Stand components consist of both uniformity and density. Uniformity of planting seed in the row is affected by planter type. The newer vacuum planters are extremely effective at controlling vertical distribution of the seed in the seed furrow and horizontal spacing down the row. These modern planters typically provide excellent seed to soil contact capability, which results in an increased likelihood of an individual planted seed being able to germinate. Seeding rate or density is controlled by the producer. The newer vacuum planters, coupled with the generally higher seed quality than what we often encountered in the past, have allowed most producers to reduce seeding rates successfully. However, because of the cost of transgenic varieties, in addition to cost of upgraded insecticide and fungicide seed treatments, many producers are pushing the agronomic minimum and living on the edge with little margin margin for error, so to speak.

Many seeding rate trials have been conducted in southwestern Oklahoma and the Rolling and High Plains regions of Texas over the last several years. Results all indicate that seeding rates can be pushed to a lower level than was generally accepted 10 to 15 years ago; however, the producer must have extreme faith in his planter and its adjustment, field-specific planting situation, seed quality, and environmental conditions after planting. It is difficult, agronomically, to justify less than 2 seed per row-foot as a best management practice in dryland cotton production.

Cotton has a remarkable capacity to compensate yield across a fairly wide range of plant populations. Recent seeding rate studies have indicated that within the final plant stand range of 1.5 to 4.5 plants per row-foot in 40-inch rows, lint yield can remain reasonably unaffected.

How a producer gets from a seed drop rate to a final plant stand can be a treacherous journey. Assuming that good soil conditions are present, and an excellent vacuum planter is used to control seed distribution both down the row and in planting depth, a range of 2 to 4 seed per row-foot in 40-inch rows is probably acceptable. Under dryland conditions, the low end may be targeted.

In poor planting conditions (such as low seed quality, marginal soil moisture in the seeding zone, a large amount of crop residue that may affect seed to soil contact, lack of precision planting equipment, or poor forecast conditions) it may be more important to increase the seeding rate. If a low seeding rate is used, the producer must have high confidence in the seed quality and planter precision.

Randy Boman is research director, Oklahoma State University Southwest Research and Extension Center in Altus and cotton Extension program leader.  


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