Monday, April 25, 2016

Cotton Season: It’s a Marathon Rather than a Sprint to Harvest

 After monitoring the temperatures for several weeks, weather conditions were finally right for San Joaquin Valley farmers to start planting the seeds for another cotton season.
In some areas, cotyledons – the seed leaves that form nodes opposite of each other – already have emerged from the ground. In other regions, growers are just starting to put seeds to ground, reports field scout Carlos Silva.

“There is a fair amount of acreage of cotton being planted this season,” Carlos points out. His observation reinforces last month’s California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association forecast of a double-digit increase in cotton acreage over last year – the first increase in six years. CCGGA estimates 145,000 acres of Pima and 61,000 acres of upland/acala will be planted by California growers.

Spring planting is always an exciting time. Over the next six months, growers will be making lots of crop management decisions, going off of past experience and current conditions. 
While each season is unique, cotton growth and development follows a predictable pattern. A cotton plant starts to emerge from the ground four to nine days after planting. For casual observers, early spring growth of the cotton plant seems to move at a turtle-like pace compared to other plants.

Don’t let your eyes be deceived. Below ground, the plants are busy developing a deep root system, growing at a rate of a half-inch to two inches a day. In our local soil, roots can be three to four feet deep when the plant above ground is about eight to 10 inches high. Final root depth can be as much as nine feet. Now that’s setting down deep roots.

From crop emergence to seedling growth, University of California Integrated Pest Management advisors offer these tips:

  • Assess stand establishment and identify pests or diseases if stand is weak.
  •   Begin tracking degree-day accumulations for plant growth as soon as the crop emerges. Be sure to keep records.
  • Maintain a weed management program. Survey weeds and cultivate or treat if needed according to cotton pest management guidelines.
  • Manage Fusarium. This soil disease can ravage fields. Survey fields and record locations suspected or confirmed to have race 4 Fusarium. We’ll cover this topic further in the future.
  •  Monitor nearby crops, fence rows and weedy areas for false chinch bugs.
  •    Monitor for spider mites, aphids and thrips.

A false chinch bug. - UC IPM photo
This to-do list is just for the early season. No one said farming is a 9 to 5 job. Just think, there are only 180 more days until harvest.

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