May 2, 2017 Soil Temp
For the third year in a row, cool, wet weather has moved in just as we look to start planting season for cotton and are still adding to our winter heating bill rather than making turns in our cotton fields. Following last weekend’s norther, I hurried back on May 2nd to a field I had taken soil temperatures in on April 24th. While the 2nd was a warm sunny morning, soil temperatures will need some time to rebound after the cold shock. The intended cotton field I checked was the no-till, heavy wheat stubble field which registered 56⁰F at 9:30 AM. On the 24th, this same field registered 59⁰F.
For a quick review, cotton gets off to its best start when planted in a recommended 69°F consistent temperature soil (roughly 64°F bare minimum with high air temperatures in the upper 80’s to low 90’s for the following week to continue a steep soil warming trend). While I do note a warming trend in the weather forecast, I still see a chance of rain and a cool (not as cold as the last one) front expected early next week before the steep warming trend cotton seedlings would truly need begins. That would place our planters starting to make those frantic turns in the fields about the 10th through the 12th.
I would urge producers not to worry about the calendar date until we at least start getting into double digits, no matter how many acres you intend to plant or what variety the acres are to be planted with. Cotton’s development is tied to heat units, not days. All varieties, regardless of how determinant or indeterminant, will get off to a better, healthier, and faster start when they are placed into better growing conditions. This better, healthier, and faster start often means less seedling disease, a shorter window for thrips issues, less chances of early may hail stones, and a faster transition into reproductive mode. It is absolutely impossible to extend cotton’s growing season by planting earlier in this area. The cool, and (season depending) wet conditions in late April and early May always prevent it. Even on the rare occasion that this early cotton survives and does not require replanting, cotton planted ‘cool’ will develop more slowly through these conditions. Cotton planted into less than ideal conditions are will develop slower on a day to day basis compared to those planted into better conditions regardless of calendar planting date. That is until the calendar planting date turns into June, at which point there is often not enough growing season left to make a good cotton crop no matter how good the start.