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Farmers all over Alabama are filled with excitement and anticipation to get the 2017 Cotton Planting season off to a good start whereas, we are just at that time to begin the Cotton Planting season.  Farmers usually wait until the month of April to consider planting with optimal planting dates being from April 1st through May 20th.   This is the optimal planting window.  Early in this planting window, farmers look to the weather conditions and soil conditions to determine when to begin planting.  The first indicator is soil temperature.  Generally it is recommended to observe the 4 inch soil temperature and for it to be at 65 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 consecutive days with the longer range forecast to be warming and conductive to maintaining and improving these soil warmth conditions.  The reason would be to enhance seed germination and plant establishment. Diseases such as Rhizoctonia are soil borne diseases which can diminish the plant stands of cotton if cool, wet conditions prevail after cotton planting.   Seed and technology is expensive and replanting cost lots of time and money therefore, it is desirable to plant to get the optimal stand of Cotton once without having to replant.

            Below is the Alabama weather Station Data from Belle Mina, Tallassee, Prattville, Fairhope and Headland as a means of evaluating the soil conditions and the tentative 5 day forecast. The locations of Belle Mina, Headland and Prattville have all passed the 65 degree Fahrenheit rule for three consecutive days and the accompanying longer range forecast indicates that it is acceptable to begin Cotton planting.  The locations of Tallassee and Fairhope indicate that soil conditions are still a little on the cool side to begin planting Cotton seed.  However, the 5 day forecast indicates that it will continue to warm and be dry therefore it is not expected to be much longer before these areas will reach the acceptable soil conditions temperature wise.

            Once the soil Temperature reaches the acceptable level, the soil moisture must be closely monitored to evaluate if there is adequate soil moisture in the top .5 to 1.5 inch depth.   The reason being is that these depths are the recommended depths to plant cotton.  I recommend that Cotton seed be planted into at least .5 inch of moist soil at the time of planting.  The reason being is that the upper .3 to .5 inch of the soil, after being disturbed by the planter unit, will dry out and we want the seeds to germinate and peg down with the radicle before the moisture moves past the seed.  Also, remember the later in the planting season, the faster this soil will dry out due to the increasing air temperatures.  That is the reason for dryland producers to plant early when moisture is available. 

            Please review the chart to help you monitor the soil temperature conditions in conjunction with the 5 day forecast to determine when it will be appropriate for you to begin your 2017 Cotton Planting season.  If I can be of service please call 334-723-6299 or 334-693-3800 to reach me.

The full article and table can be viewed by clicking the link below.

cotton planting date 2017.pdf


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