Cotton Planting Conditions – May 3, 2021

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Soil temperatures are looking good across the cotton-producing areas of the state today.

Soil temperature map

However, a cool front is moving in mid-week and although we see DD-60 accumulation predicting good planting conditions, we need to watch these cool night temperatures. This is particularly true for planting on Thursday and Friday and at least early on Saturday. Notice we have a caution listed for those days due to the cool night temperatures. In many cases, we would not recommend planting with nighttime temperatures that low especially if soil temperatures were on the low side going into the cool spell. In this case soil temps are going to be relatively high going into this cool spell.

Planting conditions chart

With soil temps relatively high going into the cool spell we recommend you check soil temperatures before you decide to plant from Thursday through Saturday to make sure you are at least near 65°F before you start planting.

Some areas are dry and some growers are planting deeper to reach moisture and some are dusting in seed for the next rain to bring up. Remember if you are dusting in now, you may be effectively planting Thursday if you don’t get rain before the cool front comes in. However, planting deep to chase moisture can add unnecessary stress seed, if the soil moisture deficit isn’t soon alleviated.

Keep in mind that we are still early in the optimum planting window. Long-range forecasts show that you are likely to have more opportunities to plant with decent temperatures. Spreading the planting period out within the optimum planting period helps mitigate risk as well.

8 to 14 day outlook map

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, especially when conditions are right on the line between acceptable or questionable. Simply click on your farm location on the map, and click “submit” for your local planting conditions forecast. A 5-day DD-60 forecast for the current day and the following day will appear with a rating for planting conditions (based on real-time National Weather Service forecasts) as well as some comments you may want to consider, in addition to the overall rating for planting conditions.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Cotton Seed Quality Testing Program continues to be a huge success with approximately 677 samples collected to date. Approximately 481 samples are completed with test results available in the database, with many more tests underway, and more samples on the way to the lab. Now that planting has begun, use this information to make the best decisions possible, especially when planting in less-than-ideal conditions. It’s not too late to have seed tested, although results will not likely be available prior to planting for cotton planted in the next 2-3 weeks. Regardless, it never hurts to have a sample collected for testing in case a grower has a complaint (official samples only applicable for this purpose. See previous articles for information on official vs service samples). The NCDA&CS Cotton Seed Quality Database can be found on the NC State Extension Cotton Portal, under “Calculators and Decision Aids.”