Fertility and Preparation for Planting the 2017 Cotton Crop

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

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Once cotton harvest is completed, stalks should be destroyed to help reduce pest populations using harvested cotton plants as hosts. Regular destruction of stalk material may be necessary to help ensure non-host status.1

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Sampling for Residual Nitrogen

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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 exsits.�?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

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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 cost, the frequency of plant growth regulator application, and harvest delays.

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Table 1. Cotton nitrogen requirements for various yield goals.
Yield Goal (bales/acre)Nitrogen Requirement (N/acre)
0.525
1.050
1.575
2.0100
2.5125
3.0150
3.5175
4.0200
Source: Bronson, K. and Boman, R. 2009. Nutrient management for Texas High Plains cotton production. http://lubbock.tamu.edu/.
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Cotton Variety Selection

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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 previous crop. All of these variables should be considered when selecting what cotton variety to plant in each field.

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  • Texas A&M University trial data can be found at the following website: http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/cotton/.
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  • Detailed cotton variety information can be found at the following website: http://www.agseedselect.com/.
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Planting Early

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Planting too early can result in chilling injury, which can lead to aborted root tips and low seedling vigor. 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.

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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.