Texas Plains Cotton: Surviving Fields 10 Days Behind

    Photo: Blayne Reed, Texas AgriLife

    General Status

    Even the best of our cotton fields looks like it has had it pretty rough, mostly because it has. We continue to lose marginal fields to the plethora of issues plaguing the situation or severe weather. Even with these losses and surviving cotton fields dragging along through their respective situations late and developing slowly, I still see potential for our surviving cotton as long as we have the plant population and a sizable break in the weather situation.

    That is not to say we absolutely want the water spicket completely shut off, not with so many failed cotton fields hurriedly being planted to corn.

    Meanwhile, the grain fields we have planted continue to develop well, even with a few tattered leaves. Weeds remain an issue for all and thrips on our cotton are high in pockets and absent from the rest but our biggest trouble is time… Time to manage all of the field work that we need to complete yesterday that is on tap for tomorrow.


    I was asked this week, “How far behind is our cotton?” My answer was “Surviving fields… About ten days.” The producer asking the turn-row question was dumbfounded, “That’s all?!”

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    I responded again, “Days in June are more important that May. With a five to six month growing season where three of those months are when 100% of the fruit development initiates and occurs, ten important days is plenty… We should be seeing some pinhead squares soon, if not this week, but most fields are just 2nd – 4th leaf.

    “They should start setting squares at 6th leaf, but we will see if the plants are able to start thinking about fruit set ‘on time’ with all the adversity. We might be farther behind than I think, but I think we should see pinheads consistently in about 10 days, which is 10 days behind where we should.”

    For those surviving cotton fields, the 10 important development day lateness I mentioned to the producer actually accounts for 12-15% of the plant’s ultra-important developmental time frame we have to work with in West Texas. I should reiterate that I still see potential for our surviving cotton fields, if there remains adequate stand and overall health to recover.

    I have given the ‘last rights’ to more and more fields not adding up to par as situations persist. The past few days have been very good for cotton development. It will take several of these days, and perhaps not so extreme on the high temperature end, to set these fields on a good developmental path. I hope we see these days ahead. The last effective average bloom date for the Plainview area is August 24th.

    In many recent seasons, 3-bale plus yielding fields were at absolute cut-out around August 10th. There should be a 10-day make-up period there, again, if the crop can get moving soon. I will ‘pronounce dead’ any additional fields that drop below our research proven profitability parameters. Hopefully, there will not be many more as we are just about out of time for any replant options. Certainly, for corn over 105 day or most other grain crops if any major field work needs to be accomplished before planting.

    This week our scouting program cotton ranged from cotyledon to a sickly 5th true leaf stage with most coming in at a slow developing 2nd-3rd leaf. Thrips populations near wheat are at a higher level than we have seen in several growing seasons with most fields needing treatment as soon as possible to alleviate the situation. Our counts in these fields reached 4 to 7 thrips per true leaf.

    Fields not near wheat have hardly any thrips in the area with counts rarely going over 0.2 thrips per true leaf and most below 0.1. These ‘hot’ thrips areas are fairly easy to spot with thrips damage being quite substantial. In most fields where we are finding thrips, we are now finding the larva also, indicating that our insecticidal seed treatments are or have run out by now.

    Beneficial populations remain very light, but we are starting to pickup the periodical lady bird beetle or crab spider in alternating fields.

    Corn & Sorghum

    Still not much happening on the pest side for our program corn and sorghum fields. While we lose cotton fields, we are picking up corn and a few sorghum fields. So, our stages ranged this week from freshly ordered seed up to V8 or V9 with most planted fields between V1 and V8. Replanted fields are emerging and growing out quickly. Beneficial populations are fairly decent in most corn fields today.

    We did note several smaller colonies of corn leaf aphids about the whorl of many fields this week. If you are noting these aphids, it is actually a very good thing. They are almost completely harmless to the bottom line of corn or sorghum and offer a food source for predators to build on so that when the actual main pests arrive, there are enough beneficials to economically help keep the pests below ET.

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