By Bill Robertson, Extension Cotton Agronomist; and Amanda Free, CRVSP Coordinator
This season so far has been one of the most difficult I have experienced in Arkansas. Planting dates ranged from mid to late April to the very end of May (and then some) as a result of very narrow planting windows. While our crop is strung out and some very late, it all looks pretty good. The National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition report estimates that approximately 87% of the crop is in good to excellent condition as our older cotton is beginning to flower.
We expect to see flowers by July 4 on May 1 planted cotton. My first report of a flower came this Monday, June 24, on April 23 planted cotton in Lee County that was averaging 9 NAWF. The status of our cotton plants at first flower reveals much about the past and gives us an indication of what we must do down the road to end up where we want to be.
Ideally, 60 days after planting we will find 9 to 10 first position fruit above the first white flower. This verifies that we have the foundation to establish and develop high yield and fiber quality potentials. Our goal is to maintain 80% retention going into first flower.
Problems which can directly impact yield and profit are associated with extremely high retention rates as well as low fruit retention. Going into flowering with extremely high retention rates can set you up for failure if any problems are encounter as the margin for error is small when retention is high.
Maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth will help to optimize earliness and preserve yield and fiber potential. Irrigation initiation and timing plays a dominant role in this balance. Utilizing sensors and scheduling tools along with programs such as Pipe Planner will help improve irrigation water use efficiency and profitability.
An effective fruiting window of three weeks between first flower and cutout (NAWF=5) is all we need to produce the yield and keep the earliness that we need.
There are 15 Cotton Research Verification / Sustainability Program fields in 2019. This year there is a wide variety of growth stages across the state as some areas had trouble finding a dry window long enough to get field operations done and planters into the field. Growth stages of cotton ranges from 6 leaf cotton to just beginning to flower across the Cotton Research Verification Program fields. Earliest planted fields were planted on April 22nd, and the latest planted field within the verification program was May 29th. Many fields within the Verification programs have received some rainfall this week.
To view field-specific information, download the linked pdf: