Flint on Crops: Late Season Problems May Reduce Yields

    The month of August has flown by faster than some weeks, or at least that is the way it has seemed. During this month crops have changed from lush to drying fields that are being harvested in many localities.

    Soybeans range from ready for the combine to no more than two weeks from maturity with yellowing leaves that mean they are about finished. Cotton has more late disease than we have seen in many years. In the Delta rice heads are turning a golden straw color that suggests it’s time to drain and prepare for the harvest. The peanut crop is the only one that is still green but it too will soon be ready for the digger.

    This year it may take more than average yields and prices for farmers to overcome the backlog of debt from recent years. The reality for some is that this combination may not come together. For them the scenario is such that something akin to a miracle will be needed to stay in business.

    This may all sound bad but I believe an event of providence will happen to allow them to continue. I wish I was smart enough to see the future and know just how it will take place.

    When we look back at the past as I often do in efforts to understand the present the combination of early wet, midseason dry, and daily rain in late July and August along with high temperatures set the stage for problems.

    Diseases, worms, plant bugs, stinkbugs, and other pests have led to an expensive crop for a lot of farmers but have not been much of a problem for others, mainly due to the early season practices were applied to influence soil fertility, plant development, and beneficial insect populations.

    Many of the producers I work with also have livestock and I have seen them have more problems with armyworms in pastures and hay fields than during any year in my memory. There is little doubt that most of these issues were weather related.

    Dryland corn yields are generally down this year resulting from weather related stand establishment problems and drought during the grain filling period. Weather has influenced the development of the larval pests of several kinds, kudzu bugs, and stinkbugs in soybeans, plus the most frequent incidence of aerial web blight I have witnessed.

    There have also been significant numbers of fields showing stem canker and SDS. Another notable problem has been the widespread incidence of potash deficiency related to poor root development related to the early wet period. We are also finding sprouted seed in immature pods. The few brave souls who planted milo are also dealing with sprouting of seeds in heads that may render the crop unmarketable.

    Possibly the most disconcerting issue is that of disease in cotton. I have not seen such high incidence of bacterial blight (or angular leaf spot) in cotton since I worked in the cottonseed industry up the 1970s.

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    Cotton is being prematurely defoliated and rotted over a major portion of the fields I have visited within the last two weeks. This diseases is carried mainly on planting seed, and was very common when most cottonseed were machine delisted with some linters remaining on the seed to harbor bacterial inoculum.

    With the advent of acid delinting and mercurial seed treatments the problem almost disappeared, but the current use of more “gentle” dilute acid delinting and seed treatments that have little effect on this organism the disease has returned. The effect ranges from defoliation of green leaves and bolls to premature opening and defoliation of cotton that is almost mature.

    There is little doubt of yield loss ranging from light to severe depending upon extent and timing of infection. There is little doubt that this issue will impact the future of cotton farming in this region until some kind of effective treatment is developed.

    Thanks for your time.

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