average holds, Boman believes the crop will do well.

Boman said farmers also are concerned about predictions for a “Godzilla El Niño off the South American coast.” If predictions hold, the El Niño could bring record rainfall into the Southwest this fall and winter.

“We’ll just have to take that as it comes,” Boman said. “We are hoping for the best.”

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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