By Clint Thompson
The Georgia Cotton Commission cautions producers about planting this year’s cotton crop in extreme hot and dry conditions. That’s why Simer Virk, University of Georgia Assistant Professor and Cooperative Extension Precision Ag Specialist, recommends growers wait as long as possible for rainfall to provide moisture to the soil.
“If you can wait, definitely wait. But if you cannot wait, and this is the option you’re going with then definitely you want to make sure your planter is set up so that on the top of what you’re already dealing with from the dry and hot weather, your planter is not costing you any emergence,” Virk said.
There are a couple of different management strategies that Virk outlines in the UGA Extension Precision Ag blog. Both require planter adjustments to ensure germination and proper plant stand.
Growers can dust in cotton or lay the seed on the ground and cover it with enough soil. The idea is to catch a light rain since the seed is sitting beneath the soil. However, farmers risk losing the seed if it doesn’t rain, which triggers an automatic replant.
“The main point here is that ensuring correct seed depth on every planter row-unit is critical when planting at shallower depths or dusting in cotton and making appropriate adjustments as needed to each row-unit separately as any deviation from target seeding depth in these situations will clearly show up in emergence,” Virk said in the UGA Extension Precision Ag blog.
Producers could also plant deeper than normal seeding depths to chase any soil moisture that might be available. However, it is not recommended to plant cotton seed deeper than one-inch depth under normal conditions. Seed requires a great deal of energy to germinate. Most of the seed’s reserved energy can be used before it emerges from the soil.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. Farmers may not want to wait for a rain event that may not happen for the foreseeable future. If growers plant cotton seed deeper than one inch in dry soil conditions, planter downforce can further impact emergence, as a higher downforce can result in both soil compaction around the seedbed and even deeper seed depth than desired. This will likely reduce the chance for seed emergence.
Appropriate downforce adjustments are needed based on soil type and texture to attain desired seed placement.
UGA planter research studies also showed that the larger-seeded cotton varieties performed better than the small-seeded varieties in situations where cotton seed is placed deeper or planted using higher downforce. Those growers who use small-seeded varieties need to be mindful about planter depth and downforce settings when planting during the current conditions.
There is minimal chance for rain in Tifton, Georgia through the first couple of weeks in June, according to weather.com.