5 Best Management Tips for Early Season

Cotton growers understand the importance of growing a healthy crop. Much of a cotton crop’s yield potential and profitability is determined in the first 40 days after planting. By the numbers, approximately one-third of the total cost of producing a cotton crop comes before cotton plants emerge from the soil. Getting a uniform and vigorous stand is essential to the bottom line. 

To get the most from your cotton crop, follow these 5 best management practices.

1 – Good Early Season Insect Control

Growers who don’t manage early season insects often see delayed maturity, higher production costs, lower yields and reduced fiber quality, which all lower the bottom line. 

As a field is prepared for planting, eliminate host plants and insect breeding sites with pre-plant weed control to ensure a clean field for at least three weeks prior to planting.  If an insecticide is needed, consider a systemic insecticide with early application and long residual efficacy.

Aeris® insecticide/nematicide seed treatment for cotton provides improved seedling health, increased grower production flexibility and the broadest spectrum protection available against early season insects, including thrips, aphids and moderate populations of nematodes.

Aeris provides up to 28 days of thrips protection; up to 42 days of aphid protection; suppression of early season fleahoppers and plant bugs; and up to 28 days of protection against low-to-moderate nematode populations.

New for 2015, Bayer has an additional innovative crop management solution for southern row crops. Velum® Total insecticide/nematicide is available in the Southeast for the 2015 season and delivers wide-spectrum, long-lasting control of nematodes and early season insects in cotton and peanuts. The product is applied in-furrow and will promote early season crop establishment by preventing nematode and insect damage and enhancing root health. It has strong residual performance on early season insects, such as thrips. In university trials over multiple years, Velum Total provided greater yield response than the historical standard Temik® in both cotton and peanuts.

2 – Seed and Variety Selection

Seed and variety selection is one of the most important decisions you will make throughout the year, so careful consideration is key. Variety characteristics such as vigor, herbicide traits, plant type and maturity dictate management of the field for the entire season.

Though yield is the ultimate measure of a cotton crop, the demand for high-quality fiber is a close second. Varieties with potential to produce fiber with long staple length, high strength, premium micronaire and high uniformity are ideal options. Three to four varieties planted each year allow you to evaluate variety performance on your farm.  FiberMax® and Stoneville® cotton seed varieties have been bred for success in their geographic regions and can help growers achieve their best potential. For additional information on how to choose the right seed variety, click here.

3 – Seed Bed Preparation, Emergence  and Plant Population

According to industry experts, an efficient, well-timed planting operation can result in a 10 to 25 percent savings of seed, technology and seed treatment costs. Given that impact on the bottom line, growers should plant with precision, not speed. Here are a few tips to ensure growers are getting the most at planting:

  • Increase seeding rate when planting early in cooler soils.
  • Minimum plant populations should be approximately two plants per foot in the final stand.
  • Consider the variety’s attributes. For example, varieties that produce more vegetative growth will need lower plant populations to perform.
  • Soil and air temperatures should be within state guidelines.
  • Plant 1 to 1½ inches into the soil, depending on the moisture and soil characteristics.

4 – Weed Control

Early season weed pressure can have a negative impact on cotton yield. Again, experts recommend that fields be weed-free for three weeks before planting to ensure planting efficacy and pest control. Growers can protect their investment and increase yield potential through proactive early-season weed management. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Target weeds when they are small (less than 3 inches in height).
  • Use multiple effective herbicide modes of action, including residuals, for overlapping control.
  • Use proper herbicide label rates. Difficult-to-control weeds may require the maximum label rate.
  • Lower herbicide rates promote resistance and may not effectively control weed flushes.
  • Apply herbicides when weeds are actively growing.
  • Scout fields after herbicide applications to assess weed control and check for herbicide resistance.

Don’t rely on one mode of action to control your weeds. Liberty® herbicide plus the LibertyLink® trait is the preeminent weed management system. Spray Liberty herbicide in-crop for excellent nonselective postemergence weed control, even on tough weeds including Palmer amaranth, giant ragweed, waterhemp and marestail. To ensure you get the most out of your Liberty application remember S.T.O.P:

  • Start early
  • Target less than 3-inch weeds
  • Optimize coverage
  • Pair with residuals

5 – Nematode and Seedling Disease Control

Nematodes are responsible for $3 billion in crop damage on an annual basis, according to The Society of Nematologists. Closely monitor pest presence to allow for management before crop damage can occur. It is much easier to maintain a nematode population at a manageable level than to reduce a nematode population that has built to damaging levels.

Nematode damage can be tough to see, but one sign is stunted crop growth. The best monitoring is through regular soil samples. Root-knot nematodes are often found in clumps, but reniform nematodes are spread across the field. Aeris seed treatment provides protection in a convenient, flexible package so growers can maximize their individual production practices.

Crop Science has several products that can be used to protect your cotton crop. With Aeris, Trilex® Advanced and EverGol® Prime, growers can feel confident they get the best seed treatment package that protects against early season pests and diseases.

EverGol Prime is an innovative seed treatment fungicide that promotes more root growth for faster crop establishment. When applied on cotton, EverGol Prime controls seed and soilborne disease, such as Rhizoctonia spp. EverGol Prime is part of the base seed treatment on the following FiberMax and Stoneville varieties: ST 4946GLB2, ST 6448GLB2, ST 5032GLT, ST 5289GLT, ST 4747GLB2, ST 6182GLT, FM 1900GLT, FM 2007GLT, FM 5115GLT, FM 1944GLB2, FM 1830GLT, FM 2334GLT, FM 1320GL and FM 2322GL.


Trilex Advanced protects against a broad range of cotton seedling diseases, including those caused by Rhizoctonia spp. and Fusarium spp. It provides excellent protection against seedborne and soilborne diseases and is the ideal companion to Aeris.

For more information about nematodes, visit the Cotton Nematode Research and Education Program.


Work Cited

National Cotton Council and Cotton Foundation, First 40 Days, http://www.cotton.org/tech/ace/upload/BMP_Doc.pdf

National Cotton Council, Cotton Nematode Research and Education Program, http://www.cotton.org/tech/pest/nematode/about.cfm

Society of Nematologists, Information on Nematology, http://www.nematologists.org/information_on_nematology.php

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