Planting Cotton in Dry Soils
Below are some of the things I would consider:
Cotton seed can germinate from a depth of around 1.5 inches, but planting this deep is certainly risky. I would be less likely to take this risk if I had a low cool germ (less than 65%) seed lot and/or was planting on soils that crust. Often when planting deeper than optimum (below ½ to ¾ inches) , you will see some cotton seed planted into moisture in some areas of the field and not into moisture in other areas. If you have soil crusting at some point you may not ever see these seed. Often you might see the seed planted into moisture emerge and the seed planted into dry soil become a victim of soil crusting. Hill-dropped planting can help reduce the effects of crusting but may not eliminate it. If you decide to plant deeper than normal to find moisture you are more likely to need to consider crust busting Information on crust busting can be found here: http://www.cotton.ncsu.edu/ccn/2007/may22.html
How successful you will be with this strategy will depend a lot on having high seed quality (cool germ), avoiding low soil temperatures during germination and either having soils that do not crust or getting lucky and not have crust causing conditions. I would definitely not want cotton seed to be struggling to emerge from deeper than normal planting depths with the low we have predicted for Saturday through Monday (48, 45 and 50 for Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Raleigh).
Another strategy is to “dust cotton in”. This means you are not trying to plant into moisture and are depending on future rainfall to bring the seed up. The advantages of this strategy is you are more likely to get a uniform stand and by planting shallow you can minimize the effect of soil crusting. The old timers will tell you when you :dust cotton in” you should see a see on top of the ground now and then. You certainly do not want to plant deeper than ½ inch with this strategy.
Of course another option is to stop planting and to wait for moisture. It is still fairly early in the planting season so you will likely have better conditions. This Carolina Cotton Note shows that we still have time to plant: http://www.cotton.ncsu.edu/ccn/2001/ccn-01-3.htm. This of course depends on how much cotton you have to plant and how quickly you can plant your acreage.