By Clint Thompson
It is a critical time in cotton plants’ development this year, so water is essential for producers in the Southeast. Alabama Extension cotton specialist Steve Brown said rainfall is needed for growers, though, there does not appear to be much in the forecast over the next month.
“The biggest thing we should be concerned about is that we continue to get reasonable rainfall over the next several weeks since we’re at a key time; it’s make cotton time now,” Brown said.
Rainfall, though, may be hard to come by in the next several weeks, according to Pam Knox, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agricultural Climatologist.
“If you look over about the next month it looks like the predictions are for us to be warmer than usual and also maybe normal to below-normal rainfall. Summertime rain is really hit or miss rain. Some places will get more than others, it just depends where the thunderstorms go. But overall, with the high temperatures we’re going to see a lot of stress on the plants because the evap-transpiration rates are pretty high,” Knox said. “You can start to see along the Georgia Weather Network that soils are really drying out. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Cotton farmers are feeling the heat this week, with temperatures scorching in the mid-90s this week. It can really be tough on growers in Alabama, since less than 10% of their cotton crop is irrigated.
“If we have real sustained mid-90s and upper 90s (temperatures) and no rain, it’s going to be tough on us,” said Brown, who added that 20% to 25% of the cotton is setting bolls now. “It’s time to fill those out and get some rainfall to keep us going. We’ve got a good-looking plant in most places as you look from the road. We’ve had good fruit retention early through early bloom. Now, as we get into bloom on a lot of the crop and set bolls, it’s time to fill those out and need good moisture to do that. We’re set up with a good plant and generally a good root system. If we can sustain it with a little bit of rain, we should fill that out and do quite well. We hope,” Brown said.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture June acreage report, it showed Alabama producers planted 470,000 acres, 13% less than last year’s 540,000 acres. As of now, Brown likes what he has seen from the crop.
“We’ve got cotton probably in the third week of bloom and we’ve got cotton that hasn’t started squaring. We’ve got it all,” Brown said. “On the whole, it looks quite good. We’re going through some high temperatures. We’ve gotten good showers along. I think the crop looks extremely good to me right now. I attribute that to, up until the last week or so, we’ve had very moderate temperatures and good, scattered rainfall throughout much of the season after we got past a little dry May in the southern part of Alabama. We’re looking very promising right now.”