Alabama: Cotton, Peanut Farmers Dealing with Weeds, Thrips

    This week the Wiregrass has two different scenarios. Across the southern counties of Covington, Geneva, Coffee, Dale, and Houston, rain has been spotty to saturating. The west half of Geneva county and Covington county received 2-4 inches of rain this past week, stopping progress in the field. The northern counties of Henry, Pike, and Barbour have a shortage of topsoil moisture and have farmers needing a rain.

    Farmers are spending time walking peanut and cotton fields evaluating stands and looking at escaped weeds. The first postemerge herbicide applications went out this week on cotton and peanuts. Thrips pressure seems to be heavy so mixing in an insecticide with the herbicide is not a bad idea. Most calls I have gotten this past week has been dealing with spot planting cotton and a few whole fields being replanted. This needs to be evaluated on a field by field basis.

    Other calls I have received include controlling glyphosate resistant Palmer amaranth or pigweed in cotton. It’s amazing to me how each farmer battles this problem differently. It’s almost to the point of no two farmers are alike. A producer on one end of the spectrum may be breaking their land and incorporating their pre-emerge herbicides while on the other end of the spectrum a farmer may be planting a rye cover crop during the winter, rolling it down, and planting into it with minimum tillage. Which is better?

    As I tell producers, if its working for you stick with it. We have several cotton farmers that have went back to conventional cotton varieties which means they are not “round-up ready” nor “liberty link”. They have no insecticide resistance. These non GM (genetically modified) varieties cost much less, but require more chemicals to control weeds and insects throughout the year. My recommendation to farmers planting these varieties is to make sure they are in fields “close to the barn” so that proper scouting can occur throughout the year. William Birdsong has a conventional cotton variety trial this year in Houston Co. comparing the different varieties to each other as well as a few GM varieties.

    We are also looking at new technology that has cotton resistant to 2,4-D and some resistant to dicamba. As most of you know these chemicals are currently deadly to cotton plants and pigweed. By making the cotton resistant to these chemicals, pigweed control will be much easier. However, these resistant varieties must be planted in order to use these chemicals over the cotton. We could see some of these varieties in fields next year.

    Wheat and oat harvest is underway. Wheat yields are good but there have been several fields with low test weights. The average test weight for wheat is 60 lbs per bushel and 32 lbs per bushel for oats. Anything less and the farmer sees a price reduction. If the wheat’s test weight is below a 54 it is considered feed grade wheat and the farmer takes a big reduction in price.

    Corn is anywhere from V6 (knee high) to R1 (pollen shedding) stages. I was in some rain fed corn that was planted in early March this past week that looks really good. It is trying to pollinate now. The cooler temperatures are good for the reproducing corn, as temperatures at or above 95degrees makes the pollen non-viable. This is the reason we see a “skip grain” ear in corn some years. Each silk, the hair like structure at the point of the ear, connects to a grain on the ear. Pollen must come in contact with each silk to pollinate that grain. If it does not or the pollen is not fertile, there will not be a kernel at that location on the cob. I’ve seen yields reduced by 90% in some years due to heat.

    More early planted soybeans and soybeans behind small grain are going to be planted this year in the Wiregrass than most years.

    I credit this to:

    1. A good price. Beans have been between $12 and $12.5 per bushel for several weeks.
    2. Relatively cheap to grow. When you combine 1 and 2 it equals profits for the farmer.
    3. Low peanut contract combined with the amount of money it takes to grow and harvest peanuts leaves farmers with a relatively small window for profits in peanuts.
    4. And finally a good year for beans last year. I have had several producers tell me that they made more money on beans than any other crop last year.

    This brings puts me on my soapbox about rotating soybeans and peanuts. Don’t do it! Soybeans and peanuts are both legumes and have many of the same diseases (white mold, CBR) and nematodes. If a farmer is planting soybeans, a good rotation would be to go back to cotton, corn, grain sorghum, or any grass the next year. Wheat planted in the fall behind the beans and then back to peanuts in the spring is not a rotation out of beans.

    This coming week we should see more herbicides being applied for weed control, crops behind small grains being planted, and possibly some nitrogen being applied to early planted cotton. Farmers are still putting the final touches on replants and spot planting.

    Don’t forget the Wiregrass Scouting School June 5 at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland Alabama.

    We are also planning an irrigation scheduling meeting for June 12 at the Geneva County Farm Center. I will be sending an agenda in the next day or so.

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