South Plains producers should not throw in the towel too soon after hail damages or destroys their cotton crops. Several crops offer good yield and profit potential when planted after hailed-out cotton, said a Texas Cooperative Extension agronomist.

“Don't give up too soon. Give your cotton a little time to recover before you judge the stand after a weather loss. If you've still got a stand of at least one and one-half healthy plants per foot of row, it could still make acceptable yields given good growing conditions,” said Calvin Trostle.

“If you do have to switch to another crop, be sure how this will affect you farm program participation before you move in with a catch crop.”

Trostle was one of eight featured speakers at a recent Caprock Cotton Conference in Floydada. More than 100 producers attended the conference for updates on cotton insects, weevil eradication, national state legislation, alternative crops, crop water use efficiency and market prices.

In most cases, failed cotton acres can be replanted to catch crops such as grain sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers or sesame, the agronomist said.

“First, check the label of any cotton herbicide you've already applied. The label will list any crop rotation restrictions that might affect your replanting options. Cotton herbicides such as Treflan, Prowl, Caparol, Cotoran, Karmex, Diuron and Staple can cause carryover herbicide injury to some crops,” Trostle said. “One option in that scenario is to set the planter to break-out and remove the herbicide-treated soil, so the new seed is planted in untreated soil.

“That's especially true if you'll be planting grain sorghum after failed cotton. You'll also want to keep the herbicide-treated soil away from new plants while cultivating the new crop for a while at least. If you applied Dual herbicide, you can plant safened grain sorghum seed and have little risk of plant injury.”

The cut-off date for planting medium maturity grain sorghum hybrids falls between June 25 and July 5, while early-maturity hybrids can be planted as late as July 15. Late-planted grain sorghum is more susceptible to insect damage, so insecticide applications may be required, the agronomist said.

“We can plant soybeans as late as July 10 and still expect to make a crop, even though later planting reduces yield potential. Farmers should plant early- to mid-maturity group IV soybeans before June 25, and then switch to an early group IV or late-maturity group III variety for later planting,” Trostle said. “Later planting retards stalk growth and can make it hard to harvest the lowest seed pods, but using a higher seeding rate and narrow rows may encourage higher pod-set.”

Confectionary or oilseed sunflowers are another option — when contracts are available, he added.

“Our recommended last planting dates for oilseed or confectionary sunflowers are June 5 for producers in Bailey, Castro and Parmer Counties. That goes to July 10 in Briscoe, Cochran, Crosby, Floyd, Hale, Hockley, Lamb, Lubbock, Terry and Yoakum counties. July 15 is the cutoff date for Andrews, Borden, Dawson, Garza, Gaines, Howard, Lynn, Martin, Mitchell and Scurry counties,” he said. “Oilseed sunflowers are cheaper to produce than confectionary sunflowers, and a later planting date can reduce the need to treat for head moths.”

Drought- and insect-resistant sesame is another option, from Lubbock south to Big Spring. Sesame should be planted on 30-inch rows, from late May to late June, and need 95 growing days before the first frost. It can be grown with existing farm equipment, but no herbicides are labeled for use in sesame.

Dryland sesame can make 500 to 900 pounds per acre, Trostle said, while irrigated ground may produce 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per acre.

Trostle's 2003 Alternative Crop Options After Failed Cotton and Late-Season Crop Planting for the Texas South Plains provides more information on these crops, as well as some summer forages. Two other Extension publications: Making Replant Decisions, Effects of Stand Loss and Skips on Cotton Yields, and Cotton Variety Considerations Under Replant Conditions can help producers evaluate weather-related cotton losses. These publications are available at county Extension offices or on the Internet at: http://lubbock.tamu.edu/cotton.

Producers can get estimated crop production budgets for several alternate crops from their county Extension agent.