By Amanda Free, Cotton Research Verification Program Coordinator, and Bill Robertson, Extension Cotton Agronomist
In the June 15 Cotton Update we stated that we were at a critical time for this cotton crop in terms of preserving yield potential. We have had some relief in the form of rainfall. However, rainfall amounts have been widely variable. Many early planted fields are beginning to flower. Nodes above white flower (NAWF) at first flower can reveal much about the horsepower of a crop. Node values of 9 to 10 at first flower indicate a great deal of horsepower. Nodes values of 6 to 7 indicate a plant that could easily be subject to premature cutout. Node values of 5 at first flower are almost always an indication of bad times ahead.
While we like to have a great deal of horsepower at first flower, the potential demand could be great. A concern that most everyone has is the high retention of fruit. Most field we are monitoring have 95% or higher square retention. The combination of high demand and high retention can be disastrous if a significant stress were to present itself. More often than not in this situation, the plant sheds too much fruit for our liking.
It is important to know how much horsepower and the potential demand that exists in your fields to be able to satisfy plant demands to reach your yield goals. It is also important to consider retention values with regard to pesticide applications. The last thing we need to do is spend money on a product to keep fruit that we will shed down the road because the plant has no reserve to hang onto it when the going gets tough. Our goal at first flower is to have 80% fruit retention.
We don’t have to wait until first flower to gauge our plants status. It is important to try to head off possible disasters as early as possible. Fields in which lower values for NAWF are anticipated should be managed appropriately. Most instances the limiting factor is water. We must meet the moisture demands of the plant and keep the balance between vegetative and reproductive growth in check. Foliar feed products will do little to preserve yield potential when water is the primary limiting factor.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Crop Progress and Condition Report for the week ending June 17 reported cotton squaring at 66% which was ahead of the five-year average of 37%. Crop progress should continue to be well ahead of the five-year averages long as favorable conditions for growth exist. They also reported that 86% of the cotton was in good (46%) to excellent (40%) condition with only 13% being fair, 1% poor, and none rated very poor.
To view field-specific information for the CRSVP program, see 2018 Arkansas Cotton CRVSP Update June 25.