AMARILLO – Untimely rains, hail and wind storms have caused some cotton producers to consider replanting to an alternative crop, according to Dr. Brent Bean, agronomist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center here.
Bean said growers might consider one of several crop alternatives following cotton, such as sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, or dry beans.
“Producers who are thinking about sorghum may have some difficulty in locating seed due to the unusually short seed supply this year,” he said. Hybrid selection for late planted sorghum is an important consideration.
“Sorghum planting may range from late April to early July, depending on the maturity class of the hybrid,” Bean noted.
In general, a medium- to full-season hybrid should not be planted after June 15. The cutoff date for a medium-maturity hybrid would be June 20 through June 30, while short season hybrids could be planted up to July 10, depending upon the hybrid and how far south in the Panhandle or South Plains the field is located.
“Before planting any hybrid, be sure to check with the seed company for the recommended planting date for that particular hybrid,” Bean advises. He said a list of major sorghum hybrids and their maturity class is available at local county extension offices along with recent variety trial data.
Producers who plant late sorghum should be aware that midge infestations and other insects may be a problem, and be prepared to apply insecticides if needed, the specialist cautioned.
Cotton herbicide carryover is often a potential problem in planting sorghum. Treflan, Prowl, Caparol, Cotoran, Karmex and Staple soil residues can all injure sorghum.
“This is especially true on sandy soils, where residues could be relatively deep in the soil due to the recent rains,” he added. The agronomist suggested the problem of soil residues can often be avoided in heavier textured soils with a buster planter set to displace the top four to five inches of soil to establish a herbicide- free seed zone. If Dual herbicide has been applied, safened seed can be planted directly into the treated soil with little risk of sorghum injury.
Bean noted, however, that some cotton producers have used the new herbicide Staple, and sorghum is very sensitive to even small amounts of Staple residue. It is not recommended that sorghum be planted in fields treated with Staple.
Soybeans may be a good replacement crop for cotton in irrigated areas, the agronomist said. Soybeans require about 80 percent of the water amount needed to grow corn for top yields. The optimum planting date for soybeans is prior to June 1.
“However, soybeans can be planted as late as July 10 and make a crop,” he said. Since soybeans are sensitive to day length, late plantings usually result in short stalk growth and may lead to poor harvest of the lower seed pods.
By planting on narrow rows and increasing the seeding rate, the soybean plant can be encouraged to set pods higher off the ground. Group IV soybeans usually work best for our area even when planted late, he said.
Herbicide residues of Treflan, Prowl, or Dual will have no effect on soybeans, said Bean. If Caporal, Cotoran, or Karmex has been used, at least three or four inches of soil will need to be removed before establishing a seed furrow. Bean suggested if Staple has been applied consider planting an STS soybean variety.
Another alternative crop Bean suggested is sunflowers. Planted as late as mid-July, they can still make a good yield.
“This may be an especially good alternative for the dryland farmer,” he said. If one summer irrigation can be made, it should be applied from budding until two weeks after first flowering. This is the critical period when stress on the sunflower plant should be avoided.
“Land treated with Treflan or Prowl shouldn’t pose a problem for sunflowers,” he said. However — like soybeans — if Karmex, Cotoran, Staple, or Caparol has been used, three to four inches of soil will need to be removed before planting. Sunflowers are also more tolerant to Staple than soybeans, although injury may still occur.