Everyone Take a Seat on the Cotton Roller Coaster

Over the past several months, outside influences on the cotton industry have felt like the Dahlonega Mine Train at Six Flags Over Georgia: ups, downs, dramatic twists, and lots of bumps along the way.  Producers have seen proposed policies fail, others be implemented, a significant market uptick, one of the US’s largest overseas markets be closed then open again, and now significant rains that have slowed down progress on the 2018 crop.  Thankfully there are signs that the ride is about to level off.

The elephant in the room was (and still is) China.  Last fall, Beijing announced restrictions on plants that turn recycled goods into cheap polyester to help curb their pollution issues, which was great news to a depressed cotton market.  Then, in what has proven so far to be a war of words, the central government announced new import tariffs on cotton and several other commodities coming from the US.  The importance of this market was seen after President Trump announced a temporary end to the trade war as December 2018 cotton futures closed up 161 points, and have risen further (close to $0.87/lb) as of the time this article was written.

Some lawmakers obviously forgot (and continue to forget) that the commodity title of the Farm Bill is put in place to stabilize markets as well as the food and fiber supply that steadies food and fiber prices to give American consumers the lowest grocery prices in the world.  These thoughts are part of why cotton was left out of the 2013 Farm Bill, and what led to the demise of the Farm Bill draft that was voted down on the House floor on May 18th, 2018.  However, this is not all doom and gloom, as Congress also made seed cotton a covered commodity in the Bi-Partisan Budget Agreement and leaders have been kind to cotton, so far, in Farm Bill drafts.

Weather has also been up and down.  Rainfall was fairly average until the beginning of May, when it turned hot and dry.  Since the middle of May, the Jetstream has brought consistent tropical moisture and seemingly centered it on the main cotton belt of Georgia.  These daily showers combined with Subtropical Storm Alberto, hopefully not related to 1994’s Hurricane Alberto which dumped over 25 inches of rain on southwest and central Georgia and cost the state incurred over $125 million in damage to Georgia’s infrastructure alone, have slowed planting down to a near halt.

While this ride is appearing to level out, I would recommend that everyone keep their arms and feet inside the ride.  One stroke of a pen in Beijing, one tweet, or one storm could change that for everyone.  Though, as one southwest Georgia cotton producer recently commented, “that’s farming.”

When It Rains It Pours – Managing Late Planting Dates in Georgia during 2018

Note – This is a message from UGA Cotton agronomists Dr. Jared Whitaker and Mark Freeman.  For more information on the UGA Cotton Team, visit http://www.ugacotton.com.

The 2018 Georgia cotton season has started off as a tale of two extremes.  Rainfall during April and the first two weeks of May was almost non-existent, which delayed planting in some dryland situations and even made stand establishment with irrigation challenging.  Since then, rainfall has been plentiful if not excessive across the entire state.  The wet conditions have left many producers waiting to get back into the field to resume planting operation.  Now, as if conditions were not wet enough, the tropical system Alberto in the Gulf of Mexico has been forecasted to bring several more inches to most of Georgia this week.  Undoubtedly, this course of events will force producers to plant a significant portion of the cotton crop during the month of June.

Typically, the majority of the cotton crop in Georgia is planted in the month of May.  However, a portion of Georgia’s cotton crop each year is planted early June, but most often those acres are this late due to planting only after harvesting wheat or another winter grain crop.  This year a much larger portion of the crop will be planted in June than normal and there are several things to consider which may dramatically impact the relative success of these acres.

There is a reason that most of the crop is typically planted prior to early June.  It is because of yield potential.  Research in Georgia has indicated that yield potential usually starts to diminish with plantings after the first week to 10 days or so of June.  The relative success of late-planted cotton is certainly dependent upon the weather in September and October as well as the date of the first frost, but we can also impact it by a couple of management decisions.

The most important thing to consider when planting late is that there is very little, if any, room for error.  When it is this late in the season, we are only going to get one shot to get a stand. If a replant is required we are likely past any window for maximizing yields and past any insurance deadlines.  Conditions need to be ideal and if irrigation is available, utilize water as needed to prevent soil crusting or enhance stand establishment.  If planting in dryland situations, it would be best if the soil were to slightly crust prior to planting, as the planting operation would break the crust and allow for quick emergence (but as late as it is, go when it’s possible).  A rotary hoe is a great tool to help with compacted soil around germinating and emerging seed, but be sure to use this tool early rather than later (typically 2-3 days after planting is best).

Considerations should also be made in regards to seeding rates when planting late. Generally we shoot for final plant stands of at least 1.5 to 1.75 plants per row-ft (in 36” rows) which can usually be accomplished with seeding rates as low as 2.0 seeds per row-ft.  In all situations, lower than adequate plant stands can significantly reduce yield potential, delay maturity, and delay canopy closure which can allow for more pressure from weeds.  In the situation where we are planting late, these issues are even more apparent.  In addition to the impact of limited stands, in late-planted cotton there is likely a benefit to a thicker than usual stand due to the fact that late-planted cotton has less time to make cotton on outer and upper fruiting positions and more stalks often equates to higher yields.  Therefore, we should adjust our seeding rates to aim for a final stand of around 2 plants per row-ft rather than 1.5.

Preemergence herbicides are a necessity in Georgia cotton and there are quite a few combinations of products which can provide excellent residual control of Palmer amaranth and other weeds that can limit yields.  It is extremely important to eliminate weed pressure as much as possible in late-planted situations.  However, the impact of cotton injury from PRE herbicides can be worse on late-planted cotton than earlier planted cotton due to less time for growth and development.  One additional comment that we feel is worth mentioning is related to one particular PRE herbicide.  Although Warrant is an excellent PRE herbicide for cotton, remember that UGA recommends that if Warrant is applied PRE to cotton, a total of 21 days should pass before replanting OR a tillage operation is needed.  With the extremely limited amount of time that we would have if we did have to replant, this could be a deal breaker.  For example, if we planted a field this week (June 1) and on June 10th we realized a heavy rain event caused compaction and left a less than desirable stand, we would not be able to jump out there and replant if we used Warrant PRE (we’d need tillage or another eight days).

Overall crop management is always an important issue but this importance is magnified for a short season crop. If irrigation is available all care should be taken to ensure rapid stand establishment, decrease any stress, and enhance fruit retention during episodes of dry weather. Careful consideration should also be made to the plant growth regulator program (PGR). Mepiquat containing PGRs should be applied to prevent any excessive vegetative growth and boll rot and to promote crop earliness.

The crop should be scouted regularly for insects to prevent stresses from feeding damage and gaps in fruit development which can delay maturity. Thrips are the biggest threat to seedling cotton.  Later planted cotton is usually less at risk of infestation compared to early planted cotton however, this is not always the case. To monitor your thrips risk index locally visit the Thrips Infestation Predictor by using the following link: http://climate.ncsu.edu/CottonTIP. Once fruiting is initiated all threats from plant bugs, stink bugs, and other insects should be monitored and apply insecticide as soon as economic thresholds are reached.

A lot of the questions we get starting at the end of May with late-planted cotton are centered on variety selection.  In particular, should we shift to earlier-maturing “short season” varieties and if so, when should we do it?  In theory, this is something that makes sense, as we have a shorter amount of time to produce a crop an earlier or short season variety should more appropriately fit the system and improve the chances of maximizing yield.  However, in reality there are a couple of things worth considering before making a change.  First, the modern varieties that we are planting in Georgia are all “early” compared to some of the earlier “full-season” varieties we were accustomed to (nothing we have now is close in maturity to DP 555 BR).  Another thing to consider is the difference in maturity between what we now consider early maturing and late maturing as in most situations, there is no more than a few days to a week difference at the end of the season.  Last, for the most part earlier maturing varieties will perform relatively better at the end of the planting window but we typically find that our best varieties perform best even in late situations.  For example, we used data from the 2017 UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program comparing the performance of varieties across all locations to the locations that were planted on May 25th or later (Table 1) and it indicates that varieties that performed well early performed well late.

The story of 2018 will certainly have late-planted cotton as a storyline.  Hopefully, we will make the most of the situation and “great yields” will be a part of the story as well.  Late-planted cotton can still be quite productive if a few minor strategy changes are made.  For more information and help with getting this cotton crop planted, contact your local UGA County Extension Agent.

Good luck and let us know if we can help,

Mark Freeman and Jared Whitaker

UGA Cotton Agronomists

Cotton, Peanut, and Soybean Scout Schools

Note: This was taken from the UGA Cotton Team website.  For more information please visit http://www.ugacotton.com

Insect scouting schools will be conducted on June 11, 2018 in Tifton and June 19, 2018 in Midville. Crops to be covered include cotton, peanuts, and soybean.  These programs offer basic information on insect pest identification and damage, natural enemies, and scouting procedures.  The training will serve as an introduction to insect monitoring for new scouts and as a review for experienced scouts and producers. Program topics include, Bug and Larval Insect Pests, Beneficial Insects, Scouting Procedures, Safety, and an In-Field Review. Each program will begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m.

Location City Date Time Contact for additional information
Tifton Campus Conference Center Tifton GA June 11, 2018 9:00 am -12:30pm Debbie Rutland

(229) 386-3424

Southeast Research and Education Center Midville GA June 19, 2018 9:00 am -12:30pm Peyton Sapp

(706) 554-2119


9:00     WELCOME


9:05     COTTON

9:15     SOYBEAN

9:25     PEANUT



10:10 – 10:20   BREAK



11:00   SAFETY


11:10  PEANUT

11:30   COTTON

11:50   SOYBEAN

12:00   FIELD TRIP

12:30   ADJOURN – Have a safe trip home

Perdue Announces Additional Hurricane and Wildfire Recovery Details

Note: This release is from the Georgia Farm Service Agency.  For more information, please contact your local USDA-FSA Service Center.

Under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced new details on eligibility for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster program, 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). In total, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will deploy the up to $2.36 billion that Congress appropriated through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to help producers with recovery of their agricultural operations in at least nine states with hurricane damage and states impacted by wildfire. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued this statement:

“Last year our nation experienced some of the most significant disasters we have seen in decades, some back-to-back, at the most critical time in their production year. While USDA has a suite of disaster programs as well as crop insurance available to help producers manage their risk, Congress felt it was important to provide extra assistance to our nation’s farms and ranches that were the hardest hit last year,” Secretary Perdue said. “At President Trump’s direction, our team is working as quickly as possible to make this new program available to farmers in need.  Our aim is to provide excellent customer service, building on efforts which began the day the storm hit.”

Key Updates Include: 

  • Hurricane Recovery: To be eligible a crop, tree, bush or vine must be located in a primary disaster county with either a Presidential declaration or a Secretarial designation due to a 2017 hurricane. Crops, trees, bushes or vines located in other counties may also be eligible if the producer provides documentation the loss was caused by a 2017 hurricane.
  • Wildfire Recovery: Any crop, tree, bush or vine, damaged by a 2017 wildfire is eligible.
  • Eligible Producers: Eligibility will be determined on an individual basis, using the level of insurance coverage purchased for 2017 for the total crop acres on the area for which the WHIP application is made.  Eligible producers who certify to an average adjusted gross income (AGI) of at least 75 percent derived from farming or ranching, including other agriculture and forestry-based businesses during the tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015, will be eligible for a $900,000 payment limitation with verification. All other eligible producers requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a $125,000 payment limitation.
  • Crop Insurance Requirement: Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP. However, all producers opting to receive 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance at the 60% coverage level, or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) at the 60% buy up coverage level if crop insurance is not available. Coverage must be in place for the next two applicable crop years to meet program requirements.
  • Acreage Reporting Requirements: In addition, for the applicable crop years, all producers are required to file an acreage report and report production (if applicable).
  • Payment Formula: FSA will calculate WHIP payments with this formula:

Payment = Expected Value of the Crop x WHIP Factor – Value of Crop Harvested – Insurance Indemnity

The WHIP factor ranges from 65 percent to 95 percent.  Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive a 65 percent WHIP Factor. Insured producers, or producers who had NAP, will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent WHIP Factors; those purchasing higher levels of coverage will receive higher WHIP Factors

Georgia farmers and ranchers: time is running out to complete the 2017 Census of Agriculture

Athens, Georgia, May 3, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural  Statistics Service (NASS) is reminding Georgia farmers and ranchers that the window is closing on the opportunity to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

“NASS is grateful for the response from producers to date, but it is important that others who received a Census questionnaire join their neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family in being part of the Census count,” said NASS Southern Regional Director Jim Ewing.

“If you produced and sold $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017, or normally would have produced and sold that much, we need to hear from you,” said Ewing. “If you’re a landowner who leases your land to a producer, we need to hear from you. If you received a census but do not fit this definition of a farm, please write your status on the form and send it back.” Ewing noted that NASS has already begun to follow up with producers who have not yet completed the questionnaire.
“We sent the questionnaire to many potential farmers and ranchers who may not be familiar with it,” said Ewing.

The Census of Agriculture is the only comprehensive source of Georgia county level data. Georgia agriculture has changed since 2012 and this is the opportunity to quantify that change.

Georgia producers can respond to the 2017 Census of Agriculture online at http://www.agcounts.usda.gov or by mail.  The same law, Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113, that requires response also requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and to only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm
operation. NASS will release Census results in February 2019.

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture or for assistance with the questionnaire, visit http://www.agcensus.usd.gov or call toll-free (888) 424-7828.

Cotton Commodity Commission Accepting Nominations for Board Member Positions

The Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for cotton will accept nominations to fill two board positions.  to be nominated, eligible individuals must be an active Georgia cotton producer.  Any person currently serving can be reappointed or replaced by the Ex Officio committee during appointments.

Nominations may be made by filling out a Nominee Information Form found at http://agr.georgia.gov/commodity-promotion-forms.aspx and sending it to:

Georgia Department of Agriculture
19 MLK Jr. Dr. SW
Room 320
Atlanta, GA 30334

The form may also be faxed to (404) 656-9380, or emailed to andy.harrison@agr.georgia.gov.  The deadline for submissions is Thursday, May 31, 2018.

The nominees will be certified to ensure they are active Georgia producers of the commodity, and geographic representation may be considered when making appointments.  Appointments will be made by the Agriculture Commodity Commission Ex Officio Committee in July.  Producers with questions may contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture at (404) 586-1405.

Agricultural commodity commissions are farmer-funded self-help programs to enhance research, promotion and education.  They are authorized by Georgia law under the Commodity Promotions Act.

Georgia Cotton Commission Supports Future of Industry

(Pictured Left to Right: UGA CAES Dean & Director Samuel Pardue, GCC Director of Public Affairs Taylor Sills, Kelly Paulk, UGA Tifton Assistant Dean Joe West)

As the school year winds to a close, high achieving students in colleges and high schools across our state are being recognized.  The Georgia Cotton Commission is proud to support the future of the cotton industry here in Georgia by sponsoring two awards.

The first is the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Most Outstanding Senior Award, which was presented to Kelly Paulk of Inaha.  Kelly graduated with a BSA in Agriscience & Environmental Systems.  Kelly is also the outstanding Agriscience & Environmental Systems student for the entire University.

The Commission also sponsors the Georgia FFA Fiber & Oil Crop Production Proficiency Award.  This years winner was Luke Gwines of the Worth County FFA, where his FFA Advisor is Blaize Bridges.  The State runner up was Austin Beard of the Effingham County FFA, where his FFA Advisors are Meredith Arrington, Benjamin Richardson, and Todd Wall.  Good luck to Luke as he competes on the national level this fall.

(Pictured Left to Right: Worth County FFA Member Luke Gwines, Effingham County FFA Member Austin Beard, GCC Director of Public Affairs Taylor Sills)