By Bill Robertson, Extension Cotton Agronomist, and Fred Bourland, Professor/Cotton Breeder
The National Agricultural Statistics Service November Crop Production report estimated production at 830,000 bales, down 20,000 bales from the October 1 forecast but up 359,000 bales above last year. Yield is expected to average 1,062 pounds per harvested acre, down 26 pounds from last month’s estimate and down 30 pounds from 2015 and below our five-year average of 1073 pounds lint per acre. Harvested acreage is estimated at 375,000 acres, up 168,000 acres from 2015.
The 2016 crop was disappointing for many. Some of our better cotton picked three bales but there wasn’t many four bale fields. Finishing the season just under our five year average will not pay the bills.
As we look to next season, many producers have already booked seed. There are several new varieties in new technologies that are worthy of a look. Do your homework regarding new technologies and varieties to best place them on your farm.
Variety selection is perhaps the most important decision a producer makes. Once planted, no amount of worry, work, or money can make up for a poor decision. Our recommendations for planting is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties that are proven on your farm. Of the remaining acres, limit new varieties to no more than 10% of your total acreage. The remaining 25% should be dedicated to those varieties in which you have limited experience. This strategy provides stability while allowing for evaluation of new varieties.
There are a number of unbiased information sources available to assist in selecting new varieties. Our primary source is the University Variety Testing Program. Preliminary results from the Arkansas Trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at http://arkansasvarietytesting.com/home/cotton/ The final report will also be available at this site when completed. An overview of the county variety demonstrations and the University Variety Testing Program are included in tables 1 and 2, respectively.
A great deal of information is collected and presented in a way to help evaluate fiber quality, maturity, growth characteristics, and other variety traits as well as yield. County demonstrations are another good source of information and are included with this publication.
Don’t restrict yourself to your home state or area. In Arkansas, it is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South. Evaluating the consistency of a variety under a wide array of conditions will be beneficial. Contact your local county Extension agent for assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data and to get the date and location of upcoming county production meetings for your county.
To see variety information, view the pdf: 2016 Arkansas Cotton Update