Preparation and Planning for the 2018 Cotton Crop


With harvest completed, it is time to begin planning for next season’s cotton crop. Cotton stalks should be destroyed, soil sampled, and data examined to help determine production budgets and select cotton varieties for next season.

Once cotton harvest is completed, stalks should be destroyed to help reduce pest populations from overwintering in harvested cotton plants (Figure 1). Depending on the season, regular destruction of stalk material may be necessary to help ensure cotton plant material maintains a non-host status.1


Figure 1. Mowing cotton stalks after harvest to destroy plant material.

Sampling for Residual Nitrogen

Agronomists looking at soil surveys across cotton fields in Texas have determined that many fields have residual nitrogen (N) deep in the soil profile. Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, stated that “crediting this soil residual nitrogen will equate to significant cost savings. However, soil sampling is required to know how much residual nitrogen exists.”4 This residual N has largely been unaccounted for, and can lead to several problems throughout the growing season like excessive growth that demands the use of a plant growth regulator, increased incidence of Verticillium wilt and aphids, and potential harvest delays.2


Figure 2. Cotton bales stored in a warehouse.

To account for residual N, soil should be sampled at a depth of 24 inches every year for irrigated fields and every other year for dryland production. Once you have your soil test results, you can calculate how much N will be required based on the yield goal (Table 1) by multiplying the soil test results (provided in ppm) by 8 to convert to lb N/acre. Then subtract the value by the N requirement listed for the specified yield goal in Table 1.3 Accounting for any residual N in the soil can help reduce production costs by potentially reducing fertilizer costs, the frequency of plant growth regulator applications, and harvest delays.

Yield Goal (bales/acre) Nitrogen Requirement (N/acre)
0.5 25
1.0 50
1.5 75
2.0 100
2.5 125
3.0 150
3.5 175
4.0 200

Table 1. Cotton nitrogen requirements based on yield goal.Source: Bronson, K. and Boman, R. 2009. Nutrient management for Texas High Plains cotton production.

Managing Cotton Price Risk

Dr. John Robinson, Texas A&M University Professor and Extension Economist, stated “with the post-Hurricane Harvey rally, we may have seen the last opportunity for ICE futures trading over 70 cents for a while.” He continued, “there is a risk within six months to see futures under 60 cents” and “growers should remain poised and ready to take advantage of unexpected rallies, and protect themselves from sudden sell-offs.” To help reduce downside risk without negatively impacting upside potential, he recommends using forward contracting, immediate post-harvest contracting, and/or various options strategies.5

For more information and resources to help plan cotton budgets for the 2018 season, please follow the link below.

Cotton Variety Selection

One of the most important decisions for growers is deciding which cotton variety to plant. Seed quality is also very important, especially if lower seeding rates are considered. Fields vary in many ways including their ability to hold moisture, nematode pressure, and the previous crop. All of these variables should be considered when selecting what cotton variety to plant in each field.

Texas A&M University trial data can be found at the following website:

Detailed cotton variety information can be found at the following website:

Planting Early

Planting too early can result in chilling injury, which can lead to aborted root tips and low seedling vigor. Affected roots are unable to reach moisture and nutrients in the soil, leading to unhealthy plants with low yield potential. It is recommended to plant high-quality seed into firm, moist seedbeds that are 65 °F and a favorable five- to seven-day weather forecast.

In addition to assessing yield goals, production costs, and varieties, take the time to clean and maintain your equipment in preparation for planting next year. Precise seed delivery helps to increase stand health for a successful growing season.


1 Cotton stalk destruction methods. Texas Department of Agriculture.

2 Kelly, M. and Keys, K. 2014. Texas cotton: planting the right variety in good soil conditions crucial for yields. Texas AgriLife Extension.

3 Bronson, K. and Boman, R. 2009. Nutrient management for Texas High Plains cotton production.

4 Fannin, B. 2015. Experts offer some key considerations for Texas cotton farmers preparing to plant. Texas A&M AgriLife.

5 Robinson, J. 2017. Cotton market update for the week ending October 20, 2017. Department of Agricultural Economics Texas A&M University.

Web sources verified 10/25/17. 171026132050​