Cotton Planting Conditions May 1, 2020

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Keith Edmisten, Professor of Crop Science & Soil Sciences and Extension Cotton Specialist

Guy Collins, Extension Associate Professor – Cotton

Soil temperature at a 3-inch depth was 60.4 degrees at 8 a.m. this morning (May 1). What is particularly alarming is that soils temps did not rise up to at least the mid-60’s yesterday and could often be the case next week based on the predicted temperatures in Table 1.

Soil temp chart

FIgure 1 – Soil temperatures at Rocky mount at a 3-inch depth.

The DD60’s predicted for the 5 days following planting at Rocky Mount are included in the table below. Conditions look to be declining after today Monday with another couple cool nights predicted for  May 7 and 9. We can get decent stands in with this kind of weather but the seed needs to be strong (good cool germ) by not planting to deeply. You may want to consider delaying planting until noon after some of these cool nights to let soils warm up if you need to plant during this period. We would like to see soil temp get to close to 65 degrees.

Predicted planting conditions

Table 1. Predicted planting conditions on May 1, 2020.

Conditions can change quickly as these predictions are based on a 10-day weather forecast. The first 6 days are based on the National Weather Service and the last 4 days are based on predictions from

The table above is for Rocky Mount and based on the 10-day forecast. We include this as a general guide. As spring weather forecasts can often differ across the state, we strongly encourage you to get a more local forecast that can be easily updated daily using the new NC State University Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator. The calculator can be found on the Cotton website under the link “Calculators and Decision Aids” on the left side toolbar, or directly at the Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator page. We encourage growers to use and monitor the calculator twice daily to account for potential changes in weather forecasts for your region or farm. Simply click on your farm location on the map, and click “submit” for your local planting conditions forecast.

You can see below that it continues to looks like we could be in for a rather challenging cotton planting season with the temperatures for the next 8-14 days predicted to be below normal. The prediction has changed and and rainfall is now predicted to be below normal. This makes it even more important that we know our cool germination results and take care to adjust seeding rates according to conditions and seed quality.

Temp probability chart

Temp probability chart

N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Cotton Seed Quality Database: The database can be found on the Cotton website under the link “Calculators and Decision Aids” on the left side toolbar, or directly at NCDA&CS Cotton Seed Quality Database. As we have stated in previous articles, it is absolutely critical to know the seed quality for all seed lots that you purchase. If you have a complaint regarding poor emergence during planting season, the first thing that we or our county agents will ask for is the NCDA&CS germination test results. Without these results, there is little we can do to help you.  Therefore, MAKE SURE your seed have at least been sampled by NCDA&CS as soon as you have your lot numbers available. If a sample has not been collected yet by an NCDA&CS seed inspector, contact Brian Bowers (, 919-707-3756) at NCDA&CS immediately, and he will notify local seed inspectors to collect a sample for you as soon as reasonably possible. It’s important to note that NCDA&CS Official Sampling of seed quality requires that seed bags or containers to remain unopened, and the inspectors must be the first to open the bag/container to collect the sample, in order for the test results to be considered during seed complaints. If bags or containers have been opened, downstream seed treatments, etc. then a test can still be conducted only as service sample, but not as an official sample. Given that this program is voluntary, there may be some seed lots that come into NC without notification to NCDA&CS. Therefore it is imperative that growers check the database and notify NCDA&CS promptly so that samples can be collected and germ tests completed.