Monday, April 23, 2012

Weather Perfect for Planting the Seeds for the 2012 Cotton Crop

The heat was back. With record and near-record temperatures soaring to the mid- to upper-90s over the weekend, we can declare the warmer days of spring have finally arrived in the Valley. 

From my measurements, soil temperatures have reached the perfect threshold for growers to plant the seeds for this year’s Acala and American Pima crops. Temperatures are forecast to remain mostly in the 80s for much of this week, although we’ll have to keep an eye out for a few possible April showers Wednesday and Thursday. Seedling should start popping out of the ground over the next 10 days or so, especially if the hot weather returns later this week.

Cotton growers wrap up planting.
Cotton growers spent the past week planting their fields. They can start the 180- to 200-day countdown until the fall harvest. As expected, growers are planting fewer acres because of a variety of issues, primarily lower cotton prices, an anticipated drop in this year’s federal water allocation and strong competition from other crops.

According the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service California Crop Review released last Thursday, California growers are projected to plant 150,000 acres of upland/acala, cotton this season, down 17.6 percent from 2011. Pima acreage is forecast to drop 8.4 percent to 250,000 acres in ’12. On the bright side, the 400,000 acres is still double the acreage we had in 2009 when the drought devastated the Central Valley farm region. Nationally, the total cotton acreage this season is projected to drop 11 percent to 13.2 million acres.

2010 acres
2011 acres
2012 acres indicated
% chg from 2011

United States
10.8 mil
14.2 mil
12.9 mil
American Pima

United States


Beneficial habitat we planted in the past.
We all are looking forward to a successful and profitable year. One thing we’ve been stressing is the important role biological controls plays in managing pests to improve profits as well as air, water and soil quality.

We just finished planting beneficial insect habitats at farms participating in our San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. These natural habitats will increase the number of natural predators (or good bugs as I like to call them) that prey on crop-damaging pests and reduce the reliance on pesticides. As some of our SJSFP farmers like to say, that’s good for the pocketbook and good for the environment and health of our community. We’ve planted mustard, corn and sunflowers along the cotton fields. I’ll post photos of our habitats later this season.

Beet armyworm on alfalfa.
UC IPM/Jack Kelly Clark
On the pest front, the alfalfa weevil population is under control with growers completing the first alfalfa cutting of the season. Now, they’re irrigating the fields for the next harvest. I’m reminding growers to keep an eye out for worms. There’s good information online about alfalfa pest management from UC IPM at

I want to thank all the growers who came to our first Almond Field Day of the season. Our UC almond experts presented a lot of good information and growers brought plenty of questions. More than 50 growers and PCAs attended the event. We’ll highlight some of the key points in next week’s blog.

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