Despite its perennial and indeterminate nature, cotton is a very weak plant when it is young. Cotton seed and seedlings are very susceptible to injury resulting from both biotic and abiotic stresses, one of which is cool, wet conditions within a few days of planting.

This is generally not a problem for most of our planting season, yet we are sometimes faced with cooler temperatures towards the early end of our planting window.

The first five to seven days after seed imbibe water is generally the period when cotton is sensitive to cool temperatures, with the greatest sensitivity occurring during the first two to three days after imbibition.

If we anticipate potential problems with germination and vigor, it is very important to avoid planting when cool, wet conditions occur or are expected soon after planting, and to adjust seeding rates to account for potential losses.

Even though we may experience some high daytime temperatures, we must not forget the impact that low nighttime temperatures could have on germination and emergence.

In general, cotton should be planted when soil temperatures are 65°F or greater and 30 to 50 DD60’s are expected to accumulate within five days of planting. However, the risk of poor germination and vigor increases when planting in soil temperatures less than 65°F.

Growers are currently at the beginning of their planting season, therefore waiting a short time for suitable planting conditions is an option.

The urge to plant into moisture in dryland fields often takes precedence over waiting for optimal soil temperatures for some growers. Close observation of expected rain events and high/low temperatures within five days of the anticipated planting date can aid growers in making these decisions.

In addition, observing soil temperatures at the 2, 4, and 8-inch depths (http://www.georgiaweather.net), and any changes in soil temperatures that occur over several days, can provide useful information in determining when it is safe to plant.

Temperatures at the 4 and 8-inch depths could also be an indicator of the warming capacity of the soil, or the likeliness of rapid cooling, when encountering a short-lived cool spell. Hopefully, the recent mildly cool spell will be the last.