Evaluating Hill Drop Versus Drilled Cotton Planting Configurations



  • Historically, hill drop planting configurations were used in cotton production to aid in seedling emergence.

  • Advances in planting equipment, improved cultural practices, and technological improvements in seed quality have enhanced the potential for healthy cotton stand establishment and brought into question the potential differences in emergence, survival, and establishment of cotton plants in hill dropped versus drilled configurations.

  • A demonstration trial was conducted at the Scott Learning Center to evaluate the impact of planting configurations on stand establishment and yield potential in midsouth cotton production.



Location Scott, MS Planting Date 5/30/19
Soil Type Clay silt loam Harvest Date 10/15/19
Previous Crop Soybean Potential Yield
Tillage Type Conventional
Seeding Rate
32K, 42K
  • Two Deltapine® cotton products were chosen for the demonstration (DP 1518 B2XF and DP 1646 B2XF brands) and were planted in three configurations (2 seeds hill drop, 3 seeds hill drop, and drilled) at two seeding rates (32,000 and 42,000 seeds/acre). 

  • Standard agronomic practices for the area were implemented with irrigation as needed.

  • A plant growth regulator (PGR) was applied as needed during the season.

  • Strip plots were 12 rows x 240 feet long with total plot size approximately 0.2 acre/plot. 

  • Cotton was planted using commercial planters (John Deere units using Precision Planting® vSet II meters) with either drill or hill drop plates.

  • Stand establishment counts were taken at full emergence and yield was estimated by harvesting the center 6 rows of each plot.


  • Better stand establishment was documented in the hill drop configurations (Figure 4).  Two factors contributed to this: 1) better emergence of the seed and 2) non-ideal singulation (doubling) with the planting machinery in the hill drop configuration.  This appeared to be more of an issue in the 2 seed hill drop than the 3 seed hill drop configuration but was observed on some level in both configurations.
  • Yields were high and similar across all planting configurations (Figure 5).  Some numerical reduction in yield was observed in the 2 seed hill drop configuration and it is likely that this was due to the higher stand establishment in those plots.  A greater number of plants would require different agronomic management, primarily in growth management. This would not likely be a huge issue other than the cost of unnecessary seed used.

  • Generally, a positive yield response to increasing seeding rate (32,000 vs. 42,000 seeds/acre) was observed across the planting configurations (Figures 6 and 7). 

  • Yield responses to planting configuration were similar across the two tested cotton varieties (Figures 6 and 7).




  • All three of the planting configurations tested allowed adequate stand establishment as measured in both surviving plants and yield.

  • Growers should carefully evaluate, set up, and monitor planting equipment to ensure it functions as intended.  This can help in managing seed cost (reductions in doubling) and help in clearly defining the required agronomic management post-planting/emergence, including PGR use.

  • In agreement with past Scott Learning Center studies, cotton variety did not appear to be an interacting factor in the decision to use one planting configuration or the other.  Choose the system that works best in your operation but make sure the planter system is properly adjusted, monitored, and maintained. 

  • Please consult your local Deltapine® agronomist for more details on cotton planting and establishment.




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