Cotton – Southeast – Stand Variability – 2019’s Big Challenge – AgFax

    Cotton bloom. Photo: Debra L Ferguson

    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Questions, comments, complaints? My door is always open.


    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southeast Cotton, sponsored by the Southern Cotton Team of AMVAC Chemical Corporation.


    A wetter weather pattern developed through parts of the region since last week’s report. However, certain areas remain dry. In places, no significant rain has fallen since early May.

    Plant bugs remain in the system. Extension personnel, though, are trying to determine how much recent square loss was due to plant bugs and how much might be associated with weather-related stress.

    Aphids are more evident and are building and spreading in spots. The amount of necessary treating typically depends on how fast aphids build, how weather conditions play out and how soon the aphid fungus takes hold.

    Irregular cotton stands are a fact of life and will be for the rest of the season. With recent rains, more dry-planted cotton emerged within fields among older plants – some of which may not be that far from squaring. This mix of sizes and stages will complicate decisions about growth regulators, insecticides and harvest aids.

    Plenty of fields do have uniform stands and a limited amount of variability occurs somewhere every year. But several of our contacts say that they have never seen this much of it. The problem also exists this year through a wide part of the Midsouth.



    Gary Swords, Swords Consulting, Arlington, Georgia:

    “We’re about finished planting cotton, with just a few replants left. Hopefully, we’ll get a rain with this next system. With that last big front, almost no rain fell, even though it looked so promising. Our last substantial rain was in the first week of May.

    “With that recent system, only two of my growers received enough to help to any extent. At my house, it rained 4 tenths of an inch and it took 4 different rains to get that much.

    “Most of our cotton is at least up to a stand. Thrips have been awful. We had to treat some cotton twice – three times if you count the at-planting treatment. We can’t seem to get away from them this year.

    “A few plant bug problems developed but not like I’m hearing from people in other areas. Aphids are starting to build and I’m seeing brown stink bugs in cotton that’s not even blooming yet. This looks like it could be a rough insect year.

    “My oldest cotton is probably at 14 nodes. In spots, it just began blooming this week.

    “We’re applying herbicides in peanuts and are starting to make that first fungicide application. A few worms turned up in small peanuts last week, up to one per foot, but I saw enough parasitic wasps to let it ride.

    “Our corn is just about to the dough stage. Very few corn fields haven’t been treated for stink bugs, plus we had to retreat a few locations. Disease, though, is light.”

    Richard Davis, Davis Ag Consulting, Montgomery, Alabama:

    “Cotton is coming along pretty good and I saw my first bloom today (6/17). Rain fell a couple of weeks ago, from 2 to 4 inches, but we’re about to get dry again.

    “With that last rain, it was dry enough that the water went right into the soil. Where it only rained 2 inches, the ground wasn’t even muddy. There’s a chance for rain in the latter part of the week.

    “We’ve just planted the last of the cotton, maybe 75 to 100 acres that went in behind carinata. Last year, we planted dryland cotton behind carinata on June 12-13 and did a little better than 2 bales/acre. We also planted cotton behind wheat on June 28 last year and averaged 750 to 800 lbs/acre. I guess things lined up okay. We’ll see how it goes this year.

    “We’re about over thrips but have gotten into plant bugs now. They started moving in last week and we’re spraying adults. I’m seeing a few plants loaded up with aphids, so they will probably be the next thing coming along.

    “All in all, cotton held up pretty well during that early stretch of dry weather. If conditions were going to be dry, it was better for it to happen early in the season. But cotton is about to start fruiting, so rain would certainly help now.”

    Dennis Reginelli, Area Extension Agent and Agronomist, East-Central Mississippi:

    “In places, cotton is still struggling to come up to a full stand, especially where it was planted late. But where cotton is up, it’s starting to grow now that the weather is a bit more favorable.

    “With the early cotton, some of it looks really, really strong. In places, it’s been squaring for 2 weeks or more and the root system is taking hold. We’ve had thrips issues in places and threecornered alfalfa hoppers have been active, too. Some cotton is growing out of thrips pressure but other cotton is still in the middle of it.”

    John D. Beasley, South Georgia Crop Services, Inc., Screven, Georgia:

    “It was dry enough for long enough that we pretty much lost the dryland corn crop, but we’ve finally started getting rain. We have another good chance for it today (6/18) and through the rest of the week.

    “In cotton, I think we’re almost finished replanting and finishing out stands where seedlings burned up because it was so hot when they emerged. We have fields that will be hard to manage due to stand variability. In extreme cases, I have cotton that just emerged last week with the rain and other plants that are at 9 nodes – and they’re beside each other.

    “Ideally, it might have been better to have killed what was up and started over, but in a lot of these fields we had pretty good stands in places, and growers tried to fill in as best they could.

    “We’ve sprayed a few fields for plant bugs. But considering we normally don’t deal with plant bugs at all, a few fields for me represents a lot of pressure. We’ve also had to spray grasshoppers in the last week or so in conservation-tillage cotton.


    “My oldest cotton is in the second week of bloom and it does look really good. On average, though, most of my cotton is still 2 to 3 weeks from bloom.

    “Peanuts are doing well and most everyone finished planting peanuts before the weather turned hot and dry. For the first 30 days, peanuts don’t need a lot of water. But those dry conditions did make lesser cornstalk borers worse and we had to treat several fields for them and also address budworm and cutworm combinations in places.”

    Dominic Reisig, NCSU Extension Specialist, Entomology, Plymouth, North Carolina:

    “Plant bugs are kind of hot and heavy and they’re being sprayed, but the situation is all over the board. I’ve not heard of anything getting worse than it was last week. The worst retention anyone has reported is still 60%, with 80% being the retention threshold. No crazy counts are being reported, either.

    “People have reported a few possible treatment misses, although it’s difficult to know if the treatment didn’t work well enough or plant bugs simply reinfested the field, which can happen.

    “It’s also difficult to define the range for plant bugs in North Carolina now. The fact that more people are finding and treating plant bugs in certain areas may have a lot to do with awareness. More folks are scouting for plant bugs, and they’re finding them and spraying on thresholds. Plant bugs have mainly been a pest in the northeastern part of the state where some other hosts are common, but it does seem like they’ve spread farther south and west every year.

    “I’m hearing more reports of people spraying stink bugs in corn. I thought this would be a puny stink bug year, based on earlier sampling a student did in wheat. At times, it was tough to find any stink bugs at all. Now, though, the numbers have picked up in corn. We had a paltry amount of wheat this year, so maybe stink bugs moved straight into corn.”

    Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:

    “The situation with tarnished plant bugs in central and south Alabama is somewhat variable. You may detect almost none of them in one location and then drive 10 miles away and find adult plant bugs as thick as flies as soon as you walk into the field.

    “I can’t account for the differences, but that underscores the idea that every field needs to be monitored, and in places we are spraying adult plant bugs.

    “Normally, we see gradual movement from wild hosts. But with this year’s intense heat and dry weather, those host plants dried up rapidly and plant bugs surged into cotton.

    “That may actually work to our advantage. In a year with more normal migration patterns, you get a trickling effect and it’s not always clear when to treat. You may end up spraying multiple times. But with this year’s large, unified migration, we might be able to control this wave of adults with a single well-timed application in June.

    “Along with taking out adults, that could minimize the July hatch-out. That’s not a prediction but it is a possibility. This still might turn into a terrible plant bug year in the Southeast but don’t assume that will be the case.

    “We still may have a few late-planted fields with thrips pressure. Also, you’ll see wide variability in the age of plants within the same field due to incomplete and delayed emergence. That will make it harder to manage thrips on small plants that are still vulnerable.

    “Here and there, we’re also seeing the first signs of aphids clumping up in fields. It’s nothing widespread but we’re at the beginning of it.

    “Scattered showers are moving through the state and at least some more rain is in the forecast. That’s good. Things quickly got dry and that last front didn’t bring us as much rain as predicted. Everyone is happy now to have at least some rain.”

    Billy McLawhorn, McLawhorn Crop Services, Inc., Cove City, North Carolina:

    “We’re dealing with plenty of stand variability in cotton. The very beginning of the planting season went great but then it turned hot and dry in most places. That caused a good many stand problems, especially where growers went with any kind of tillage.


    “The wind was really blowing and soils dried out fast. In any number of places, cotton planted by mid-May didn’t emerge until it finally rained in June. Or, part of the field emerged but some seed didn’t germinate until much later. Farmers also replanted big portions of fields where they didn’t gain stands.

    “We now have assorted fields with cotton mostly at 7 to 9 nodes but with 2-leaf cotton mixed in with it. Some of this looks really bizarre. We’ve seen this in a few patches in other seasons but I’ve never found as much intermingling as we have this year.

    “Let me emphasize that the majority of the crop is fine and we don’t have this problem. But where these irregular stands developed, management will be complicated. Some fields need Pix but we’re trying to figure out how to approach that without setting back the small plants that are in the mix.

    “In places, we need rain and some showers fell today (6/18). Most of the area did get 3 to 6 inches a week or two ago but a number of areas remain dry and have had 1.25 inches or less since early May. During the last week of May, the average high for 7 straight days was 96, so crops have gone through significant stress.

    “Dryland corn looks bad in neighborhoods that missed most of the rain. With soybeans, growers planted about a third of our acres early during a good window but then dry weather put that on hold and a lot of the remaining acres weren’t planted until the first 15 days of June – and 20% still hasn’t been planted.

    “It’s not unusual for us to have soybeans that are planted late but this year I think that half the crop will be planted late, pretty much around the time we’d normally plant doublecrop beans.”

    Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia:

    “Things are moving forward. Most people got rain last week and the overall look of the crop definitely improved. Hopefully, we’ll get a little more rain. It’s raining in places on the west side of the state right now (late afternoon, 6/18) and rain is in the forecast over the next several days.

    “Most people are through with planting, I think. Some were caught by thrips this year where they didn’t take the necessary steps, so that part of the crop is still recovering from pretty serious injury. But with most cotton that emerged in the last 10 days, thrips aren’t much of an issue due to a combination of things – plants are growing fast now, plus thrips numbers aren’t what they were earlier in the season.

    “With aphids, we’ve had little hot spots in scattered fields, and in places those infestations are becoming more uniform. But the presence of aphids varies widely. At a scouting school at Midville today, we couldn’t find an aphid to show the scouts.

    “Aphids are running about normal. They will continue to build and then reach a point that they crash.

    “Since this last rain, tarnished plant bug numbers seem to have declined and retention has bounced back a bit. We still do have plant bugs out there, although we aren’t treating a lot of acres. Maybe one out of every 20 fields will have threshold situations, but you never know which field that will be. So, you’ve got to closely scout all of them.

    “With more cotton squaring, the overall plant bug population may be spreading across more acres, so the numbers are getting diluted. A few people have called about spider mites, which is expected with that hot, dry weather.”

    Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina:

    “After the rains last week, cotton is growing good and more rain is in the forecast this week. There’s still a lot of talk about plant bugs and also about spider mites.

    “I’m not saying that plant bugs aren’t an issue in places, but I’m not altogether sure that they’re to blame for a lot of what people are seeing. We extensively scouted some 12-node cotton but only found subthreshold levels of plant bugs, 4 to 5 in 100 sweeps. We also mapped plants and could clearly see where that stretch of hot, dry weather hurt us. After that, it rained and all that physiological stress knocked off squares.

    “But the retention where we mapped those plants was at 90% compared to an 80% threshold.

    “I’m afraid that a lot of people are spraying for plant bugs because they’ve lost squares and they’re seeing plant bugs – and just assume the insects caused the loss. I think our mapping results represent a large portion of fields this week.

    “I do recognize that retention is low in places due to plant bugs and treatments are needed, but that might be in one out of every 10 fields. If you only need to treat one field, why spend 9 times as much money to spray them all? That’s a big expense, aside from exposing insects to insecticides when there’s no need. Bottom line: we still have to check for plant bugs on a field by field basis.

    “Someone texted me photos of a very large caterpillar with horns on the back of the abdomen. It’s a white-lined sphinx moth caterpillar. They’re not really a threat in field crops. They tend to develop on weed hosts alongside fields and might crawl into fields and eat in the first couple of rows. In this case, they were in peanuts but might turn up in cotton and soybeans, given the chance. Don’t panic if you see them. I talked with colleagues who’ve had more experience with it and they said don’t spray.”

    AgFax Southeast Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Owen Taylor, Editorial Director.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the cotton production season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. Office: 601-992-9488.
    ©2019 AgFax Media LLC


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