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Alabama cotton poses big challenges and big possibilities

Steve M. Brown, Alabama Extension bed6fb5e-f87e-42bc-4ebc-57dd5d6ad37c-a.jpg
This is a cotton plant pulled from a no-till field near Tallassee, Ala. The root obviously broke off but the heavily compacted soil is hindering root development.
Persisting heat will no doubt tax the cotton crop. Apart from significant improvements in soil moisture, take a more conservative approach with PGRs.

Weather currently dominates any discussion of crop condition and progress. It is HOT in all of Alabama. Even at nighttime over the past week or so, the heat and humidity have been intense. You cannot go outside without feeling the effects.

The forecast over the next 10 days calls for elevated temperatures with modest chances of afternoon showers. Pop-up showers often create the haves and have-nots, but at this time of year we are grateful for almost any moisture.

We still expect our 2022 Alabama crop to be in the neighborhood of 425,000 acres and await the USDA planting report due June 30. Close to 25% of the crop should be squaring, and I just received an image from the central part of the state with a day-old bloom. For sure, it came from some early planted cotton. Persisting heat will no doubt tax the crop, and apart from significant improvements in soil moisture, we should probably take a more conservative approach with PGRs.

We’ve observed significant soil compaction in multiple parts of the state. Eddie McGriff has reported similar concerns from his region in past years. The soil surface is HARD and the furrow / root zone is HARD. The obvious concern is that soil compaction will inhibit root function and have a significant negative effect as the canopy grows and nutrient and water demands increase.

Perhaps (?) rainfall events will improve soil conditions, but this is a problem that should be addressed in subsequent seasons. It may be that shallow tillage (4 to 5 inches) may alleviate shallow compaction or more aggressive approaches may be needed, either in-row strip tillage or some type of parabolic, across-the-row subsoiling. The two latter options are compatible with conservation tillage systems and preserve considerable surface residue.

Thus far, the 2022 crop has been one of extremes. Wet conditions delayed field operations and planting, then it got almost too dry to plant. Now it is scorching hot as we’re moving into squaring and flowering. Input costs are HIGH, but so is the December futures price. Yes, December has dropped from its high of about $1.33 per pound, but we’re still at rarified levels for new crop cotton. This crop poses BIG challenges and BIG possibilities.

Source: Alabama Cooperative Extension System, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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