California Cotton: Options For Weak Growth

    As we move into late June, some patterns are emerging in how cotton is shaping up in the San Joaquin Valley. While we have fields that are moving along at a very satisfactory rate, growth in others is not quite up to par. Significant acreage could be described in one of the following ways:

    Weak to moderate vegetative growth, thinner stands and some retention problems. If you’re dealing with fields like this, stay flexible with plant growth regulators. If retention remains good in weaker stands, consider lower PGR rates or bypass them, altogether.

    Weaker vegetative growth and good possible retention. Maybe it’s a little early to tell much about retention possibilities, but we might end up with plants fitting this description. Such plants could become candidates for early cutout if retention is good and growth is held back by limited water or delayed irrigation.

    Early cutout could be good or bad, depending on the situation. For example:

    • Plants pressing toward early cutout would likely have reduced yield potential.
    • But if water is limited, early termination like this may be an okay outcome.

    If you have water, it’s still possible with irrigation and nutrients to push plants that have weak root systems and less-than-satisfactory early growth. Decide if the added costs pencil out. It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about possible payback. Every field is different, and you know your ground better than I do.

    But if you’re unsure how a given field will respond to added nutrients or suspect any response will be limited, keep supplemental fertilizer applications moderate for those made after the first split. For instance, go with 30 to 40 lbs/acre of nitrogen, then see how plants respond.

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