Cotton planting, with the recent rains across the Southern Plains, has begun, says J. C. Banks, Oklahoma State University Extension state cotton specialist.

“Recent rainfall through most of our cotton producing area has helped get the soil ready for planting. As soon as it dries up this week, planters should be running.

“Soil temperatures the first of May were borderline cool, so those who waited should have a better chance of establishing the crop without replanting.

“Hopefully, weeds have been controlled in both conventional and no-till areas and the soil conditions will be ready. If weeds are present, it is much better to control them with an herbicide than tillage at this time.”

Banks says if growers must till, they should do so as shallow as possible to decrease moisture loss. “Deep or moderately deep tillage will allow the soil to dry down to tillage depth, and we can't be assured we will have another rain next week to provide planting moisture.”

He urges growers to have planters ready before they go to the field.

“Some common areas that cause problems at planting are furrow opening disks that have a gap at the bottom, seed tubes that are clogged by soil, spider webs or wasp nests that obstruct seed tubes, uneven tire pressures on gauge wheels, incorrect vacuum settings, and locked up or tight bearings.

“These are much easier to check at your leisure in the shop than when you are in a rush to get seed in the ground.

He says seeding rate is more important than ever.

“Cottonseed is one of the highest-priced inputs so it is important to get the right number of seed per acre. Varying seed size for each variety and the cost of seed make it important to calibrate planters for number of seeds per acre instead of number of pounds per seed per acre.

“Normally on irrigated soils, we recommend 40,000 to 55,000 seed per acre and in dryland production, we recommend 30,000 to 40,000 seed per acre. These populations are for any row spacing, but on 40-inch rows, it calculates to about 2.5 to 3 seed per foot on dryland and 3 to 4.2 seed per foot on irrigated production,” Banks says.

“Ideally, the seed should be pressed into undisturbed soil about one inch deep and covered with moist soil.”

(Talkin' Cotton is produced by NTOK Cotton, a cotton industry partnership, which supports and encourages cotton production in North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. For more information on the cotton scene, see okiecotton.org and ntokcotton.org. For questions and comments on Talkin' Cotton, contact eventerprise1@hughes.net.)