By Bill Robertson, Extension Cotton Agronomist
This season is the most variable with regard to planting as I have ever experienced in Arkansas. As we rolled into May, the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Arkansas reported that we had 15% of our intended acres planted. At that point there were producers who had everything planted and others who had yet to start.
Two of our best weeks for planting have been the week of April 17 and the week of May 8. No planting occurred during the 10-day period the last few days in April through the first week of May, which generally is the heart of our optimum planting window. Frequent rain showers have not given us a good window for planting since the 12th of May. Cotton yield potential begins to drop after May 20 (Table 1). The long standing rule of thumb for Arkansas cotton is that yield potential drops 2% per day for every day planting occurs after May 20.
As of today, May 17, cotton plantings statewide are likely 65% to 70%. While many are still trying to get everything planted before the next rain, replant decisions are occurring. Uniform stands as low as one healthy plant per foot of row are generally preferred over late-planted cotton. Cotton will compensate if skips greater than 3 foot skips are not frequent. When the decision to replant is not clear, it is usually best not to replant. If planting cotton in late May or early June, seeding rates should be increased 10%.