Cotton – Southeast – Shaping Up To Be “A Plant Bug Year”? – AgFax

    Pam Caraway, Contributing Editor

    Owen Taylor, Editor

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


    Watch for stinkbugs. Pressure is high in corn and scouts are finding stinkbugs in pre-bloom cotton. Growers may need to spray earlier this year, based on this week’s comments.

    Tough management decisions continue. Uneven emergence and partial replanting have left many growers with highly variable stands.

    Plant bugs could be a “ghost insect,” as one entomologist put it this week. They may be present at obvious treatment levels or you may find very few of them at all. Many fields likely won’t need treatments but some unknown percentage will definitely benefit from an application. Scouting pays – some years more than others. This is one of those years.



    Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:

    “The cotton crop is all over the board. There are some really nice-looking fields now, but also a lot of fields with lower potential because of delayed maturity, uneven stands or skippy stands. It’s going to be a real challenge to finish this crop.

    “All the way to defoliation, it’s going to be very hard to manage because of the different sizes of the cotton. Every field is going to have to be managed individually, it appears, for the rest of the season.

    “We’re really over thrips. The plants are big enough that they’re not an issue.

    “Plant bugs, though, are in almost every field in the state that we’ve surveyed and are from half-threshold to threshold. Some of the adult plant bugs have been in the field long enough that we’re now finding immatures. More eggs are being deposited in the stems of the plant, too. One spray may not solve the plant bug problem.

    “Retention is variable from field to field, some of it may be physiological shed, but the combination of plant bugs and physiological shed has dropped retention below 80%.

    “Normally plant bugs don’t get better on their own. It’s just a matter of when you pull the trigger and get them out of the system. (From the editors: See expanded comments from Ron Smith in our “Also Of Note” section.)

    “We’ve got aphids, not bad, but you can find them if you look long enough and hard enough in almost every field now. It’s debatable as to whether we want to treat aphids or not because we know disease will be able to take them out eventually.

    “On the Gulf Coast, it will be hard to keep those folks from treating aphids because of their experience last season with blue disease.”

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

    “As far as cotton goes, we’ve got plenty of squaring cotton and a lot that’s about to bloom.”

    “The talk of the town is plant bugs, plant bugs, plant bugs – but we’re not finding many. Plant bugs aren’t our No. 1 pest of cotton, as they are in the Midsouth. We have some fields in the Piedmont that are just at threshold. So far in the work we’ve done here in the Coastal Plain, plant bugs haven’t been a problem.

    “There are some real situations where we do need to spray for plant bugs, but you have to go check very field. We likely have some hot spots. If the cotton is adjacent to corn, check that interface for sure. Then check away from that interface.

    “We have fields that are about to bloom and they’re only a couple weeks from needing to be sprayed for stink bugs anyway.  Why spend that money now for a ghost insect (plant bugs) when you’re going to need it for a real pest later this season?

    “From the number of stink bugs I’ve been seeing in corn, it’s probably going to be a pretty big year for stink bugs in cotton and soybeans. The first spray for stinkbugs in the third week of bloom is probably going to take care of any plant bugs we have out there.

    “Pyrethroids aren’t the best treatment for plant bugs, but they’ll take care of what we’ve got. In most of our fields, the argument is that I’m going across the field with my last herbicide application or a PGR, so I might as well put something in for plant bugs. That’s a waste of money and it hurts us down the road with unnecessary exposure and resistance development.

    “Aphids are another pest that we probably don’t need to treat right now. Unless I see a field that’s really covered in aphids, I don’t get really excited about them at this point. For right now, aphids are mostly food for beneficials. If we can keep beneficial populations up until we have that big flight of bollworm, they’ll help us a good deal.

    “In soybeans, everything is still kind of quiet. Nothing is really at threshold for us in soybeans. We’re still facing significant pressure from deer.”

    Johnny Parker, Agronomist, Commonwealth Gin, Windsor, Virginia:

    “We’ve lost a lot of working days in June from constant rain and we have about a week (speaking on June 24) to catch up on some work.

    “This crop is all over the board. A big part of the crop looks hungry and we have some degree of root damage. Some spots have had torrential rain. Some cotton is coming on strong and looks good, but in places all the fertility hasn’t been applied yet or it’s leached out.

    “Before the rain started, we got the whole crop planted. The rain was kind of coming nice. We were getting weekend showers. Everything that was planted those first 10 days came out of the ground. We had record heat in May, so it pushed the crop. June temperatures have been very mild, with much above-normal rainfall.

    “Because we planted a good bit early, we have an early crop. Typically, we don’t see blooms until after the Fourth of July but I think we’ll see them this week. In places, cotton was never sprayed with acephate for thrips because of the rain and part of that looks a little rough.

    “Not a lot of pressure from plant bugs at this point and we have good square retention, plus we don’t have any aphids this year.

    “Overall, I feel good about the crop.”

    John Burleson, Consultant, Swan Quarter, North Carolina:

    “Aphids have been pretty prevalent and we’ve been spraying them over the last two weeks. We’re not seeing many plant bugs. The crop is squaring up well and everything is in good shape.

    “I don’t think we’re behind on growth and believe we may have some blooms by next week. If not by the Fourth of July, then the week after. Most of our acres got in timely, but it was slow to come up because of dry weather. We’ve got some raggedy looking cotton, but I think it will look better in a month.


    “In some fields, we have two crops. We have the crop that emerged right away and then the crop that took longer – and both are in the same field. At times, it was a question of whether to replant or wait for the other plants to come up. Every decision could be a hard field-by-field call.

    “Late-season worms could be a problem with so many younger bolls. Harvest is going to be a risk-reward decision that you’re going to have to make. You’ll have to look at the crop and see how much of it is mature. “I think we’ll be able to pick the second crop, but we’ll see how it goes.

    “Corn is anywhere from V10 to R3, with good potential in my county. Fungicides are going out, kind of the standard sprays. Not much stink bug pressure in corn that I’m seeing.”

    Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia:

    “From an insect standpoint, we have not had widespread problems with plant bugs, but we’ve definitely had more frequent problems with plant bugs than in previous years. About half of our cotton is squaring and plant bugs are causing issues in some fields.

    “We really want to encourage people to scout for plant bugs and monitor square retention. This is prime time for a squaring pest, and we need to be on top of that.

    “Cotton aphid numbers are really beginning to build quickly. That’s to be expected. You’ve got hotspots in fields, but now they’re starting to spread across the fields. We cannot show a consistent yield response to treating aphids in Georgia, and it’s a judgment call as to whether you spray. Look at the health of the plant and determine if it’s under any other stress. A lot of times we just end up riding it out.

    “We’re anxiously looking for the fungus that will come in and wipe out the aphids. Look for gray, fuzzy aphid cadavers. Once you see those, we don’t need to spray because the fungus is going to wipe them out.

    “Spider mites are around but we’re hoping beneficials will keep them in check.

    “A percentage of the cotton is setting bolls. As soon as bolls are present, start scouting for stinkbugs. They prefer feeding on bolls that are 10 to 12 days old, and that’s about the diameter of a quarter. But during the first week of bloom when everything is less than 10 days of age, they’ll feed on what’s there. Feeding on very small bolls can cause them to shed.

    “It looks like it’s a buggy year. Otherwise, everything is hunky dory.”

    Brad Smith, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Selma, Alabama:

    “We’ve had a few rains in west Alabama in several spots that missed earlier rains.”

    “For the most part, it hasn’t been a stellar year for dryland corn in Alabama. Over the last four years, we’ve had a pretty corn crop, so the law of averages is working against us.

    “Cotton is mostly up. Even though we’ve got wide and varied ages in the same field due to late-emerging cotton, the crop is coming on. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this many replants with so many different growers. There certainly wasn’t any rhyme or reason for it, it was just the situation.

    “Unfortunately, we’re going to have another strung-out harvest just because of the maturity dates on some of the cotton – and the beans, too. I can’t recall a year when we’ve had so many replants.

    “Most everybody sprayed once and some twice for thrips. Most years, we don’t spray. Because of the weather or whatever, it was sure an issue this year and pressure was tremendously heavier.

    “On plant bugs, we’re having to spray a few fields. Spider mites have turned up in a few areas, too, and spider mites are probably an issue because of the acephate that went out for thrips.

    “Over the next two weeks, we’ll get all the side dressing finished. We’ll know more about what cotton is going to do come the first of November. Generally, with late-planted soybeans we never attain the yield potential that we do with early planted soybeans. With cotton, there’s always a chance that it will come on. I’ve seen 1,000 lb/acre cotton that was late planted.

    “On soybean, a little preventive fungicides are going out. We’re predominately protecting against frogeye. To my knowledge, we haven’t run up against any resistant frogeye in central Alabama.”

    Bryce Sutherland, Extension Agent, Worth County, Georgia:

    “Overall, we have good moisture, the crop is moving along pretty good and we’re side-dressing cotton.

    “With the month of May being so hot and dry – and with excessively hot soils – we had to replant some fields where stand issues developed. That led to differences in plant maturity within certain fields and part of that cotton will be behind. Ahead of harvest, growers will have to time defoliation applications as best they can. Of course, cotton can sometimes impress you with its ability to catch up.

     “Beneficial insect populations are strong, and I’m seeing plenty of big-eyed bugs, assassin bugs and parasitic wasps. As far as plant bugs go, we have fields that need to be treated and others where an insecticide isn’t warranted. We’ll keep monitoring for stinkbugs as we’re producing bolls.

    “Spider mites have been popping up in places but nothing so far that we need to treat. Same on aphids. We’re finding aphids but nothing that you’d treat. That fungus tends to take aphids out in July, so we typically can get by without spraying them.

    “Some growers are starting to put out their plant growth regulator.

    “On corn, we’re in late milk and moving into the dough stage. We’ve been keeping our eyes on southern rust. Some people have already put out a fungicide, while others may get by without one if the crop is far enough along.

    “A lot of peanuts are in the 35- to 40-day post-plant window. People are putting out land plaster and gearing up for their first white mold application. Conditions have been right for white mold. On the insect side in peanuts, beneficial populations are good. “Overall, peanuts look nice.”

    Jack Royal, Royal’s Agricultural Consulting Co., Inc., Leary, Georgia:

    “Our cotton looks fairly good across the board. The majority cotton is squaring well and it’s going into first bloom. We’ve had to spray some fields for plant bugs where the square retention was at threshold.

    “One thing that’s sort of unusual is the we’re seeing brown stink bugs in pre-bloom cotton. It doesn’t mean we’ll have to spray more, but we’ll probably have to treat stink bugs a little earlier than usual.

    “In most years, we would wait until about the third or fourth week of bloom. Stink bugs can’t do much damage until they get the small bolls to feed on, but I’m watching them. We’re not going to let them cause any damage and in the first 1.5 to 2 weeks of bloom we’re probably going to have to hit it. We’ve found no worms in blooms yet, but we’re seeing some corn earworm moths here and there. So, we’re going to watch this closely and be ready for escapes.


    “We’re spraying a good bit of plant growth regulator on our cotton that’s 10 nodes and above.

    “Rain was very welcome last week over a broad range of my territory, but we may have to start irrigating in the next few days. Things are going pretty well. No bad bears have come out of the woods yet. But we’re watching for them and we’re going to be ready if any come our way. Hopefully, our luck will continue.”

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

    “Some plant bug sprays have been going out. We had kind of an intense time when cotton was squaring, and folks weren’t used to seeing plant bugs that early, but those populations seem to have been coming back down. Most people have been happy with how their insecticides are performing.

    “A post-doc was sampling wheat earlier this year and wasn’t picking up stink bugs, which is usually a good indicator of how stink bugs might run in crops later in the year. Then we had a real dry May, and we don’t have a lot of weeds, so that might be why stink bugs are already moving into crops. We’ve had a pretty good flush of them in corn. More sprays went out than I thought we were going to need – and they were justified.

    “Now, we’re seeing stink bugs in pre-bloom cotton. Since there have been some cases when they can knock off smaller bolls, I encourage everybody to sample for stink bugs when cotton starts blooming. If I could get everyone to use a beat sheet and a sweep net, that would be great, but that’s probably not possible. So, I’ll just say to watch out for stink bugs, especially if you see anything out of the ordinary.

    “Aphids seem to be a little bit more of a problem than they have been in the past – a little more pressure, a little earlier than usual. I suspect that has something to do with guys putting out acephate rates that were too high for thrips. We had a really bad thrips year, which prompted quite a few revenge sprays. We can really nail ourselves later in the season when we do that.

    “We’re doing more with cover crops and when you do that some unusual things can pop up with insects. Nothing is free. That’s happening I soybeans. In a couple of cases, threecornered alfalfa hoppers were under that thick cover and they really worked on soybeans. One grower had to replant. Another had a similar issue with grasshoppers.

    “Threecornered alfalfa hoppers are an issue on small beans. They’ll feed on the plant and girdle it. It’s really difficult to sample for 3CAH. Usually, I get calls in August when plants are getting knocked over. If they don’t get knocked over, then they’ll usually be fine. What we’re seeing now is stuff that happened at planting, but the guys are just noticing it now.”

    Simply put, no one wants to buy this market. Why would they with trade wars, declining world economies, and a poor cotton balance sheet hanging over it like an anvil? Significant improvement in one or more of these will have to be seen before we can expect any sustainable price rally.
    Not all fields will need pre-bloom PGR applications, but we will need to manage the later planted portion of the 2019 crop for earliness if acceptable rains (not excessive, not insufficient) persist through first bloom and thereafter.
    For the past several weeks, the Florida Panhandle has experienced hot and dry weather conditions. Unfortunately, these environmental conditions coincided with most of the pre-emergence (PRE) and early post-emergence (EPOST) herbicide applications. So, what could happen to your herbicide activity during these situations?
    Much of the irrigation research that has been conducted suggests that if you ever get behind with irrigating, it can be very difficult, and sometime impossible to catch back up. This is especially the case in years when drought is prolonged and/or severe.
    The single most important management strategy for plant bugs in cotton is applying insecticides at the recommended action thresholds.
    From Ron Smith: “We know that these plant bugs are depositing eggs that will produce immature plant bugs in a couple of weeks. Therefore, I would treat fields that have one-half or more of the threshold level of plant bugs and less than 80% square set.”
    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.
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