Cotton seedling diseases reduce yield and can take a big bite out of profits. They can cause seedling rot, weaken the plant throughout the year or kill the entire seedling, producing thin stands.

Protect cotton crops from seedling disease by taking these six steps recommended by Allen Wrather, extension plant pathologist at the University of Missouri.

  • Plant only when the soil temperature, at 4 in. deep, has warmed to about 65°F by 8 a.m., and only when five days of warm and dry weather have been predicted.

  • Plant only high-quality seed. Seed quality can be partially judged by warm and cold germination test results. Seed should germinate better than 80% in the warm test and better than 50% in the cold test. Warm test results are printed on the seed bag. Cold test results aren't, so ask your seed dealer about test results.

  • Plant in fertile soil. Ensure that soil pH, phosphate and potash levels are proper for new plant growth.

  • Plant on high beds. The risk for seedling diseases increases when soil is cold and wet. To minimize seedling diseases, plant on raised beds to maximize drainage and soil temperature.

  • Use an in-furrow fungicide when planting early, on poorly drained or clay soils, or when planting less than four seeds/row ft.

  • When planting no-till, equip your planter to move trash away from the row so the sun can warm soil around the seed faster.

Following these procedures will give cotton farmers a better chance of producing high yields and profits, says Wrather.