facebook_pixel

Researchers Seek the Best Seeding Rate for Yield Potential

Growers who have been around long enough don’t need to be reminded just how much the cost of a bag of seed has risen in recent years.

As seed companies pack more research and genetic advancements into each seed, the costs have skyrocketed. As recently as 1996, a 10 pound bag of seed could be sold at retail for as little as $7. By 2010, the same size bag could go for as much as $70, a ten-fold increase in less than two decades. Growers and subsequently researchers across the Cotton Belt have taken notice.

“As far as plant populations, many studies have been done on this throughout the Cotton Belt,” says Dr. Ed Barnes, director of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated.

One such study that Barnes has kept an eye on has been conducted by researcher Sam Wang, a cropping systems specialist with the University of Arizona, in conjunction with Dr. Randy Norton. Wang conducted his studies at the Maricopa Agriculture Center in Maricopa, AZ.

Wang set out to at least narrow the range of recommended planting rates for growers in his area. The commonly accepted range of 20,000 to 55,000 plants per acre left a lot of room for either over- or under-population.

“We wanted to give them a more narrow range so that they could really focus on what works best,” says Wang. “Normally, growers we talked with would plant too high or too dense when left with such a wide recommended range.”

Wang chose two very specific varieties for his research – Deltapine DP 0949 B2RF and Stoneville ST 4498B2RF. The idea was to study varieties that have notably different plant architecture.

“The DP 0949 B2RF grows tall and compact, while the ST 4498B2RF has more of a bushy shape,” says Wang. “We wanted to see how these different types of plants respond to different rates of plant population.”

Wang used four 40-inch wide rows and 40 feet long plots at varying rates of density at his fields in Maricopa. The plots were in sandy loam soils, and all were furrow irrigated. Tests were conducted at nine different plant population rates, ranging from 5,000 plants per acre to 70,000 plants per acre.

Given these conditions, Wang varied his plant density per acre with both varieties, and found a noteworthy pattern. Typically, yields rose at a stable rate as density rose from 5,000 plants per acre to 30,000 plants per acre and up to 35,000 plants per acre. Wang says that once populations rose past 35,000 plants per acre, the lint yield plateaued. The similar lint yield held as plant population increased, until the plants per acre rose past 50,000. At this point, the data reflected a clear decline in yield per acre.

In the first year of the study’s existence, Wang enlisted a local farmer at Marana, AZ, who conducted two properly replicated and randomized trials using PHY 499WRF in one field and PHY 375WRF in another, on a larger, working scale. Those results corroborated Wang’s findings that cotton at 35,000 plants per acre yielded better than 29,000 plants per acre or 42,000 plants per acre.

That data supported the long-held belief that overpopulation can strain an individual plant’s ability to yield to its full potential. This is especially true in less than ideal soil scenarios.

“For variable rate planting, a general strategy is to lower planting rates in the weaker soil types for two reasons,” says Barnes. “First, you want to lower plant to plant competition for limited water and nutrients. Secondly, there is less to risk in lower yield soils. That is, if you do not get a good stand in a soil that will only yield 0.5 bales per acre on a good day, that will not be as big a problem as getting a poor stand on a field that has a three bale per acre yield potential.”

Wang points out that a related benefit to lower plant populations is uniformity within a given field. He focused much of his study during this research on the performance of individual plants.

“It’s consistent with ecological principles of plant population, when the plant density is low, the variation among the plants is low,” says Wang. “So you have plants in a field that are all a similar size. When this happens, you have about 60 percent of the plants that are above average size, meaning the majority of the plants are contributing to lint yield.

“Conversely, in a high density plot, you get some plants with a large size, but about 60 percent of the plants are smaller than average. This means that there are a lot of plants in that field that are not being very productive. Their contributions to yield are very small,” says Wang.

Both Wang and Barnes recognize that there are other variables that may come into play when a grower is deciding how densely to populate a given field. In those instances where a cotton producer may opt for a more sparsely populated field, Barnes says growers should keep emergence rates in mind.

“The low end of that commonly accepted range of 20,000 assumes you will have 20,000 plants that emerge,” says Barnes. “So, you would want a higher seeding rate of at least 25,000 to make sure you have that many plants. Also, this low rate assumes the plants are evenly distributed. It does not apply to skippy stands.”

Another factor to consider when choosing a plant population rate is the maturity rate of a given crop. Growers in northern regions of the Cotton Belt who require a shorter-maturing variety should consider planting a higher seeding rate.

“Dense populations – usually involving 15 inch or tighter row spacings – do typically result in an earlier crop,” says Barnes.

So, while other factors will come into play when deciding how densely to populate a field, researchers like Wang and Barnes are giving growers a better idea of how to maximize their own yield potential. At the very least, Wang hopes his research has helped narrow the wide range of options growers face when contemplating plant populations.

“We want to help them save on their input costs and have better yields, for sure, but we want them to have a better idea of how density affects individual plant performance, too,” says Wang. “We wanted to narrow that range so a farmer won’t go too low or too high.”

Leave a Reply

News Stories
News

NCC Sets 2017-18 Emerging Leaders Class

April 27, 2017

Twelve U.S. cotton industry members have been named to the National Cotton Council’s Emerging Leaders Program for 2017-18.

News

USDA Announces 2017 Cotton Loan Rate Differentials

April 19, 2017

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has announced the 2017-crop loan rate differentials for upland and extra-long staple cotton.

News

Coloring Cotton with Cotton

April 18, 2017

A collaborative program between Archroma and Cotton Incorporated has resulted in a process to dye cotton with cotton.

Cotton Sprayer
Product News

UPI Adds New Herbicide Products

April 14, 2017

UPI has added two new herbicides to its portfolio of high quality crop protection products for the U.S.

Product News

FiberMax One Ton Club Membership Tops 1,000

April 14, 2017

A record number of growers qualified for the FiberMax One Ton Club in 2016 with four-bale and higher yields with FiberMax varieties.

News

Cotton Highlights from April WASDE Report

April 11, 2017

The continued strength of U.S. cotton exports are reflected in USDA’s WASDE report for April.

News

Survey Studies U.S. Cotton Sustainability Versus Synthetics

April 10, 2017

A University of Georgia student’s survey of the U.S. cotton industry found that the crop can compete with synthetic fibers and will continue to be economically and environmentally feasible into the future.

Around The Gin
Product News

Indigo Partners Launched for In-Field Technology Testing

April 25, 2017

Indigo is launching Indigo Partners, a collaboration of 25 U.S. growers and agronomic experts to test agricultural technologies – including Indigo’s microbial seed treatments – during 2017.

Product News

UPI Adds New Herbicide Products

April 14, 2017

UPI has added two new herbicides to its portfolio of high quality crop protection products for the U.S.

Product News

FiberMax One Ton Club Membership Tops 1,000

April 14, 2017

A record number of growers qualified for the FiberMax One Ton Club in 2016 with four-bale and higher yields with FiberMax varieties.

Product News

Deltapine NPE Program Kicks off Tenth Year

April 10, 2017

Nearly 200 growers will participate in the tenth season of the Deltapine New Product Evaluator (NPE) Program.

Product News

BASF Expands Dicamba Manufacturing Facility

March 22, 2017

BASF has completed a $270 million expansion of its Beaumont, TX, facility – the largest agricultural products facility investment in company history.

Product News

Topguard Terra Label Amendments for Cotton Root Rot in Texas

March 7, 2017

Texas growers now have additional preplant and post planting options for using Topguard Terra to control cotton root rot.

Product News

Advanced Traits from PhytoGen Protect Yield and Quality

March 6, 2017

PhytoGen varieties offer more and better in-plant, native trait protection to help cotton thrive, protect quality and optimize yields.

Product News

Six Greenleaf Nozzles Approved for Use with XtendiMax

February 24, 2017

Six TurboDrop D Series nozzles from Greenleaf Technologies have been approved for use with Monsanto’s XtendiMax herbicide with VaporGrip Technology.

Latest News
News

NCC Sets 2017-18 Emerging Leaders Class

April 27, 2017

Twelve U.S. cotton industry members have been named to the National Cotton Council’s Emerging Leaders Program for 2017-18.

News

Cotton Organizations Praise Perdue Confirmation

April 24, 2017

The confirmation of Sonny Perdue as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has garnered praise and support from the cotton industry.

News

USDA Announces 2017 Cotton Loan Rate Differentials

April 19, 2017

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has announced the 2017-crop loan rate differentials for upland and extra-long staple cotton.

News

Coloring Cotton with Cotton

April 18, 2017

A collaborative program between Archroma and Cotton Incorporated has resulted in a process to dye cotton with cotton.

News

Cotton Highlights from April WASDE Report

April 11, 2017

The continued strength of U.S. cotton exports are reflected in USDA’s WASDE report for April.

News

Survey Studies U.S. Cotton Sustainability Versus Synthetics

April 10, 2017

A University of Georgia student’s survey of the U.S. cotton industry found that the crop can compete with synthetic fibers and will continue to be economically and environmentally feasible into the future.

News

NCC Conveys Farm Law Priorities in DC Hearing

April 4, 2017

National Cotton Council Chairman Ronnie Lee outlined cotton’s priorities for the next farm bill before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

News

NCC Comments on EPA’s Chlorpyrifos Decision

March 31, 2017

The National Cotton Council supports EPA’s decision to focus on scientific evidence to maintain registration for chlorpyrifos.

News

Lubbock Ag Day Speakers Offer Tips for Cotton and Allied Sectors

March 23, 2017

Active involvement and participation are needed to help push the cotton, textile and related sectors forward, noted speakers at the recent Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Salute to Ag Luncheon.

News

NCC: President’s Recognition of U.S. Agriculture Encouraging

March 22, 2017

The NCC found President Trump's National Agriculture Day proclamation encouraging, based on his comments about the value of America's farmers and ranchers.

News

Webcast Focuses on Value of Cotton Variety Selection

March 17, 2017

A new webcast on the economic value of choosing the correct cotton variety has been added to the Focus on Cotton online series from the Plant Management Network and Cotton Incorporated.

News

Ag Groups: Productive Trade Meeting with Trump Administration

March 17, 2017

Leaders from 11 major U.S. agricultural and agribusiness organizations engaged in a substantive and productive meeting with the Trump administration on the continued growth of food and agriculture exports.

News

Bayer Opens $16.7 Million Southwest Cotton Breeding Station

March 13, 2017

A new Bayer breeding and research station near Lubbock, TX, focuses on drought-resistant cotton varieties and traits for limited-input situations.

News

A Man on the Move

March 9, 2017

Ronnie Lee is ready to do cotton’s work as 2017 NCC Chairman. Just don’t count on him slowing down in the process.

News

Cotton Highlights from March WASDE Report

March 9, 2017

The March WASDE report for cotton shows incremental increases in estimated U.S. production and exports based on current market conditions, while global consumption and stocks remain, on average, virtually unchanged.