Right choices now mean cotton profits later

It’s cold, wet and rainy across the Texas High Plains, but armchair decisions made now by cotton farmers could well mean the difference between a profit and a loss at harvest time, said a Lubbock cotton expert.

Wet weather has kept many of the region’s cotton farmers out of their fields, but once dry weather returns, preparation for the 2010 crop and its major accompanying expenses will commence, said Randy Boman, Texas AgriLife Extension Service cotton agronomist at Lubbock.

“With the advent of transgenic cotton, such as Roundup Ready Flex and Bt (specifically Bollgard 2 and Widestrike), as well as the excellent seed treatment technology we now have, many producers have to make a decision concerning how to spend a high percentage of their overall input dollars at planting,” Boman said.

“With the new transgenic cotton seeds running at $200 to $300 per bag (depending upon what variety and technology) or $50 to $75 per acre or more (depending upon what technology and seed treatment packages are used) once the decision of what variety to plant is made, it can’t be changed. Whether that commitment is good or bad, they’re married to that crop through harvest.”

Boman said today’s skyrocketing input costs have made pre-planting strategies as important to success as adequate moisture once the crop is in the ground.

“Cost of seed should not necessarily be the main selection criteria though,” he said. “The value of a carefully chosen high-yielding cotton variety with biotech traits, though expensive, can greatly reduce management costs and hassles and provide considerable convenience, especially when multiplied over many acres.

“We’re also continuing to see disease pressure building (verticillium and fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes) in the High Plains,” Boman said. “Tests targeting these diseases are providing excellent results for producers who are dealing with these issues. The main thing to remember is to plant diseased fields with the best varieties to use under those conditions.”

If disease is not a concern, Boman advises producers to scrutinize all possible university trial data available to see what specific varieties have performed well across a series of environments and, if possible, across years.

“It’s really best to consider multi-year and multi-site performance averages when you can,” he said. “However, many varieties now being released are being sold without multi-year university testing and some with no university testing at all.”

Boman said maturity or “earliness” of a variety is another key factor to consider when selecting a variety.

“Producers should be looking very hard at the relative maturity and micronaire values of the new varieties,” he said. “Don’t expect a long season cotton variety to work well in a short season environment where an early or an early-mid season cotton might work best.”

Boman said considerable information is available on the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock’s website under the Focus Newsletter banner.

“I know that David Kerns, AgriLife Extension entomologist at Lubbock, provided sound advice on entomology issues, Jason Woodward, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist at Lubbock, covered diseases really well and Peter Dotray, AgriLife weed and herbicide scientist and Wayne Keeling, Texas AgriLife Research agronomist, discussed pre-plant weed control. It is all excellent up-to-date information.”

To learn more on these topics and how to avoid the many pitfalls of High Plains cotton production, go to: http://lubbock.tamu.edu/focus/ or contact Boman at 806-746-6101, [email protected].

TAGS: Cotton
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