Oklahoma State University Extension state cotton specialist Dr. J.C. Banks recently recalled a presentation Danny Jones, a farm manager in Mississippi gave at the 1991 Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

He believes Jones' opinions about planting are just as important now as they were then.

"Jones said the most important day of the season for a cotton producer is the day of planting,” Banks said. “This was true back when seed cost about $30 per bag and it is even more true today when much of our seasonal input costs are associated with expensive seed, which includes herbicide resistance and worm control.

"We cannot afford to just pull the planter out of the shed and begin planting cotton. We need to be proactive on getting the planter ready and making sure conditions are right to start planting,” Banks said.

"First, we need to look at seedbed preparation. With more no-till cotton being planted, the primary focus is to make sure we control weeds prior to planting. Even though we can apply glyphosate after planting Roundup Ready Flex cotton, the best weed control opportunity comes when the weeds are small.”

Banks said new problems are showing up. “Horseweed is emerging as a real problem weed in no-till cotton,” he said. “Hopefully, this was controlled a month earlier with phenoxy herbicides. If large horseweed plants are present (over six inches tall), a shallow sweep tillage would probably be better than fighting horseweed control all season. On clean tillage, a pre-emergence yellow herbicide should be applied and incorporated prior to planting.

"The soil should have adequate moisture for seed germination, but just as important is soil temperature,” Banks said. “Seed prices are high enough that we need to plant when germination and early vigor can be assured as much as possible. Soil temperatures at 8 a.m. should be at least 65 degrees for several days prior to planting, and a favorable forecast of warm weather is even better.

“Remember, the most critical time for cold injury for a cotton plant is during seed swell and germination. Many times if the seed takes in moisture and germination starts, then temperatures drop, the plant never fully recovers the early season vigor that later planted cotton will have.”

Banks said planters should be thoroughly inspected before they go to the field.

"Make sure that worn items have been replaced, that all bearings run smoothly and that vacuum lines and seed tubes have all the spider webs and mud dauber nests removed. If possible, the planter should be equipped with a correctly adjusted seed monitor so planting problems can be discovered quickly.”

With the preliminary chores out of the way, cotton farmers are ready for planting day, Banks said.

“When you go to the field, we recommend that you check behind every row to make sure depth and spacing are correct. This should be done on a routine basis throughout the season, but it is essential to do it when you first go to the field. If farmers use granular in-furrow applicators, they should have been calibrated, rotors checked for damaged vanes and tubes checked for obstructions.

"Everything we do on planting day is to assure a perfect stand with uniform and rapid emergence with plants as healthy as possible,” Banks said.

"Without a good stand and vigorous early season growth, it will be difficult to manage the cotton to obtain maximum yield. Many early mistakes cannot be corrected; that is why this is the most important day of the season."

TALKIN' COTTON is a cotton industry partnership, which supports and encourages increased cotton production in the Rolling Plains of North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. For more information on the cotton scene, see ntokcotton.org and okiecotton.org. For comments and questions on Talkin' Cotton, contact eventerprise1@hughes.net.