Does skip-row planting configuration improve cotton net return?
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) growers want information about alternative planting configurations to reduce seed, technology, and other production costs. We evaluated the impact of solid and 2 x 1 skip-row configurations on net returns for cotton grown in 25-, 76-, and 102-cm rows based on yield and fiber quality data from an experiment in adjacent nonirrigated and irrigated fields at Milan, TN. Price differences for fiber quality were calculated using USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service spot prices. Effects of planting configuration on fiber quality were not significant or small relative to row spacing effects. Price discounts for fiber quality were larger in stripper-harvested 25-cm rows than in spindle-picked 76- and 102-cm rows under irrigation. Skip-row cotton provided similar or larger net returns relative to solid-planted cotton for 25- and 76-cm spacings for base lint prices from 84 to 136¢ kg–1. For 76-cm rows, equivalent yields for solid and skip-rows and seed, technology, and harvest cost savings were enough to justify skip-rows. Technology and harvest costs did not vary with planting configuration for 25-cm rows, but seed cost savings and equivalent yields were enough to justify skip-rows. Skip-row cotton had a lower net return than solid-row cotton in 102-cm rows because savings in seed, technology, and harvest costs were not enough to offset lower yields. Producers interested in skip-row cotton should consider rows spaced 76-cm or less to maximize net returns.