Monday, April 17, 2017

Cotton Plant Stands Out Among Other Major Crops

Cotton planting is in full swing across the Valley.

Over the coming months, we’ll be describing the life and times of the cotton plant. It’s an interesting tale as you follow the development and growth of cotton. Experts consider the plant structure to be one of the most complex structures of the major field crops.

The plant’s growth follows a predictable pattern based on days. For example, the plant emerges from the ground around four to nine days after planting. The first square develops in 27 to 38 days. And so on until cotton is ready for harvest some 130 to 160 days later.

Cotton plant structure is complex. Roots go deep into ground.
Of course, the predictability is based on favorable growing conditions. Moreover, cotton is unique because it is extremely sensitive to unfavorable environmental conditions. That means Mother Nature plays an important role in cotton’s development. Oftentimes, the story of cotton will take twists and turns on the way to the fall harvest.

For instance, field scout Jenna Mayfield notes that the Valley certainly has had its share of yo-yoing weather this month. There are the April showers. There are the warm 80-degree days followed by 60-degree daytime highs.

“The weather has had some wild swings this month,” Jenna says. She wonders if this weather will impact the little cotton seedlings that have started to emerge. In some fields, Jenna has seen some off-colored seedlings.

Growers will be measuring stand development soon.
We’ll see soon as growers start assessing stand establishment to determine how well the crop is doing.  This evaluation is done by comparing the plant population per foot with the seedling rate per foot. The results will help growers see if the stand is optimal, weak or excessive.Generally the optimal stand establishment is 40,000 to 60,000 plants per acre; weak is below 30,000; and excessive is more than 60,000.

Here is what UC IPM says:
  • If the stand is weak, monitor for and identify any pests such as seedling diseases or seedling insects associated with poor stands.
  •  If the stand is unacceptable or if there are multiple adjacent rows without plants, your main management option is to replant.
  • If the stand is excessive, thinning may be required. Dense plant populations, combined with conditions of adequate moisture and nutrients, can lead to rank growth, making the crop more vulnerable to insects and diseases. Depending on the cotton variety, a plant stand in excess of 60,000 plants per acre may require thinning.
UC IPM provides a guide on how to estimate the plant population.
Happy counting.


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