The 2012 cotton planting season is setting up weather-wise to be similar to 2011.

A strong La Niña weather pattern has been in place over the winter months and is expected to last well into the spring of 2012.

Lack of moisture is likely to push back planting dates for some growers and will just as likely put some cotton farmers in the undesirable position of deciding whether or not to replant a crop because of large skips in their stand.

“For replanting, if the producer is not able to replant due to continued lack of moisture and it is determined impractical to plant and approved by the insurance adjuster, the acreage is eligible for the full guarantee, say University of Georgia Ag Economist Don Shirley.

For example, a farm has an average yield of 790 pounds per acre and coverage is 70 percent. The yield guarantee would be 553 pounds per acre (790 x 70 percent). If the crop is appraised as a 30 percent stand, the production to count would be 237 pounds (790 x 30 percent) and the loss would be 316 pounds (553 – 237), Shirley says.

If the producer then decides to plant a second crop (other than cotton), the initial payment is 35 percent of this full amount. If the second crop is not insured or has no loss, the remaining 65 percent of the loss on the first crop (cotton) will be received, he adds.

Skips in a cotton field make any cotton farmer nervous, but some extra space between plants may not be such a bad thing when it comes time to decide whether or not to replant, says Clemson University Cotton Specialist Mike Jones.

“As a plant physiologist, I’ve always been interested in plant performance and have been amazed at how cotton plants can compensate for what seems like overwhelming damage to produce a good yield.

“I started working on seeding rate and plant populations a while back and continue to work on it from several different angles,” he says.

The first challenge a cotton grower has each year is getting an ideal stand. In most cases in the Southeast last spring growers weren’t able to get a good stand, Jones says.  When it comes time to replant just looking at big skips in rows of cotton may not be enough to justify the extra cost of putting more seed in the ground.

“In South Carolina last year we had problems with crusty soils that prevented seed from coming up properly. In our area we do a lot of strip-tillage, and poor seedbeds can be a problem. Poor seed quality is sometimes an issue, as is planting depth in our state,” Jones says.

Over the past decade the Clemson University researcher has done a series of tests in cooperation with national crop insurance to simulate impact of severe weather phenomena that occurs periodically across the Cotton Belt.