Whitaker: Variety Selection in Georgia, Why Our Best Choices are Sometimes a Compromise…

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

Weather is a big factor that all cotton producers have to consider during planting season.  In Georgia, rainfall is almost always limited at some point and our producers are some of the most experienced in “making it work”.

This year was no exception as conditions deteriorated quickly, where rainfall became increasingly rare anywhere across the state between May 14th and June 3rd.  On top of the dry weather, air temperatures soared between May 26th and June 3rd.  This left conditions exceedingly poor for most of the state and producers who were finishing planting during this time faced an extremely difficult task.

Ultimately, many (if not most) fields which were planted during the window between May 26th and June 3rd ended up having to be replanted.

Replanting occurs on a small percentage of our crop each year, but this situation was unique as stands were inadequate in fields where producers did everything right and used all the tricks and tools we have to help emergence during less than optimum conditions.

Most of the time when a cotton field has to be replanted there is some issue that we can point to which helps explain what happened and give hints to what could be done differently next time.

This time I visited growers across the state with stand issues that occurred during this window and time after time there was not obvious issue that would explain why we failed at getting a stand.  The only common thing was that germination seemed to slow down and seedlings seemed to “run out of gas”, which was backwards to the common idea that emergence is faster as soil temperatures rise.  We did measure soil temperatures in a lot of fields during this window and documented temperatures at 1” below the surface well over 100° F in wet soil and over 120° F in drier soil.  We’ve seen soil temperatures this high many times before, but rarely see it last over a week.

Looking back, there was quite a bit of literature that provided evidence to indicate that cotton emergence slows and is ultimately limited when soil temperatures rise above 95° F.  Specifically, that research has shown that temperatures even slightly over 95° F can significantly limit the emergence process.  There are several physiological processes that are negatively affected when temperatures rise above 100° F, yet the work ultimately suggests that the seedling emergence process is not efficient and the process slows, in some cases to the point where seedlings don’t make it to the soil surface prior to running out of energy (ending in seedling death).

Some of this temperature related cotton seedling work has indicated that seedling vigor, or inherent differences in vigor, can significantly impact how much these adverse conditions play a role in emergence.  In Georgia, most of our best variety choices are considered to be extremely small seeded varieties.  We know that seed size is very closely correlated to seedling vigor, as seed size decreases, vigor decreases (and vice versa).   This is not something that is seed company or brand specific, but rather simply a function of energy storage.  So, it should not be surprising that when a larger seeded variety is planted next to a smaller seeded variety, when conditions are poor, one could see differences in overall emergence.

In hindsight, we had some extremely poor weather conditions for almost half of our planting window and almost impossible conditions during a particular week.  Knowing what we know now, there were obvious situations where a bag of seed with better vigor could have made the difference in getting a stand.  However, making variety decisions only based on vigor in Georgia could leave yield potential on the table.

With weather predictions becoming increasingly better, we may be able to know when this will happen again.  However, we still need to have better information on how seed from a particular bag will respond.  Currently, we only know that seed we buy has adequate vigor to emerge in a standard germination test, which is conducted with temperatures up to only 86° F.  We can also make inferences based on seed size and in some cases have the results of a cool germination test.

As much as producers pay for cotton seed, I think it’s fair to say that we need better information on what happens when soil temperatures rise to risky levels.  There are other germination tests out there, specifically an accelerated aging test, which may provide key information needed to help make the decision on how to choose a variety when seedling vigor becomes increasingly important.  More times than not, we plant cotton in soil temperatures that are well above 86° F and testing information that reflects that could make all the difference in whether or not we get an adequate stand of cotton in early enough to maximize yields.

This article is certainly not meant to challenge current germination testing procedures or to say that growers should make rash decisions based on recent experiences, but rather to encourage our industry to strive to provide Georgia producers with variety decisions which don’t make us settle on sometimes “lower than needed” vigor.  In the meantime, we need to work to ensure that we have the best information possible to make good decisions when these scenarios occur again in the future.

After all that, let’s hope for a successful 2019 cotton crop.  Even though much of the crop suffered early on, the weather has made a turn for the better in most places and with a favorable August we could make an extremely good if not record crop.

For any question or issue with your cotton crop, be sure to reach out to your local UGA County Extension agent.













NCC: Disaster Relief Package Is Vital

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council greatly appreciates Congress and the Administration for their support and approval of long-awaited and much needed disaster and recovery assistance for those farmers who were devastated by Hurricanes Florence, Michael and other natural disasters in 2018 and early 2019.

The supplemental disaster assistance package passed by the House, and approved by the Senate on May 23, includes more than $3.0 billion in assistance for lost crops, most of which will be administered through the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) that was used in response to 2017 hurricane losses. However, the bill includes some important enhancements to WHIP and will include assistance for prevented planted acres. The President is expected to sign the bill in the coming days and USDA can begin the implementation and sign-up process.

An initial summary of the bill’s agriculture provisions is on the NCC’s website at http://www.cotton.org/issues/2019/supdis.cfm.

NCC Chairman Mike Tate, a north Alabama cotton producer, said this relief will be a big help to those farmers who are trying to restore their operations. That includes cotton producers in several southeastern states who had their ready-to-be harvested cotton hammered by hurricanes in 2018.

“Now, we urge USDA to get this assistance to the affected farmers as soon as possible,” Tate stated. “The livelihoods of farm families and the economic health of rural communities are at stake.”

For their continuous negotiations to reach agreement among Congress and the President, Tate commended Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Tim Scott (R-SC), along with John Hoeven (R-ND), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee. Tate also thanked Sanford Bishop (D-GA), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee, and Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), along with Reps. Rick Allen (R-GA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), David Rouzer (R-NC), James Clyburn (D-SC), and Tom Rice (R-SC) for their initiative and leadership in making passage of this legislation a priority.

Early in 2019, the NCC joined a coalition of other agricultural groups, including numerous state and regional cotton organizations, to urge a unified effort by Congress to approve disaster relief legislation. That coalition continued its persistent effort which was supported by local farm credit associations, community banks, and other farm and commodity organizations.

Cotton Commission Welcomes Disaster Vote; Trade Announcement

The Georgia Cotton Commission would like to thank their partners in congress for their recent passage of disaster assistance (HR 2157) and President Trump for his announcement of a revamped trade assistance package for farmers affected by adverse market conditions caused by ongoing trade negotiations between the United States and various foreign nations.  A big thank you goes out to the members of Georgia’s congressional delegation for keeping the disaster issue at the forefront of political discussions despite the length of time it took for their colleagues to act on it.

“These funds do not just help farmers devastated by Hurricane Michael, but also our rural communities that depend on agriculture for their economic sustainability,” said Bart Davis, a cotton farmer from Colquitt County. “Furthermore, this legislation goes to farmers and rural communities in states all over the country affected by recent natural disasters,” he added.

While disaster legislation still requires presidential signature, the Commission is hopeful that President Trump will sign this act and hope USDA will enact these programs quickly so that struggling producers can pay off bridge loans and other financing that may be needed to close out the 2018 crop year.  Details have not been fully released on either of these programs

U.S. Cotton Grateful for Trade Assistance Package

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) conveyed its appreciation to the Trump Administration for instituting a second round of trade mitigation payments for U.S. farmers.

NCC Chairman Mike Tate said this round of assistance, like the first one initiated in 2018, will help partially mitigate the impacts of retaliatory tariffs being placed on U.S. raw cotton to China.

“This assistance program also continues the provision of funds for export promotion which the U.S. cotton industry needs to expand markets for our raw fiber,” Tate said.

The Alabama cotton producer, who participated in today’s announcement event, noted that this second round of assistance is timely as many producers across the Cotton Belt are still feeling the impact from severe weather-related events in 2018.

“While our industry is very thankful for this assistance, we strongly encourage the Administration to engage in constructive dialogue with China to address unfair trade practices and barriers,” Tate said. “China traditionally has been U.S. cotton’s top export destination. Resolution of the current trade tensions remains our top priority.”

Recently, the NCC had conveyed to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue several modifications designed to enhance the effectiveness of the trade assistance package.

The NCC also urged USDA to 1) assist the participants in the cotton merchandizing and distribution channels to offset the higher costs associated with shipping cotton to alternative markets and 2) recognize the significant impacts on the cottonseed segment and their product markets.

“The economic impacts extend beyond the farm gate and we will continue to work with the Administration to find avenues for further assistance,” added Tate.

The Memphis-based NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.

NCC Thanks President for Steps to Advance USMCA Approval

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) commends President Trump and his Administration for the recent outcome of negotiations with Mexico and Canada to remove the U.S. Section 232 tariffs and the corresponding retaliatory tariffs.

“While cotton and cotton textile products have not been subject to retaliatory tariffs in these key markets, this action represents one of the necessary and significant steps to create a pathway for Congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) this year,” NCC Chairman Mike Tate said.  “The cotton industry appreciates the focus by President Trump and the Administration to remove the tariffs.”


The Alabama cotton producer noted that the NCC will continue to help educate Members of Congress “on the importance of timely USMCA approval to restore certainty in the North American market, which represents significant export market share for both U.S. cotton and cotton textile products.”

Georgia Cotton Commission Approves 2020 Research

At its March 27th Board Meeting, the Georgia Cotton Commission Board of Directors approved $656,287 in research for the 2020 crop year and also approved $25,500 in supplemental research for 2019.  This money will go to fund eighteen projects that will be conducted by researchers and extension specialists from the University of Georgia and the University of West Georgia.  Projects range from funding for the UGA cotton team, to research on resistant weeds, evaluating the economics of conservation production, monitoring water use efficiency, and many more.  The goal of this producer-funded research is to help the cotton producer’s bottom line by conducting research that can either raise yields, promote efficiency, or open new markets.

All projects are vetted by both the Commission Board of Directors and State Support Committee, made up of cotton producers from across the state, and the Commission’s research review committee, which is made up of researchers, crop consultants, and local UGA Extension Agriculture/Natural Resource agents.

“Despite the decrease in income for the Georgia Cotton Commission, our board is committed to providing the cotton farmer valuable research that can make a difference on their farms.  Now, more than ever, it is important for us to fund research that makes an impact while being an effective steward of the farmer’s money,” said GCC Chairman Bart Davis, a Colquitt County cotton grower.

GCC Pleased with Referendum Vote

Every three years, pursuant to law, cotton farmers have the opportunity to vote to continue the assessment ($1/bale) that funds the Georgia Cotton Commission’s programs of research, promotion, and education.  The 2019 referendum period was February 13th-March 15th.  The Georgia Department of Agriculture recently recorded the votes and the result shows 92.5% of voters favored the continuation.

Bart Davis, a cotton, peanut, and corn grower from Doerun said, “I am pleased that growers voted to continue the program, and that the yes margin increased from 2016.”  He further commented that times have been hard for Georgia cotton farmers over the past few years and that the Georgia Cotton Commission would continue to strive to find solutions, educate policy makers, and effectively promote cotton to the consumer on behalf of the cotton growers of the state.  He concluded by saying, “We will continue to work with leaders in Washington to promote an effective disaster program to help Georgia’s farmers and rural communities recover from Hurricane Michael.”

The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization located in Perry, Georgia. The Commission began in 1965. Georgia cotton producers pay an assessment enabling the Commission to invest in programs of research, promotion, and education on behalf of all cotton producers of Georgia. For more information about this and other topics please call 478-988-4235 or visit us on the web at www.georgiacottoncommission.org.

Georgia’s Cromley in Key Leadership Role

Earlier this year, Lee Cromley, a 6th generation Bulloch County cotton farmer, was installed as the President of the Southern Cotton Growers, an organization representing the thousands of cotton growers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.  He was preceded in this role by Neal Isbell of Alabama.

In a recent presentation to cotton growers in Georgia, Cromley recognized former presidents of the organization from Georgia (Bob McLendon, Leary; Louie Perry, Moultrie; and Ronnie Lee, Bronwood), and discussed the four roles of the Southern Cotton Growers – leadership opportunities and development, policy development, relationships with congressional and regulatory officials, and industry support.  He stated that his goals for the year were to make sure cotton growers know about the organization and that the organization strengthens by continuing to unify cotton growers across the six southeastern states.

Cromley has been growing cotton and peanuts in Brooklet, Georgia, with his brother Charlie since 1983.  He is involved in his community and state, serving as a board member of the Georgia Cotton Commission, Bulloch Gin, Bulloch County Farm Service Agency, and the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Statesboro and as a Board Advisor for the National Cotton Council of America.  He graduated from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences in 1983.  Cromley and his wife, Ann, have three children and are members of Brooklet United Methodist Church.

Cotton Blue Disease in Georgia Cotton and it’s Implications on Production for 2019

This information is from the University of Georgia Extension Cotton Team

In the fall of 2018, Cotton leafroll dwarf virus (CLRDV) was confirmed to infect cotton plants in 14 South Georgia counties. During the winter of 2019, this virus has already been confirmed to infect cotton regrowth from ratooned cotton stalks and several weeds; even though screening has just begun. This virus is associated to cause cotton blue disease (CBD) with symptoms that include leaf curling, reddening and drooping of leaves, subsequent distortion of leaf growth above the nodes where reddened leaves were first observed, and shortening of upper internodes and their discoloration to deep green along with subsequent lack of fruit retention. Some view the symptomology to resemble that often observed with drift from phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D, 2,4-DB, and dicamba.

Cotton blue disease, caused by the aphid-transmitted Cotton leafroll dwarf virus, is newly detected in Georgia cotton but has been previously observed in Argentina, Brazil and some regions of Asia and Africa. Although resistance has been bred into cotton cultivars in areas with history of CBD, there are currently no known resistant varieties being planted in the United States. Efforts to bring resistance to varieties which are commercially viable are underway, yet it is clear that introduction will take years. The presence of CBD in the Southeastern US is potentially alarming because of three particular concerns: (1) susceptibility of our cotton crop, (2) size and importance of the crop in Georgia and (3) the widespread presence of aphids which vector the virus. Although it would seem logical to more aggressively control aphids to manage this issue, it just is not that simple as aphids are dynamic infesting a vast array of plant species in varying landscapes. Thus, chemical control methods could actually increase pest management issues (i.e. treating for aphids would likely flare other more nefarious insect populations) without reducing impact from the virus; much more research is needed to better understand this scenario before providing aphid management recommendations.

Although the impact from this virus to the 2019 Georgia cotton crop cannot be scientifically determined, it is important to discuss the situation. Science does not currently support increased insecticide use to control aphids. However, there may be two approaches that could benefit overall farm sustainability while also possibly reducing impact for CBD including (1) removing cotton stalks from 2018 and (2) controlling winter weeds well in advance of planting.

Ultimately what producers in Georgia should know is that there is a new virus that COULD attack our cotton crop. The UGA Cotton Team is working diligently to obtain as much information as possible and is currently developing research strategies for 2019. At this point we know that the virus is present in living cotton stalks and henbit. Therefore, one could consider it prudent to consider trying to eliminate a source of the virus, especially considering the practices are already endorsed and encouraged anyway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact your local county extension agent and visit the UGA cotton webpage at www.ugacotton.com  for more information.

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