May 13, 2022

Cotton harvest hangs in the balance amid political uncertainty and production disruptions – The Greenville Advocate

by Katie Nichols

Cotton is the first crop grown in Alabama. Due to global political instability and unexpected shortages of a common agricultural weed killer, cotton profits are at stake. Disruptions to glyphosate production in Louisiana and the Russian invasion of Ukraine could have a severe impact markets and cotton production.

2022 cotton harvest
December 2022 cotton futures opened at $1.02 a pound — a promising start that Alabama Extension Cotton agronomist Steve Brown said was worth taking advantage of. Although lower than November’s $1.20 per pound, it is still “cotton dollar”. These prices are a welcome change after several years with average prices as low as $0.58 per pound (August 2019) and $0.88 per pound (July 2021).

“Good production, good prices and good management are essential to getting the most out of any cotton crop,” Brown said. “This year comes with additional pressure and challenges.”

Brown said the excitement of profitable pricing is hampered by obvious global challenges, but Extension’s agronomic crop team is working to help growers make sound management decisions.

“There’s no substitute for performance,” Brown said. “We cannot be profitable outside of good returns. Likewise, we need to capitalize on current market opportunities. »

It is prudent to outsource some of the expected bales from the farm in the current price range. Brown said it’s best to do it sooner rather than later, as markets generally don’t like issues such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Good timing maximizes the efficiency and value of each entry,” Brown said.

For example, a foliar spray of acephate against thrips when there is obvious damage – at the two to three leaf stage – is much less effective than a spray three to six days earlier on the cotyledon of one-leaf cotton. when thrips first appear in the terminal.

The amount of expenditure is the same, but the results are very different. Brown said management’s most important contribution this season may be speed.

As cost management becomes necessary due to rising input prices, Brown hopes growers will consider two options: reduced seeding rates and adjusted fertilizer rates.

“The research encourages consideration of seeding rate reductions,” Brown said. “A worldwide review of cotton seeding rate experiments determined that a final plant population of just over 14,000 plants per acre is sufficient for normal yields.”

Researchers in Arkansas recently concluded that a threshold of just over one plant per foot is sufficient for maximum yields. Brown said it was not a suggestion to plan less than two seeds per foot, but an encouragement to consider a reduction in seeding rate if rates exceed 35,000 seeds per acre.

Other reductions could include a heavily managed fertilizer regime. Soil testing is essential, but especially so when it comes to making management decisions in 2022.

“If phosphorus levels are very high, maybe growers can cut back,” Brown said. “Nitrogen is of particular concern, given its cost and overall importance in growth.”

Excessive nitrogen levels waste money, but also create problems with leaf diseases, hard blockage, boll rot, crop maturity and defoliation. Current research continues to support a nitrogen rate of 90 pounds per acre, sometimes less.

Nitrogen replacement options
As nitrogen prices soar, many growers are turning to alternative, less expensive nitrogen sources.

Alabama Extension nutrient management specialist Rishi Prasad said that while there is plenty of broiler litter available in Alabama, row crop producers need to understand that litter is a source of slow-release nutrients.

“It’s a good starter fertilizer that provides several nutrients in the early stages of cultivation,” Prasad said. “However, growers should not rely solely on litter to supply all of cotton’s nitrogen needs.”

Prasad addresses other common chicken litter questions in the latest issue of Alabama Cotton Shorts, a newsletter for cotton growers written by agents and specialists at Alabama Extension. Find information on the effectiveness of broiler litter as a source of nitrogen fertilizer, as well as additional information on crop management.

Herbicide supply issues
Anticipation of the lack of herbicide availability has overshadowed the 2022 growing season since late 2021.

At the end of February, Bayer announced a decision of force majeure – a French term for contractual actions imposed by unforeseeable circumstances – due to mechanical failures at a manufacturing plant in Louisiana that supplies essential raw materials.

Steve Li, a weed specialist with Alabama Extension, said the planned repair will take three months and will no doubt further affect glyphosate supply and prices.

“Over the past few months, limited supplies have significantly increased the price of the herbicide for growers,” Li said. price.”

Supply levels of other commonly used burning herbicides, such as glufosinate, paraquat and generic 2,4-D, are also tight and unpredictable. Li said prices for glufosinate and generic 2,4-D had more than doubled from last season.

“Chemical dealers can still lock in chemical prices with new orders,” Li said. “However, no one can predict delivery dates, which is obviously a major concern. What happens if the phytosanitary products ordered in January or February still do not arrive on May 1? And if they are delivered at the end of August? Growers face very uncertain circumstances right now and throughout the growing season. »

There are many clethodim formulations and generic products currently on the market. Since there are many generic formulations with different strengths, it is important to read the label before making rate decisions. For more, see the February 22 issue of Alabama Cotton Shorts.

More information
To monitor the cotton harvest throughout the year, go to or sign up with Alabama Cotton Shorts.