Texas Plains: Crops Progressing Rapidly; Cotton Fruit Loss a Concern

    Fleahopper on cotton leaf.

    General Status

    We remain hopeful for a soaking rain but recently the skies only like to send heat units. We certainly are racking up those heat units. Unfortunately, what corn we have is pollinating and sorghum at boot.

    Cotton is still squaring but moving through stages fast. It may or may not be a fast-paced developmental record, but cotton is moving at a quick clip with several fields sporting blooms a bit sooner than many of us expected. It could bode well for our crop and fiber maturity if we can keep up with water requirements as we start setting bolls.

    Some chances of rain are in the short-term forecast. In fact, thunder is rolling outside my office in Plainview while I write this. We pray that if it falls, it falls gently and soaks the countryside. More moisture is promised to be heavier in the long term.

    While we ‘wait’ we continue to manage our fast-moving crops and keep a pulse on the pest pressure. In cotton we still have the ‘black’ fleahopper to watch, spidermites are blooming in corn while potential fall armyworms loom in corn and sorghum, weeds remain on point, and numerous pests seem poised to move north into our area.


    This week our PPM cotton ranged in stage from pin-head to first bloom stage with most fields sporting ½ to ¾ grown squares. Over 20% of our fields reached 1st bloom this week with many more poised to reach that beautiful milestone next week.

    Our fruit loss re-mains something of a concern with most fields proving to be hovering between and improving 5% and 12% unless they are experiencing no fleahopper pressure or have had a heavier population forcing a bit more drop.

    The minority of fields we treated last week for the ‘black’ fleahopper are recovering well and we have had no more fields reach ET so far. We do have about a dozen cotton fields near ET with a mix predominated by these garden fleahoppers and our ‘usual’ fleahoppers running about 1 fleahopper / 3 to 5 row feet with square drop around 15% that we are watching very closely.

    AgFax Weed Solutions

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    Regardless of which type of fleahopper you might be seeing in your field, our established Texas A&M thresholds for fleahoppers are proving very fitting again. This threshold, in terms of pests / row foot should be around 1 fleahopper / 1.5 row foot with 20-25% drop for cotton nearing bloom.

    We are only now starting to see fleahopper nymphs, and most of those are of the green type of fleahoppers. I have decent hopes of not having to treat several of these fields as beneficial populations seem to be following the black fleahoppers fairly closely, helping to keep them in check.

    Lygus, and most other pests, have been strangely absent from most of our counts so far. We have word that bollworms have been pretty problematic to our south. These worms are just one warm front or flight away with the right winds to blow our way. We should remain vigilant in our scouting for these surprise issues.

    Corn and Sorghum

    Our corn this week ranged from green silk to blister stage. We noted several corn earworm (bollworm) eggs this week, but these should not be of any economic concern as they will only cause tip damage and canabalize each other until there is only one per ear.

    We are more concerned about a possible fall armyworm population that might move on our few acres of corn and move down to the mid-ear area or lower causing much more damage and opening wounds for fungal disease and others to enter through. Today, scouting for the very hard to spot egg lay and taking careful note of FAW trap numbers or our best indicators.

    We also noted a large increase in banks grass mite colonies this week. These colonies were not starting low on the plants but seemed to be spreading across fields from above, establishing themselves at the ear leaf or higher.

    In the recent heat, in post tasseled corn that is slightly drought stressed, with a limited mite specific predator population, a rapid increase in BGM populations should be expected. We rated our fields on the 0-10 BGM Texas A&M AgriLife damage rating system a 1.2 and a 2.2 this week, up from a 0 and a 0.1. ET for BGM should be 3.5-4.5 locally on this 0-10 scale.

    Our sorghum ranged in stage from V6 to boot with no pest populations of note, save some older FAW whorl feeding on about 15% of the plants. Although, sorghum midge do not arrive in the Plainview area on average before August 4th , we should watch any blooming sorghum for midge. We have no sign of sugarcane aphids in this area yet. If that pests follows character of the past few years, we should start to see some in the area by the end of July.

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