In what should been one of the busiest planting times of the year, cotton seed remained in the sack in many parts of the lower Southeast as unseasonably hot, dry weather lingered over the region during the first half of May.

Nearing the mid-May mark, University of Georgia Extension Cotton Specialist Guy Collins said his growers were about 20 percent planted, compared to a five-year average of 25 percent.

“We’re in a holding pattern for planting cotton now, especially our dryland producers. I don’t think we can say yet that this crop is late, but we can’t afford another two weeks of hot, dry conditions. We’re just a little bit behind right now, and we’re certainly not in a panic situation,” says Collins.

Some see June 1 as the latest a grower can plant cotton and expect good results, but Collins sees some flexibility to that rule.

“With some of the earlier varieties, I don’t think June 15 would be out of the question as a planting date,” he says.

Collins estimates that anywhere from 45 to 50 percent of Georgia’s cotton is irrigated.

The most challenging planting decisions during the early part of the planting window are often associated with dryland acreage, says Collins. When warm temperatures prevail, growers usually begin planting dryland acreage as soon as sufficient soil moisture is available.

Since this year has been relatively dry so far, several growers have been faced with decisions of whether to “dust in” seed in anticipation of rain if soils are extremely dry, plant deeper to capture some sub-surface moisture, or to delay planting until it rains.

Of course, says Collins, there is a risk that it will continue to remain relatively dry which could force growers to plant in sub-optimal conditions.

According to University of Georgia recommendations, deeper planted cotton should be planted at depths between 0.75 and 1.25 inches but not greater than 1.25 inches. Planting on the shallower end of this spectrum is advised when encountering unfavorable soil or environmental conditions, or if surface crusting is likely.