Alabama cotton producers must be wondering what they can do for an encore after a 2012 season in which they made a record-high average yield of 952 pounds per acre.
Almost no one saw it coming, except for Extension Entomologist Ron Smith, who predicted late last summer that the state’s growers would produce more than 800 pounds per acre for the first time in history.
“We almost bumped two-bale cotton, which is unreal,” said Dale Monks, Auburn University Extension cotton specialist, speaking at the recent Central Alabama Row Crops Workshop held in Autaugaville.
Cotton production was estimated at 750,000 bales from 378,000 harvested acres. The state’s cotton yield increased by 210 pounds over the 2011 crop. The 952-pounds-per-acre average tops the previous record of 795 pounds set in 1985.
“Whenever we have that kind of yield, it’s an indicator that the entire state did very well. It was a tremendous yield. I could see 800 pounds per acre at one point, but not more than 900 pounds,” says Monks.
Monks says he and other researchers have been conducting more on-farm trials in Alabama, using commercial equipment in farm settings.
“Small plot work is certainly important, but if we can compare our large-plot work with small plot work, everything matches up better, and we have more confidence in our recommendations.
“Our producers have more confidence knowing we’re on the farm conducting trials.
“Even our economist goes to the field and helps plant and follows the progress of the crop. It makes us more aware of the available equipment and how things are done,” says Monks.
This past year, Alabama cotton research trials were conducted on at least seven farms.
“In our variety trials, we’re encouraged with Phytogen 499 WRG. We know that Phytogen 375 has been a good variety in a lot of situations. It’s an earlier variety that will actually ride through some of these drought periods. DPL 1137 shows up in the top three several times in our trials. FiberMax 1944 GLB2 is their version of Roundup Ready with the GlyTol, LibertyLink and Bt genes.
“The test with that particular variety was about a month overdue as far as the picking goes. But we found that even though 1944 was extremely tight in the boll, waiting about a month increased the yield by about 200 pounds,” he says.
The 2012 Auburn University Cotton Variety Trials all can be found at www.alabamacrops.com.
Other Alabama cotton developments
In other cotton developments in Alabama, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed continues its march across the state, and the result will be that cotton production will be more expensive, says recently retired Extension Weed Scientist Mike Patterson.
Two new systems are on the horizon that’ll help with resistant pigweed, he says.
“Dow has the Enlist system, which is a 2,4-D-tolerant program for soybeans and cotton.
“The other new program is Xtend, a dicamba-tolerant cotton from Monsanto. It’s a pretty good trick to develop cotton that is tolerant to these materials because historically, they both have been deadly to the cotton plant,” says Patterson.
Both companies, he adds, are developing proprietary chemistry to use with their technology.
“If you buy Enlist cotton from Dow, you’ll also have to buy their version of 2,4-D to use on it. You can’t just go to the farmers’ co-op and buy a generic version of 2,4-D.
“Xtend also will have a proprietary chemistry. These proprietary chemistries essentially will be non-volatile. But they still will be susceptible to drift, and the labels will concentrate on the management of drift.
“That is very important with this chemistry, because sometimes Roundup or an insecticide may drift from your sprayer to someone’s house onto shrubbery, and you may not pick it up because people are not accustomed to looking.
“But if 2,4-D hits an azalea or a tomato, even an amateur will know what that looks like, and they’ll start asking questions,” he says.
One year of trials showed these chemistries can be effective on resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed, he says.
“If we don’t use these materials as a pre-emergence — and it’s the same way with the current technology — and try to control resistant pigweed with just a postemergence treatment, it won’t work that well,” says Patterson.
These are not magic bullets, he warns, and they will not totally solve the resistant pigweed problem.
“It’s just another tool you can use. There will be baggage associated with these programs, and that’s related to off-site movement. Even though the 2,4-D may not be volatile, it’s still susceptible to drift.
“Any chemistry sprayed through a boom is susceptible to drift.
“The labels on these proprietary chemistries will almost certainly require that you use a specific nozzle which will produce a coarse droplet. Depending on the speed of your rig, the height of the boom, and other factors, you’ll have to select a nozzle that’ll produce a coarse droplet.”
(For other news from Auburn University, see http://www.ag.auburn.edu/).
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