The first thing that is top of mind this time of season for growers south of I-10 is what they have to do to achieve a successful stand establishment in their cotton crop. The first 40 days of a cotton crop is very pivotal in achieving the best yields. As we begin planting cotton the middle to end of February, looking at the forecast and knowing what our soil temperatures are is more crucial than in any other row crop across South Texas. Cotton can be severely damaged if soil temperatures drop below 50 degrees, especially in the first few days after planting. Four key factors to achieving a successful stand establishment in a cotton crop are listed below.
The adage of “If I plant early, I’ll harvest early” isn’t necessarily the case. You aren’t guaranteed to be the first out of the field just because you planted your seed first. I’ve witnessed many instances where cotton planted three to four weeks later will catch up with the earliest planted cotton due to the increase in heat unit accumulation later in the spring. A key point to remember is that it generally takes 50 to 60 heat units from planting to emergence in a cotton crop. The one caveat to this is planting depth — it takes roughly 50 to 60 heat units when planting depth is 1 inch. There is very little cotton that gets planted at a 1-inch depth across South Texas. For every 0.25 inches over 1 inch in planting depth, add 10 heat units to the factor for figuring how long it will take for that seed to emerge. In situations where we are forced to chase moisture at planting, it can take 2 to 3 times longer for that seed to emerge than what the textbooks tell you.
Once we have our stand established, we are off to the races, and growth management becomes top of mind. Deltapine® brand has released quite a few varieties in the last three years for this market, most of which are very aggressive growing and require very timely plant growth regulator applications. The Deltapine Class of ’20 varieties, DP 2012 B3XF and DP 2020 B3XF, have somewhat broken that mold. Although these varieties can be aggressive growing, they are much more responsive to plant growth regulators than what growers are accustomed to with Deltapine genetics. The table below (left) breaks down responsiveness of some of the more popular Deltapine varieties in the East Texas market.
I always preach to start early with plant growth regulators. At least get something in the plant prior to first flower, even if it is a small amount. Plant growth regulators work off dry weight concentration in the plant, which means the bigger the plant gets, the harder it is to get enough active ingredient into the plant to gain the growth effect desired. Think of plant growth regulators like a 401(k) — if you start investing in them early in life in small amounts, you get way more bang for your buck compared to trying to catch up later in life. n