A window of warm, dry weather finally arrived in the north Delta toward the end of May, allowing cotton producers into fields to either: (a) plant for the first time, (b) replant cotton that had been hit with every malady imaginable; or (c) watch cotton finally start to grow.
There have been, in no particular order of importance: flooding of cotton fields between the levees in Arkansas and Tennessee; slow-growing cotton due to cold weather; seedling disease; too much rain; and dense infestations of thrips. To add insult to injury, a late May frost took out already sick cotton in some west Tennessee bottomland fields.
“All I've done the last three days is look at cotton land that can't catch up,” said Missouri Extension cotton specialist Bobby Phipps. “The cotton is in terrible condition. I'm guessing we'll replant between 30,000 acres and 50,000 acres. About 10,000 acres to 15,000 acres will be lost and will probably go into soybeans.”
Phipps says cotton's cotyledon leaves “are beat up and Ascochyta blight is showing up. A lot of the plants have taproots that are blackened, and a few are girdled. A lot of soil is hard-packed, and it's hard for the seedlings to get through.”
In addition, “thrips are a problem on almost every field,” the specialist said. “Almost all the true leaves are curled from damage. The calendar is coming into play now. This next week (May 27 to June 2) is going to be the cutoff date for planting.”
Sand damage in the Bootheel has also been severe, according to Phipps. “With the weakness of the crop, I recommended that producers cultivate to make sure the sand doesn't blow and that they be sure to spray for thrips.”
No records are kept on how much acreage is replanted in a given season, but seed companies say they've been busy shipping new seed or helping dealers shuffle existing supplies.
According to Don Threet, national sales manager for Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co., “there's a good bit of replanting activity in Coahoma, Tallahatchie and Panola counties in Mississippi. Those are major replants. We've moved a lot of seed in there the last five or six days. And a lot of retailers are working together shuffling their inventories.
“Personally, I can't recall this much replanting,” Threet said of the north Delta situation.
Other areas where seed is being redistributed by Stoneville dealers are, Poinsett, Phillips, Crittenden, Monroe and Mississippi counties in Arkansas, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties in the Missouri Bootheel, most of west Tennessee and a few areas in southeast Arkansas.
Threet noted that cotton producers in the Rector, Ark., area have only recently been able to get into fields and plant for the first time, after having been delayed by flooding.
“By the (Memorial Day) weekend, all the first planting should be done,” said Threet. “But in the midst of people finishing up first planting, they're also looking at replanting fields that may have been planted early or went through some heavy rains, hail and cold weather.
“Next week (May 27 to June 2), they're going to further assess some fields for more replanting,” he said. “They're going to look at some fields and realize that they're not good enough to keep.”
Threet said that Stoneville has been able to supply 100 percent of cotton producers' replant needs by variety.
Delta and Pine Land has also seen a marked increase in seed requests in the north Delta, according to Randy Dismuke, senior vice president, Delta and Pine Land Co.
Judging by the amount of new seed being ordered in these areas, “there is a significant amount of replanting going on,” he said. “Some farmers I've talked to are replanting 10 percent to 15 percent of their cotton. It seems to vary by when producers planted the first time. Most of the cotton planted in early April is holding up if it has some size on it.”
Dismuke said growers are looking for early-maturing cotton varieties with Bollgard and Roundup Ready traits, primarily Paymaster 1218 BR. “We have a good supply of that. Another early BG/RR cotton requested is Suregrow SG 215. But we've had only limited supplies of it throughout the season.”
For some west Tennessee growers, the replant decision was made easier when a late frost dealt a death blow to a lot of sick cotton.
“Some of these low-lying creek bottoms got enough frost last Sunday (May 19) to finish it off,” said Somerville, Tenn., cotton producer Willie German, who had yet to check his cotton for the problem.
German finished his first cotton planting May 23. “We are running a rotary hoe over everything we planted the week before that because of the rain. The ground has a crust over it and this cotton is having trouble pushing out.”