Jim Shroyer

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. And today we’re going to be talking about a crop that most people in Kansas don’t know much about or don’t grow it as well and that’s cotton. As you can see we have a little cotton in the greenhouse. But stay with us. We’re gonna be talking with Dr. Stu Duncan, our cotton specialist for the state of Kansas after we get back from these words from our sponsor.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host and today we’re in luck because we’re in a greenhouse on the campus of Kansas State University and we have Dr. Stu Duncan with us. And Stu is the northeast area agronomist and… but he actually covers the whole state in a particular topic that we’re gonna talk about today and that’s cotton. And I know a lot of folks aren’t familiar with cotton, but today Stu is gonna fill us in on just about everything we need to know. So Stu, kinda tell us about cotton in general, what’s grown, where, that sort of thing. (Stu) OK Jim, thank you, glad to be here this morning. Cotton has been grown in Kansas, off and on since the 90s or 80s. But really once the 1990 Farm Bill was passed that allowed growers in southern Kansas to actually start growing cotton in Kansas. Our cotton is upland cotton. It’s a stripper variety, which are varieties that do not… the bolls don’t open, it requires a different harvesting mechanism than the picker cottons that are grown in the Delta and southeast and the high plains of Texas. They have a lot of picker cotton out there. Same with New Mexico. The Pima and Acalas are grown mostly in New Mexico and California, that’s a different type of cotton usually longer fibers that you’ll see on some of the finer garments. There are those sheets that are 1,000 thread or higher type of… (Jim) That you fall right off? (Stu) Yea, pretty much, like satin almost. In the high quality shirts. Most of our cotton in Kansas goes to denim, or about all of it goes to denim production. And that winds up down in Texas eventually. But the cotton acreage in Kansas grew steadily from ’96 until 2005 when we grew 115,000 acres in Kansas, which put us ahead of Virginia, Florida and New Mexico as far as cotton growing states in the U.S. at that time. We had a shift in our acreage downward when we had the bio fuel initiatives was introduced in 2006. So a drastic drop in cotton acres because we had a dramatic rise in corn prices. (Jim) Was that just in Kansas, or was that across the whole U.S.? (Stu) That was pretty… we saw a goodly amount of acreage going out of cotton production across the U.S. But it has picked back up some here recently. We’ve had some tough years the last few years. We wound up harvesting 30,000 to 35,000 acres approximately last year. We grow some good quality stuff. We’ve got four gins, operating gins in Kansas. (Jim) I know there’s interest in cotton from time to time and just recently in the High Plains Journal, there’s a whole issue on cotton. “Cotton is ‘Growing’ on Kansas Farmers” is the title of the High Plains Journal that was here just recently. But it goes into the various discussions of what to expect and the outlook and that sort of thing. So there is lots of interest there. (Stu) Yes. One of our better growers down in Cowley County was highlighted. (Jim) OK,OK. Stu don’t go away, we’ve got to take a break here. Folks, now’s your time to go get a cup of coffee and we’ll see you back in just a few minutes.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Jim Shroyer and with us we have Dr. Stu Duncan and Stu’s been telling us a little bit about production practices of cotton. And so Stu, we have some greenhouse grown, straggly-looking cotton plants here, but I mean, that’s all we’ve got this time of year. We have to wait a few more months before we get plants like this. So Stu, tell us how cotton grows basically? (Stu) Well Jim, cotton grows, it emerges a lot like soybeans. (Jim) Sure. (Stu) It comes out of the ground. When it comes out it’s pulling those cotta lines. Cotta lines on cotton are just as big as soybeans so you have to be careful you don’t… if you have crusting or some damage, it can be killed by being cut off below. But those cotta lines are huge on a cotton plant. And unlike a soybean, they’ll be functional for a month or better, due to some photosynthesis. (Jim) Yea, right. (Stu) But it’s very slow growing. It needs heat. Cotton… the whole growth and development phase as it progresses physiologically is driven by heat units. (Jim) Right. (Stu) Corn is the same way in that respect. All of our crops have a lot… have a heat unit requirement. Cotton is based on a 60 degree base though. So, it’s about the highest one we’ve got. (Jim) Right. (Stu) But we don’t want to plant cotton when it’s too cool and the soil… we can generally, we won’t be planting this until Mother’s Day at the earliest until about June 5. June 5th is the insurance cutoff. (Jim) Oh right. (Stu) But we do have some double crop growers in south central Kansas who will grow after wheat harvest and get a short crop. So, really with cotton in Kansas we have a short window to get it in the ground. (Stu) Fairly short window, yes absolutely. We can go a little earlier, but the guys really don’t like to because they’ve found in May when we get a cold front come through and get moisture, that can really delay or even pretty much terminate cotton. (Jim) What do you have some seedling diseases and that sort of thing? (Stu) Absolutely. It emerges very slowly. (Jim) Right, OK. (Stu) And it can… (Jim) And you really want uniform emergence, so the plants are all flowering at the same time. (Stu) Absolutely. Yes, exactly like with corn or with the sunflower growers have the same… (Jim) Exactly (Stu) Same deal. (Jim) OK. So, well we talked a little bit about that. So tell us a little bit about the cotton. Now we have some about ready to bloom here. (Stu) This plant when it gets cranked up will add a new leaf or a new growing point every 2 1/2 days during the height of the heat. It doesn’t shut off at the top like the corn one does. It just keeps cranking as long as it’s got moisture. (Jim) OK. (Stu) The first five to seven branches are going to be what we call vegetative branches and then we get into the reproductive branches where the actual cotton bolls will be formed. The flowers are… you see one here that I was telling Jim earlier… and all the white flies are buzzing right now. (Jim) All the white flies are buzzing yea. (Stu) Yea, the stuff that looks like it’s sticky is. This is a greenhouse issue. There’s lots of aphids too, obviously right there. But the first… this thing will bloom. This will be like today. This one will bloom today, tomorrow it will… and it will pollinate. Tomorrow it should be a pink crepe papery color. The third day it’s gonna be a little dried crepe papery color and the fourth day it’s gonna look like this one back here. (Jim) Right. (Stu) That’s just gonna fall off. (Jim) About ready to drop. (Stu) And you should have little boll in there about this size on the end of my finger. (Jim) Right, OK. So how long does it take from the time the cotton blooms that it’s ready to cut? (Stu) OK. It’s two weeks until we get the fiber all formed. It’s another seven weeks, six or seven weeks, until the fiber is all filled and will get mature and then it will break open. But it’s about a thousand heat units. (Jim) So, we have to worry about that planting date, so we have enough heat units at the tail end of the year to get it done, right? (Stu) Yes, and Kansas is very blessed in that south central and southern parts of the state, we usually have really open, nice Septembers and that has saved our bacons a couple of years when we’ve had a very late spring. (Jim) Stu, we gotta take a break. Folks, stay with us, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) We’re in Manhattan in the greenhouse and we’re looking at some cotton with Dr. Stu Duncan. And Stu we talked a little bit about growing cotton, of production of it. Let’s talk a little bit more about some cultural practices that our farmers here in Kansas use. (Stu) OK Jim, sure. Western part of the state there is a lot of it that’s stripped tilled. And in the central part, the south central part we see more and more mostly no till. (Jim) OK. (Stu) A lot of it is a great rotational crop with wheat or with sorghum, will fit right into those rotations. It will be on some corn ground out west as well. But with cotton it’s a little finicky, as I said it takes it longer to get out of the ground. You want to make sure you have your triple fungicide treated seed. We plant our seed approximately an inch deep in the heavier soils when you get out in the loamier soils out west, especially in irrigated they’ll come up from an inch and a half, two inches. But I know we don’t want to get it buried too deep on our heavier clay content soils in south central and central Kansas. (Jim) So, you’re talking about 30 inch rows, but three or four plants per foot of row. That’s what you’re… (Stu) Yea we’re gonna drop probably four seeds and… (Jim) Hope for three and a half? (Stu) Well two and a half to three is about all those guys really shoot for. They found they can manage that pretty dog gone well. (Jim) And that’s dry land? (Stu) Dryland. (Jim) What about irrigated? (Stu) Irrigated, again they’re gonna be shooting for 65,000 plants to 70,000 and that’s gonna be four to five live plants. (Jim) Right, OK. (Stu) Fertility of the dryland, you’re gonna fertilize it about like a dryland wheat crop. In each bale of cotton, each 480 pound bale of cotton that is harvested per acre, we’ll take off about… the first bale is gonna take about 60 units of in per acre, about the same amount of potash and 15 pounds of phosphate. (Jim) OK. (Stu) As we… and then of course we go up to two bale yields. The nitrogen requirements, it seems like it only takes about 50 for that second bale. They fine tuned this enough, but again… (Jim) So we’re talking about 100 to 120 max for nitrogen? (Stu) On a two bale yield. (Jim) On two bales… if you put on too much nitrogen does that cause any problems with the plant. (Stu) It most certainly can, it’s like putting too much nitrogen on your tomato plants. All it wants to do is grow and it doesn’t want to put any fruit on and it gets rank. We don’t want tall cotton like the old timers used to talk about tall cotton. We want it about knee high, if we can keep it that short. (Jim) OK. Stay with us. We’ve gotta take a break. And folks, stay with us we’ll be right back after these words.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer. We’re still talking cotton with Dr. Stu Duncan. And Stu we left off just a little bit ago talking about phosphorus and potassium and nitrogen of course. But you had mentioned a little bit earlier about thrips and I know thrips are really devastating to cotton. And then of course we’ve got some other pests as well. So, tell us a little bit about thrips. (Stu) Absolutely Jim. Thrips are in all of our crops. I think the biggest issue with the cotton, at least in our area, is that they come out of wheat as wheat ripens. And that’s about the time cotton is just emerging and they don’t often kill cotton but they have rasping mouth parts on them and they will rasp that growing point, that little bit of growing point that is just coming up and can really delay the development of the plant. If they’re heavy enough on there they will turn that plant almost silver colored. And I’ve seen that happen before. Our planting time insecticides do a pretty good job of giving us coverage for 14- 21 days. If there’s an infestation, you don’t have a rain front coming through, we can treat ’em again once. They get above ground, they’re fairly easily controlled. (Jim) So how many times do you think you’d have to spray for thrips? (Stu) I’ve estimated that we’re probably spraying about a third to a fourth, fourth to a third of our acreage one time after emergence, generally. (Jim) OK. (Stu) Because usually the ground is warming up. That plant starts growing faster. We get a thunder shower and that’ll take ’em out. (Jim) They don’t like that. (Stu) No, it just knocks ’em off and they don’t get back up there. (Jim) What about weed control? (Stu) Weed control that’s one thing with cotton if you can have a perfectly clean field that was great. If they have the Roundup Ready or glyphosate resistant cotton was… as well as Liberty Link cottons with glufosinate, those were very critical to getting that early season weed control because cotton is going to have a tough time canopying all the way across in 30 inch rows up here in Kansas. It will do it, but those… you gotta keep the weeds out of it, not just because of the competition, the big thing is when you go to harvest and you’ve got pig weeds that’s most of our problem. We’ve had some grass issues, but mostly it’s pig weed. The water hemps are a problem and it puts trash in your lint. You’re gonna get docked at the… the grades are going to go down, it’s gonna affect color, but mostly trash. It’s gonna be trash on your… (Jim) Right. (Stu) And that’s a discount at the gin. (Jim) OK. Stu don’t go away. Folks, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. We have Dr. Stu Duncan with us, our cotton specialist for the state of Kansas. And Stu, we’ve talked a little bit about production but in this last segment here I really want to kind of hone in on harvest. How… what it takes to harvest it and when do producers know it’s time to harvest it, the cotton? (Stu) OK Jim. As we move through August, we have a short bloom period. Normally it runs about the third week of July until our last effective bloom is about August 10th. So, the guys are gonna be scouting that, they’re gonna be watching those blooms, watching those bolls develop. They’ll be tracking it up the plant. We will actually have some blooming at the top, which isn’t going to be harvested at the same time our bolls have matured at the bottom and have gone ahead and cracked open. (Jim) Cracking open is important, so what you’re saying is those bolls at the top won’t be… actually go into the yield. (Stu) No, they will be stringing out later in the year and people will think they’ve left it, but they haven’t left much out there. And it would be very poor quality as well. And as that cracked boll moves up the plant up the nodes, once it’s in within about four of the top of what you’ve determined to be… you count down, you determine the boll from actually cutting it open if it’s gonna make it to maturity depending on what your heat’s doing. And then they will look at time in a desiccant or a boll opener or a combination of those later that will be applied usually by air, but they can run through there too. But that canopy is usually heavy enough that they’re gonna fly it on. A little bit of a hormone, to prep it to cause the abscission layer to form on the leaf, so they will drop off and the sutures on that boll, the seams will also go ahead and mature so they will split. The desiccate is to also simulate a frost to help knock the leaves off, hopefully cleanly so they don’t stick and hang up in the cotton. Because that will be trash in the gin. (Jim) And you get docked for that. (Stu) You get docked for that. Our cotton is mostly, almost all hundred percent harvested with strippers which look just like a corn header. It’s different though. You’re gonna need different harvesting equipment for cotton. You can do about everything else, but not harvest. (Jim) OK. What is it about the stripper? (Stu) It’s got two rollers, like a row header, anywhere from four to… I think I’ve seen eight row strippers here…six row strippers in Kansas. And those two rollers will pop the bolls off. (Jim) Basically on each side of the plant. (Stu) Yea, they’re on each side of the plant. They’re rotating in that direction, one clockwise, one counterclockwise. They pop off the boll. It’s blown into the… it goes through a burr extractor, so it will get most of the lint out of that boll, that burr. They’re hauled to the edge of the field where there’s a nodule builder and they make these big 22,000 pound loaves of cotton lint with seed and some trash in it on the side of the field. Those are hauled to gin almost as immediately as they can be by the gin trucks. (Jim) Well Stu, I really appreciate you taking time to talk to us about cotton. And we’ll see how cotton does this year. (Stu) Yep. (Jim) And folks thank you for being with us this morning on That’s My Farm. And don’t forget next Friday at this same time be here for another issue of That’s My Farm.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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