US cotton producers are motivated to optimize planter performance to ensure timely and uniform stand establishment early in the season, especially when planting in sub-optimal field conditions. Field studies were conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to evaluate the effect of seeding depth and planter downforce on crop emergence and yield in cotton planted in different soil moisture conditions. Field conditions representative of dry, normal and wet soil moisture conditions were attained by applying 0, 1.27 and 2.54 cm of irrigation within the same field. Two cotton cultivars (representing a small-seeded and a large-seeded cultivar, 9259–10,582 and 11,244–14,330 seeds kg−1
, respectively), were planted at seeding depths of 1.3, 2.5 and 3.8 cm with each seeding depth paired with three different planter downforces of 0, 445 and 890 N in each block. Cotton was planted in plots that measured 3.66 m (four-rows) wide by 10.67 m long. Results indicated that crop emergence was affected by the seeding depth across most field conditions and higher crop emergence was observed in the large-seeded cultivar at 1.3 and 3.8 cm seeding depths in dry and wet field conditions, respectively. Lint yield was also higher for the large-seeded cultivar at the 3.8 cm seeding depth across all field conditions in 2017, and in dry field conditions in 2018. Planter downforce effect on crop emergence varied among the cultivars where the large-seeded cultivar exhibited higher crop emergence than the small-seeded cultivar at 445 and 890 N downforce. Planter downforce of 445 N yielded greater than the 0 and 890 N treatment in dry field conditions in 2017. The study results suggest that matching planter depth and downforce settings for prevalent soil moisture conditions at planting along with appropriate cultivar selection can help in achieving optimal emergence and yield in cotton.
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