Oklahoma researchers considering cropping options

Traditionally, the Oklahoma State University Extension’s annual field day at the North Central Research Station near Lahoma, Oklahoma, is a time to celebrate wheat. But this year, with the wet spring and the price of wheat compared to other commodities, much of the program May 10, was catered to farmer questions regarding new crop rotations, such as soybeans, cotton, cover crops and even industrial hemp.

Double-cropping options

Much of Oklahoma has been cooler and wetter this spring, which has some farmers considering their double-cropping options. While the wheat crop is looking particularly promising, water has pooled in several fields, and the crop that was delayed getting into the ground last fall is likely to be delayed at harvest as well.

With the price of wheat setting in the $3 range, some farmers are looking to terminating their wheat crop and using it for cover to plant cotton or soybeans.

Bradley Wilson and John Long spoke at one of the tour stops about cotton management in Oklahoma. Wilson talked about the timing of a cotton-wheat rotation.

“Some farmers are planting wheat or cereal rye and planning to terminate it in the spring,” he explained. This wheat residue ideally increases soil moisture, and rainfall infiltration for any cotton to come in behind it. Wilson said those considering a double-cropping option of cotton behind their wheat grain crop must remember that they need to harvest their wheat as soon as possible, and have selected a very short season cotton to have on hand to go into the wheat stubble right after the combine.

Wilson also told growers that as more is learned about this cropping system, and as this trend continues, Oklahoma State wheat breeders are also considering selecting for wheat varieties that are early maturing with shorter vernalization requirements. These wheats, he explained, could go in after the cotton is harvested in the later fall and in theory could still be harvested on time the next summer. But there’s more work to be done on these varieties.

In this wheat-cotton-wheat system, harvest aid application on cotton and timing is critical, Wilson said. It’s important farmers get the crop defoliated with optimal bolls opened. And, if it rains at cotton harvest in the fall, like it did this past year, that could further delay getting wheat in the ground right after the cotton.

Cotton acres moving north

With cotton acres moving farther north, into traditional hard winter wheat and winter canola country, farmers had a lot of questions about herbicide use and what they need to be mindful of when spraying near their neighbors’ fields.

John Long, Oklahoma State Extension specialist for agricultural machinery and technology spoke about the new dicamba and 2,4-D resistant systems in cotton and soybeans.

“With more of these soybeans and cotton coming into the region, that means there’s more and more opportunities to impact our neighbors,” he warned. “It’s critical that you set your sprayers up correctly.” Minimizing drift by using the correct nozzle and following the label directions is key.

“Those labels are specific on nozzles, and you need to follow them because not all nozzles are the same,” he said.

With short windows to apply chemical weed control, boll openers or defoliants, it’s absolutely vital that farmers have a plan in place to be able to spray with the right equipment when the right time presents itself. Otherwise, mistakes could cost not just dollars and sense, but neighborly relationships.

“And, don’t forget, cleanout is a must, and especially in these Xtend and Enlist systems,” Long said. “Because, a small amount of herbicide, in the neighborhood of 5 cc of a syringe of dicamba or 2,4-D in a 1,000-gallon tank can kill a lot of cotton.”

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].