Arkansas cotton crop overcoming early season challenges

From planting through emergence, this years Arkansas cotton crop has faced a myriad of challenges. While several challenges lie ahead in the growing season, experts are finding reasons to hope for a successful year.

Things are coming on pretty well, says Bill Robertson, extension cotton specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Some of our older cotton looks really good. Weve been blooming for a couple of weeks. It started with good horsepower with a lot at nine to 10 nodes above white-flower at first flower. Some of the younger cotton has struggled a bit and nodes above white-flower wont be quite as good. But itll still be OK.

Uncooperative weather during planting has added a lot of variance to this years crop Robertson says. The real issue is the cotton crop maturity is so strung out, weve had growers with cotton beginning to square along with cotton still at cotyledon. Thats a crazy difference in age but we were only at 50 percent planted going into Memorial Day weekend. During that three-day weekend, everyone who had hands to drive a tractor had them running. That meant a lot of cotton was planted that weekend.

In March, USDA had Arkansas cotton planting intentions pegged at 580,000 acres. I really wondered about that with our narrow planting windows. Im saying windows because some folks only had one- to three-day windows to plant. Literally, it would get dry enough to let them plant and then it would rain the next day. We couldnt get a long string of dry days together, he said.

So, I thought by the end of May wed barely bust 500,000 acres of cotton. Now, I think maybe the 580,000 acres is pretty doggone close. Itll be interesting to see what the final numbers are. There were a good number of acres intended to be planted to corn that went to cotton.

Staying on top of weed control in the crop has been a challenge. Thats the way it always is in an Arkansas spring. A lot of times, by 8:30 a.m. the wind is blowing so hard you can hardly put a sprayer in the field and get the product to get it where you want.

For the most part, though, when you drive through the countryside looking at cotton, most has really good color. And the cotton is about as clean as Ive seen in a while.

Robertson says if moisture continues to be adequate, growers can get the needed heat units in, and the fall weather is cooperative, odds are good for another successful cotton crop.

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