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John_Hart_Farm_Press_Cotton_Cool_Germ.jpg John Hart

Poor cool germination in cotton becoming a challenge

The only way for farmers to know if they didn’t get good seed is to get the germination results of each lot of seed purchased.

Poor cool germination in cotton seed is becoming more of a challenge for growers.

In presentations at winter cotton meetings, North Carolina State University Extension Cotton Specialist Keith Edmisten urged growers to take a proactive approach in management and evaluating seed germination rates.

Although there were a few instances of low seed quality prior to 2017, it became more common in 2017 and continued in 2018 and 2019. Ideal planting conditions last year helped make the cotton industry more aware of the germination issues.

“Normally, we have a lot of bad things we can blame low seed germination on: bad weather events, heavy rain, cool weather, herbicide injury. We didn’t have these things to blame in 2019, so we really looked in depth at the seed,” Edmisten said at a cotton meeting at the Sampson County Exposition Center in Clinton.

A new pilot program was launched this year by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to evaluate both the warm and cool germination of cotton seed planted in the state.

Edmisten said the only way for farmers to know if they didn’t get good seed is to get the germination results of each lot of seed purchased. He urged growers to contact their seed dealer to get the cool germination of each seed lot. He noted cotton farmers very likely had low cool germ cotton in the past, and they may not have even known about it, which is why keeping a close eye on germination will be critical this year.

Edmisten urges these points to deal with low-quality seed:

  • Plant in optimum conditions for temperature and moisture;
  • Avoid planting to deeply;
  • Avoid crusting soils;
  • Be especially careful with small seeded varieties;
  • Avoid in-furrow fertilizers.

The likely cause of low-quality cotton seed is due to poor weather conditions in Arizona and California where most of the seed North Carolina growerrs plant is grown. Edmisten said these conditions worked to lower the cool germination numbers in cotton.

Cool germination percentages vary from year to year.

A cool germination of less than 50 percent is poor. A cool germination of 60 to 65 percent is acceptable, but Edmisten said use this seed with care. A cool germination of 65 to 80 percent is good, while a cool germination greater than 80 percent is superior.

“Be prepared, because some of these cool germ numbers are not what you are used to with warm germ. Less than 50 percent is poor, and we’ve had some of that seed come into the state which is less than 50 percent. That’s one of the reasons this pilot program has been implemented,” Edmisten said.

One approach to battle low cool germination is to increase seeding rates in later-planted cotton. Edmisten noted that late-planted cotton doesn’t have enough time for the outer positions and vegetative branches of the plant to compensate for low cool germ.

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