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OK farmers expect good cotton yields

Folks may not say it out loud but Oklahoma farmers could be looking at a very good cotton crop.

“A late warm spell helped us,” says Oklahoma Extension cotton specialist J.C. Banks at Altus. He says acreage will be down from last year but per acre yield could be better, possibly one of the best on record.

“We’ll harvest from 185,000 to 200,000 acres,” Banks says. “We didn’t lose much.”

A good portion of lost acres came from dryland fields that were not well suited to cotton.

“Most of our irrigated acreages stayed in cotton,” he says.

Banks says some herbicide injury set the crop back a bit early on. “Good weather helped us grow out of that damage,” he says. “We had a lot of rain during the summer so the per acre production looks pretty good.”

He says wet soils caused some problems. “The main thing was restricted root systems,” he says. “Cotton was waterlogged, which caused it to cut out a little earlier and a little more severely. Some nutrient deficiencies showed up, mainly potassium. We usually have plenty of potassium in the soil, but the restricted root systems prevented the plants from picking it up. A heavy boll load and the limited root system caused some micronutrient deficiencies as well.

“Even with irrigation, roots never got back to where they should have been,” Banks says.

He saw a few weed problems as well.

“We had trouble with horseweed, particularly,” Banks says,” especially in dryland, no-till cotton.”

He says Oklahoma State University is working on a control program to use a phenoxy herbicide early in the year, before planting, to take out horseweed before it gets a good start.

“This is a promising option,” he says. “Farmers should not plant if they have horseweed in the fields at planting time. Get rid of the weeds first.”

He says horseweed is a prolific seed producer and if it goes to seed in a field, the field has problems.

He says he’s seen no evidence of a “real Roundup resistance problem in the area. It’s just that if these weeds get big enough it’s hard to kill them.”

Banks says wet weather caused little more than normal cotton disease outbreaks. “We saw a little because of the root system restriction. A lot of late senescence occurred. We saw some Alternaria and Cercospora. Cotton is usually done by the time these diseases come in so we don’t have much damage.”

He says an aphid outbreak caused some problems. “If growers were patient, beneficial insects and a fungus pretty well took care of aphid populations.”

He says farmers who were patient and not overly aggressive with fleahopper control allowed beneficials and the fungus to limit aphid damage.

Other insects caused few problems. “I haven’t seen a boll weevil in five years,” he says.

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