There is plenty of potential available in Oklahoma’s new cotton crop. Recent rains have provided a good start for the crop in both dryland and irrigated instances. Lots of cotton aimed at irrigation has already been planted; as soon as the ground dries up, more acres of dryland cotton are expected to be planted during June. Some of the dryland crop, may be planted late, but a late crop is better than no crop at all.
John Repp, 31 year old farmer who lives at Fort Cobb, was found recently applying a herbicide over his May 18 planted cotton. While some early-planted cotton was beaten up by high winds accompanying recent rains, farmers intend to either let the cotton grow itself out of these problems or replant as soon as possible.
“Replanting will need to be accomplished as soon as possible to take advantage of the soil moisture brought by the rains,” Repp said. Planted early, most of Repp’s cotton had already established itself to avoid any severe wind damage, he said.
Farming with his dad, Eddie Repp, John planted approximately 800 acres of his own cotton this spring. Taking advantage of the features different varieties offer, the Repps planted several different DeltaPine, NexGen and FiberMax varieties. Together, the father and son have approximately 1,600 acres of cotton irrigated with center pivot systems this season. Along with cattle, the Repps farm cotton, soybeans, peanuts and several different types of hay, including alfalfa and bermuda.
“in a lot of our irrigated fields, we have planted permanent stands of bermuda grass in the corners of each field,” John said. “The bermuda grass in the field corners grows well.”
As long as rain supplies adequate soil moisture, he will resist starting any irrigation water, John Repp said. Only when dry weather kicks in will he begin irrigation, he said.
When interviewed, John Repp was completing applying a herbicide to a 280 acre field of cotton planted May 18. Whether applying herbicides early in the growing season or growth regulators to concentrate the crop so it can be harvested in a timely manner, John Repp will drive his spray rig across the 1,600 acres of cotton about every two weeks, he said.
“I spend a lot of my time sitting in this machine during the growing season,” he said.
To begin with, May began cool and dry, according to Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University cotton research program director. A low of 38 degrees was recorded May 14, he said. After the weather warmed up, irrigated cotton producers began planting, he said. Beginning May 23, substantial rainfall came to several important cotton producing counties, including Harmon and Jackson Counties. Three and a half inches fell at Altus and some time had to elapse before fields were dry enough to plant, he said.
Warmer weather and high winds dried out some fields with wind gusts of plus 30 miles per hour damaging some cotton stands, he said.
“Many growers who have not planted irrigated cotton are up against the June 10 crop insurance deadline.” he said. “Dryland growers in northern counties are worried about the June 10 crop insurance deadline and those growers in the southwestern corner of the state have some time left before their June 20 crop insurance deadline.”
Boman said, like it is many times, cotton is in various stages of production right now. A large number of cotton acres will be late with according to planting date, due primarily to badly needed and timely rainfall, he said.
In 2005, a group of Land Grant University cotton research experts conspired on a report entitled “The First 40 days; the most critical period in cotton production.”
JC Banks, OSU Extension emeritus state cotton specialist, was one of the scientists involved in creating the report.
A major consensus of the report was, and is, the first 40 days of a young cotton crop’s life is when the crop moves into the midseason fruiting period. The plants must be healthy and uniform in order to produce optimum yield and fiber quality.
As the biological clock is ticking, according to the report’s introduction, much of the crop’s primary yield potential is determined during the first 40 days. This makes this period of time when efficient crop management is of the highest priority. Then, the challenge becomes making the most of that yield potential during the balance of the growing season, the report stated.
First, a cotton crop should be free of stress from insects, mites, nematodes, seedling diseases, weeds and other manageable factors such as fertility and water.
In addition to being stress free, the cotton plants should have healthy leaves, its roots will meet in the middles and it will grow off rapidly and uniformly. Earliness in a cotton crop is important, which can be measured by a height to node ratio of at least one inch at 40 days after planting. An optimum cotton crop also will have seven to eight nodes and two to three squares per plant, the report stated.
A young cotton crop must be uniform to relate to optimum plant health. A uniform crop allows for a more efficient crop management system which ranges from timing of herbicides and plant growth regulator applications through harvest aid applications and crop termination timing.
An adequate plant population will be at least 30,000 plants per acre and will not exceed 60,000 plants per acre, the report stated. A minimum stand of cotton would have at least one plant per foot with no two to three foot gaps.
With this in mind, all we need now is plenty of warm weather with a good rain, but no severe winds, every two weeks for the rest of the summer into August. After that, more warm, but drier weather is needed to allow the cotton bolls to mature before harvest.
John Repp and his cotton-growing neighbors have crossed their fingers and said their prayers for these circumstances to happen.