UGA Cotton Newsletter

September 10, 1999

Crop Condition
Identifying Nematode Damage in Mid-Season Cotton
December '99 Cotton Futures

Crop Conditions. (Brown) Prevailing drought since the latter part of July has devastated cotton hopes across much of the state. In mid-July, we had what looked like an 800+ lb/A crop across the state. Now, USDA projects our yield at 629 lb/A, and we'll be fortunate to make that.

In late August, rain showers on severely stressed cotton resulted in leaf scald and significant premature defoliation on hundreds of acres, reducing yields and quality. There are reports from several areas in the state of extremely poor boll retention (less than 5 bolls per plant from 15+ fruiting branches) on well managed irrigated cotton. While some of these fields have begun holding fruit over the last couple of weeks, others have not. No doubt, yields will be greatly reduced in many of these situations. We are investigating these problems to get a better handle on varieties and specific management practices involved.

Harvest has begun. Early reports indicate dryland acreage yields ranging from 200 to 900 lb/A Non-irrigated fields which produce in excess of 600 lb/A will be the exception this year. As of September 7, about 2 percent of the crop was harvested. The Macon Classing Office had processed just over 500 samples through last Friday, September 3. With continuing drought/heat, the crop is opening rapidly. Defoliation should be in full swing by September 20, with harvest close behind.

Identifying Nematode Damage in Mid-Season Cotton. (Davis) Most people have had it drilled into them to sample their cotton fields for nematodes in the fall because nematode population levels in row crops are typically at their highest levels of the year just before the crop is harvested. That's always good advice, but it's also true that you can sample specific trouble spots any time you see possible symptoms of nematode damage: if there are enough nematodes present to cause visible symptoms, then there should be enough nematodes present to diagnose them as the cause.

There are three major nematode species damaging cotton in Georgia: southern root-knot, Columbia lance, and reniform nematodes. Though most of the visible symptoms of nematode damage are generic and can have many causes besides nematodes, there are a few symptoms that frequently indicate a nematode problem.

Southern root-knot nematodes cause small galls, or swellings, on cotton roots. You are not likely to confuse root-knot galls with anything else once you know what they look like, though the galls may be smaller on cotton than on other crops. Be very careful not to break off the smaller roots where galls occur when collecting plants to examine. Plants usually must be dug up rather than being pulled up or the roots with galls will likely be lost. If you see root-knot galls, you can be confident that you have southern root-knot nematodes in that field.

Plants growing poorly in easily distinguished areas of a field are a commonly seen feature of nematode infestations. Damaging levels of southern root-knot nematodes usually occur in clustered areas, or 'hot spots', in a field rather than being spread evenly throughout an area. Severely affected plants may be stunted.

Plants affected severely enough to be stunted will certainly have visible galling on the roots.

Above ground symptoms of damage from Columbia lance nematodes are generic and subtle, so they are easily overlooked. You may see poorly growing plants producing less cotton in extreme situations, but the symptoms are usually less dramatic. The tap root of cotton is easily damaged by Columbia lance nematodes, so damaging infestations often result in plants with a tap root that stops or becomes malformed several inches below the soil line. The tap root will often bend sharply and begin to grow horizontally so that it looks like the plant encountered a hardpan.

Heavy infestations of reniform nematodes often cause the cotton to show interveinal reddening beginning in midseason. This reddening has been confused with magnesium, potassium, or severe nitrogen deficiency, but it is more likely a generic (though severe) response to plant stress. You will see a lot of reddening of leaves in healthy cotton later in the season, but reniform nematodes will cause leaves to redden noticeably earlier than the leaves of healthy plants. Plants may be stunted by severe infestations, but significant yield loss can occur without stunting. Stunting from reniform nematodes is frequently much less aggregated than the stunting caused by root-knot nematodes.

If you see any of these symptoms during midseason in a cotton field, they may indicate a significant nematode problem that is probably reducing yields. You should submit a soil sample for nematode analysis to confirm the cause of the problem. As always, keep detailed records of where and when problems occur to improve future management decisions.

Which Way The Market? (Shurley) For sale-- 2 million bales of US cotton. That's how much US stocks are expected to increase this year compared to last year. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with high stocks is low(er) prices.... maybe.

USDA's August numbers caught almost everyone by surprise. USDA's next report (September 10th) is much anticipated and most certainly will set the tone as we move into peak harvest season. Another cut in the size of the crop could spark another rally but it would likely be short-lived as even a 300,000+ bale cut is small in comparison to the build up of supplies world-wide.

On the demand side, there have been some encouraging reports on exports recently. But the A-Index (world price) continues to move lower. In recent weeks and months, US prices (futures) have held in relation to the A-index (the A-Index has declined proportionately more than US prices) but one wonders how much longer this can be. In a global surplus situation, the US cannot be expected to be competitive on the global market (have a strong level of exports) with futures prices at or above the A-Index unless Step 2 subsidies provide the cushion. Some argue that Step 2 funds will serve only to drive the A-Index lower and perhaps drag US prices with it.

December '99 Cotton Futures

This year's marketing strategies are risky and complicated. Unless December can rally to the 56 to 57-cent area, growers in some shape or fashion are going to have to deal with a decision on what to do about the cotton loan program. I contend that the best possible strategy would be to contract all you can deliver on a rally to 56-57 cents December. This would be a contract price 2-3 cents above the loan rate. POP the cotton and take the 2-3 cents premium above the loan and invest it in a Call Option. The market, however, may not provide this opportunity.

Other marketing alternatives available at this point include: an "equity contract"(if available), POP and sell at harvest, place cotton in CCC loan. If prices are low (below the loan rate) at harvest time, POPing and selling the cotton offers little or no price advantage compared to the loan but it may be less risky and the way to go if the grower is willing to put 2-3 cents into a Call Option. If cotton is placed in loan, the grower then has 10 months to (a) redeem the cotton (pay off the loan and do as you wish with the cotton) realizing a "marketing loan gain" or (b) A "sell equity" to a buyer. This is done through FSA. Equities should leave you as well off as the redemption route.

In some instances, "equity contracts" prior to harvest are being offered at some gins. These contracts offer the loan rate plus 8-10 cents equity. The grower retains the right to place the cotton in loan. These contracts protect the grower from lower prices between now and harvest. If contracted and equity received by the grower, the buyer then carries the cotton in loan.

It is important that cotton growers understand all provisions and ramifications of the marketing loan program. With any luck, a combination or cash sale plus POP or loan plus equity or loan gain plus cash sale should total 65 cents or better.

Defoliation. (Brown, Bader, Culpepper) Following are updated defoliation recommendations for the 1999 season. There are few changes. CLICK HERE for defoliation and harvest aid information.

The web address for the UGA Cotton Page is


November 3-4, 1999 - Cotton Incorporated Crop Management Seminar, Augusta (see attached announcement)
December 8-9, 1999 - Georgia Crop Production Alliance Annual Meeting, Macon
December 15-16, 1999 - Georgia Cotton Production Workshop, Tifton January 4-8, 2000 - Beltwide Cotton Conference, San Antonio, TX

Prepared by:

Steve M. Brown, Extension Agronomist-Cotton
Michael J. Bader, Extension Engineer-Cotton
A. Stanley Culpepper, Extension Agronomist-Weed Science
Richard F. Davis, Extension Nematologist
Don Shurley, Extension Ag Economist