The Arkansas cotton crop continues to develop at a record pace. Cotton that was planted the last week of March through early April looks good and has been blooming for 2 weeks now. The cotton that was planted the third and fourth weeks of April struggled to grow off early due to cooler temps, injury from residual herbicides, thrips and sand. Now it seems all has turned a corner and the bulk of the cotton crop is in good or excellent condition. The early cotton started fruiting lower on the stalk than I have seen in some time with most starting on node 5 but some on node 4. For the most part these fields have excellent fruit retention (90% plus) going into bloom. Fields planted the end of April through May have started fruiting around node six, with differences depending on which variety planted.
Blooming cotton can provide a good indication of how much horsepower a given field has and also how early the crop may be. Based on years of COTMAN data, fields blooming with 9 nodes above the first position while flower have developed a good stalk while fruiting and are on there way to produce a good yield and an early crop. Plants blooming with 10 or more nodes above white flower will have more “horsepower” and have a higher tendency to be rank due to reduced fruit retention. Monitor these fields carefully for retention and rank growth. Multiple applications of higher rates (16 oz/A) of a generic plant growth regulator will probably be needed if NAWF is 10 or more at bloom.
Several calls have come in regarding cotton fields that are blooming with only 8 NAWF. Most of these fields were some of the first planted and have 95-100% square retention. These fields are loaded heavy with fruit and with temperatures reaching 100 degree highs and 80 degree lows they are under heat stress. This will undoubtably lead to some small fruit shed. There is nothing we can do about the heat, other than irrigate on a timely schedule and this should be the main focus of every operation.
Not only strict water schedules, but water infiltration needs to be monitored. We can pump water for days, but if it doesn’t get into the soil it is doing us no good. Monitor beds for moisture content to make sure all the water is not running down the row. In some cases all rows will need to be watered to increase infiltration. Monitor the fields with 8 or less NAWF closely, if fruit is retained on most 1st, 2nd and some 3rd positions, additional fertilizer utilizing either liquid foliar urea or dry ammonium sulfate may be warranted around the second week of bloom to push these fields to maximum production. These applications will not pay off on every field, only on the ones with high fruition. Use caution, especially with dry fertilizers the second week of bloom because if plants do not have high boll loads additional nitrogen may cause rank growth.