Current Crop Status and What Could Happen (Collins & Edmisten)

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At this point in time, the crop is highly variable across the state, and varies from field to field within most regions. Some areas have been plagued by severe heat and drought, with some areas receiving little to no rain during August. Other areas have been receiving rain fairly frequently, or are irrigated, and vigorous growth prevails, even now. As referenced in our other newsletter article concerning Last Effective Bloom Dates, concerns about maturity are no longer an issue for areas that have been impacted by severe drought. For areas that have been receiving rain, or are irrigated, cutout is approaching but some fields may require additional PGR applications to prevent excessive plant height. Maturity may still be of concern in those areas, and as such, last effective bloom dates may be more of a concern.

As we’ve stated several times, June/July sets it up, but our crop is generally made in August. This year, due to the delayed maturity and compressed bloom period for this crop, we were more reliant on August rains than normal. In some areas (mentioned above), August DID deliver rains. In other areas, not so much. This article is more pertinent to the areas that have been drought-stricken to various degrees.

For the areas impacted by severe drought, the crop is still variable in these areas. Within the drought-stricken areas, the crop can be generalized into 2 categories. First, some fields still have decent yield potential, with some progress with blooming continuing until about now (August 25th), unless future rains really surprise us. These areas received some rain during the early to mid-part of last week, and perhaps a little here and there during early August to keep the crop going. Future rains at this point, if not excessive, will help us retain and develop what young bolls we have, but will not likely set many more new bolls in the near future. Secondly, other areas/fields that experienced more prolonged or more severe drought, completely ceased blooming one to two weeks ago, forcing the crop into a hard cutout. Yield potential is unfortunately less in these areas. Moderate rains now wouldn’t hurt necessarily and may help to fill out a few smaller or outer-position bolls, but there are essentially no new/recent blooms to retain or develop into harvestable bolls, nor has there been any recent blooms in a week or two. Given that essentially neither case has received any appreciable rain this week, it may help us to flag some of the upper most bolls (that appear to be retained) for guidance in some decisions that we may have to make later.

So what COULD happen with this crop now? Well, there’s a lot that COULD happen. Hopefully we can avoid any yield-destroying tropical events in late September or October. Hopefully we can avoid prolonged cloudy, wet weather during that same time that would lead to boll rot and hard lock. But just as easily, warm weather COULD continue, and as mentioned in the previous article, this COULD extend our last effective bloom dates which MIGHT help some fields. Some rain COULD help too, but prolonged rains could complicate things.

We could benefit from rains that occur soon and through mid-September, as long as they aren’t excessive. Sooner is better than later, and is nearly imperative, in terms of any rainfall potentially helping younger bolls to both retain and/or fill out. If rains occur soon, the crop will likely sit there for a short while, while it allocates resources to meet the demands for the boll load it currently has. If those demands are met, and if rains continue, the plant will cycle back around and will likely begin blooming again. This is when flagging the uppermost bolls NOW will help us later. First, flagging the uppermost bolls on that plant now will help us know what the current yield potential may be. Although its dependent on boll retention, no losses due to hardlock or boll rot, and other variables such as seed size, 12 decent sized bolls per foot of row (on 36” rows) loosely equates to a bale per acre. If rains resume long enough for blooming to resume, this flagging will help us later in the Fall to determine where the bottom crop ends and the top crop (if there is one) begins.

This is where things get more complicated. As of now, it is strongly dependent on rainfall resuming and continuing for a while, which may not occur. A rain or two here and there, with more hot sunny days, will help fill out the bolls we currently have, and any new blooms will be minimal and meaningless. If that occurs, we’ll essentially have the crop that we have now, with hopes that a few more bolls will fill out. IF rainfall becomes frequent and occurs well into September, it will cause the plant to actively resume continuous blooming, which will likely develop a distinct top crop, which is very different in age and maturity from the bottom crop. IF the top crop is strong, growers will be faced with a tough decision on which crop to prioritize. If the bottom crop is clearly stronger than the top crop by mid September, with little evidence of hardlock or boll rot, growers should prioritize the bottom crop, and manage defoliation and harvest timing accordingly. Any new growth in that case, should be considered as regrowth and dealt with accordingly when defoliating. If the top crop is clearly stronger than the bottom crop, and if the bottom crop has signs of boll rot and hardlock, growers may want to chase the top, especially if the bottom crop is poor at best. This can be risky, and requires close attention to weather forecasts, and last effective blooming. If a strong top crop develops and is noticeably stronger than the bottom, and if long-term weather forecasts by mid-September suggests continued warm sunny weather with decent rains (not droughty, but also not excessive), our last effective bloom date may be extended to mid-September, and the likelihood of the top crop being successful is better but not guaranteed. If, by mid-September, long-term weather forecasts suggest a cool-down is coming, or if we have several cloudy days during that time, it won’t necessarily be favorable for the bottom crop, but the likelihood of a top crop being successful is diminished. This is all contingent on the long-term weather forecasts being accurate, and we know that is unreliable.

Right now, this is merely a possibility. Hopefully, things won’t become that complicated, but regardless, it would help to flag some plants now, IF weather decides to complicate things for us.