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First 48 Hours Critical For Cotton
Author: Tom Barber, Extension Weed Scientist

The warmest March on record has put cotton growers in a frenzy, highly anticipating and gearing up for planting cotton in 2012.  We all know that planting any cotton prior to Easter is a risky decision.  With that being said, there is cotton in Arkansas that is up to a perfect stand in several areas across the delta.  The temperature forecast over the next five days predicts cooler temperatures, falling into the lower 40°F range tomorrow (Thursday) night, through Saturday, with potential for 45°F lows next week.  However, there will be days in between where temperatures will reach into the lower 80°F range.  There are also some decent chances for rain during this period.  The combination of cool soil temperatures and high moisture content can lead to damaged root tips and increased disease pressure.  There is a critical 48 hour period after planting that can greatly reduce stand establishment during cool wet conditions.  Seed that imbibe cool moisture for germination have a much lower survival rate compared to optimum soil and moisture temperatures.

Anytime soil temperatures fall below 55 °F and high moisture content is present, there is an increased risk for root tip injury and decreased seed survivability.   The result will be a decrease in seed germination, survivability and stand establishment. Additionally, emergence will stretch out over a period of ten or more days. The cool temperatures coupled with a decent chance of rainfall over the weekend through next week could lead to poor overall emergence and replant situations.   I have been asked what will happen to the cotton that is already emerged to a stand.  The cool nighttime temperatures will delay growth and development as well as potentially cause some root tip damage if soil temperatures fall below 50-55 °F.  If soils become saturated with prolonged cool soil temperatures, seedling disease may be an issue.  Keep in mind that the current seed treatments will not provide long residual protection against problematic seedling diseases.  So if cool temperatures prevail and cotton does not grow, seedling disease could potentially become a factor.

Below is a guide to use when trying to decide if the forecast is optimal for quick seed germination and cotton seedling establishment.

Predicted DD60 accumulation for five days following planting Outlook for planting
< 10 Very Poor
11-15 Poor
16-25 Marginal
25-50 Good
>50 Very Good


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