Southwest Cotton: Countdown to Cracked Bolls

    Photo: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton, sponsored by the Southwest team of PhytoGen cottonseed.


    Defoliation is running smoothly in the Upper Coast, but is still a few days away in South Texas and just starting in the southern Blacklands. IPM’s Tyler Mays discusses defoliant prescriptions and need for complete coverage.
    Cotton complements corn in a rotation and can help manage nematodes, diseases and other issues, notes Kansas consultant Loren Seaman.
    Insects are idle other than potential aphid issues as bolls start cracking.
    More cotton in 2022 will depend on water availability. Our crop advisers see more acres next year as growers get back to a normal rotation after a cold, wet spring. 



    Stephen Biles, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Victoria, Calhoun & Refugio Counties:
    “Defoliation has gone smoothly, thanks to a recent dry period. Defoliation treatments are working well and there are plenty of pickers already in the fields. Growers are pushing for that last harvestable boll. There are still a few closed bolls on top and guys should consider the risk of waiting and facing potential weather situations.
    “Yields are average in our area of the Upper Coast. We’re looking at between 700 and 900 pounds per acre. It was a tame year with regard to pest management. Weeds were a challenge in May and June with all of the rain, but most guys got caught up.
    “As we think about the 2022 crop or rotation, it’s time to start soil testing to measure fertility. That will help plan for next year’s production program.”
    Joe Renfro, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Southwestern Oklahoma:
    “The crop is winding down fast, which is just as well because everyone is getting low on irrigation water. Wells are getting weak over much of the area. We just hope we can keep the crop wet through the end of the week. That will help little bolls that pushed through after fleahopper infestations. Cooler weather has helped stretch the water, but it’s forecast to be hot this week. A few growers will shut off their wells mid-week.
    “It looks like we have a fair crop that could be average or above average. Yields could be 3 bales per acre and there could be fields with higher yields in spots. Those who kept fleahoppers under control could make a half-bale more if they had good water.
    “We’re watching for late insect situations, even though the crop is mature. We don’t need any late damage to bolls. We had many weeds that germinated after all of the rain, but growers were able to take care of most of them.
    “As growers think about next year, the availability of irrigation water will again be the biggest factor. We need more winter precipitation to hopefully help recharge wells. If there is less water, we could see more dryland milo. But in this part of the country, there will always be cotton where there has been cotton for 50 years.”


    Jamie Lopez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, Frio County:

    “Our regional cotton is still late. We won’t start defoliating until the end of the week or later. Some cotton was even being irrigated late last week.

    “Farmers are looking at good yields. Fields have a heavy boll load. Yields should be from 3 to 3.5 bales per acre. Our sandy loam soil is great for crop production. That and plenty of irrigation from the Carrizo Aquifer usually produces good yields.

    “Fields are clean after good weed control most of the season, but there is still a little carelessweed in peanuts. That crop is putting on pods and looking good. We should start peanut harvest the first week of October.”

    Tyler Mays, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hill County:

    “We’re averaging 20% to 30% open bolls. The weather has been cooperating so far. Growers started defoliating late last week and we’re still 14 days out from widespread defoliation. Guys are applying 2 oz. of Ginstar and 2 oz. of Dropp, with either 24 oz. of Prep or 16 to 21 oz. of Finish.

    “When defoliating, make sure you’re getting adequate coverage. Use a minimum of 12 gal. per acre and switch to sprayer nozzles that provide the best coverage to get through the dense canopy.

    “The crop’s yield estimates are from 1.75 to 2 bales. Hopefully, we can avoid late-season rains to help produce more quality cotton.

    “There are still a few Palmer amaranth spots in areas that were too wet to apply 2, 4-D or dicamba on time. We tried to get them with Roundup but it was not as effective. The good thing is most cotton fields will be planted in wheat or corn next year, so it opens up more herbicide options.

    “If they’re going from corn to cotton, growers should also have a good idea of what weeds they’ll face. They can plan for preplant and at-plant preemerge herbicide options to minimize the need for post-emerge products.”

    Mark Hatley, Crop Quest Consulting, Dumas, Texas:

    “With good weather the past week, we’re finishing up with a promising crop. The 10-day forecast looks nice. Fields have virtually caught up on heat units. Of course, we don’t need another early September cold spell like we had last year. Growers will likely start applying harvest aids in early October.

    “The dryland crop looks good in some spots, but not as good as we thought six weeks ago. The irrigated looks good and we should see above-average yields.

    “For 2022, most cotton acres from this year will likely rotate back to milo or corn. But I still think we could see more cotton acres next year. The high 95¢ price is very attractive.”

    Wayne Keeling, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Weed Specialist, Lubbock:

    “After a wetter than normal year, we fought weeds to a stalemate. It was pretty challenging, but it was better than having no or little rain to work with.

    “Farmers continue to be mindful of the correct use of Dicamba and Enlist technologies. There have been few reports of major drift and off-target movement of these herbicides. Our situation is much better than those in states that see problems with Dicamba and soybeans. Our farmers follow the label and pay attention to what technology neighboring fields are using.

    “As long as we attack weeds at the small size, these technologies work well. In most years, the performance of Liberty can be inconsistent in our dry climate. But with high humidity seen much of this year, Liberty did as well as it ever has.

    “As growers plan for harvest, it’s a good time to make notes on what they did for weed control, what worked and how an herbicide plan might need to be adjusted for next year. This year there was a problem with herbicide availability. We hope supplies will return to more normal. It would still pay to line things up as early as possible for next year. This year was a good example of why herbicide plans need to be flexible and nimble. Supply and weather conditions can change quickly. We need to be ready.”

    Loren Seaman, Seaman Crop Consulting, Hugoton, Kansas:

    “A few spotty showers helped a small number of growers this past weekend. But it has been hot and dry and the ground is cracking in some drier areas. Still, cotton is coming along and bolls are progressing quickly. However, we’re about 125 general degree units behind where we would like to be in early September.

    “Irrigated yields should be decent if we don’t get a late September cold spell or early freeze in October. Yields are projected to be 1,250 to 1,300 pounds per acre. This area can often produce 1,400 to 1,500 pounds, but I don’t know if we’ll have any significant acres in that range. But at the price in the 95¢ range, we will be just as well off.

    “There are no major late-season insect issues, even in other crops. There are only a few sugarcane aphids in milo, with the worst numbers in the Oklahoma Panhandle east of Guymon.

    “Weed control is decent, but there are still fields with more problems than others. That was due to the difficulty in getting herbicide applied during bad weather. We’re seeing more volunteer corn in cotton that is difficult to kill. We’re working to determine what hybrids they are.

    “That goes along with preparation for the 2022 crop. There should be more cotton in southwest Kansas next year, but don’t expect corn acres to go down much. Our consulting company covers ground in about a 100-mile radius from Hugoton – and this might be the best corn crop we’ve ever had. Our average yield is about 230 bushels. This year’s crop has yield potential of 260 bushels, with a few at 290 to 300 bushels.

    “Most guys have a corn-after-corn rotation. Some have done that for 30 straight years. But there are often issues with disease, nematodes and other pests. I promote cotton as a tool to help growers get away from those problems, then go back and raise better corn. With the higher prices for cotton and grains, it will be interesting to see what growers plant next year.”

    Scott Meeks, Yield Pro Crop Consulting, Farwell, Texas/Western Panhandle:

    “Cotton looks much better than it did a month ago. Going into the first week of August, I thought we were vulnerable to having a wreck. But we’ve been blessed with good growing conditions in August and early September. The crop is fully cutout, there is little to no blooming and plants have dropped all immature blooms.

    “We’re at around 1,900 heat units. With reasonable weather the next 30 days, we should finish strong. But it might still be a photo finish. Crop conditions can change with one cold front. Anything can happen. But the odds have finally shifted to where they are in our favor.

    “There are no late-season insect problems in cotton. There are few aphids here on the northern Plains and we have heavy beneficial populations. We’re past the period in which bollworms are a threat. In sorghum, headworms are light to nonexistent. The worms are still there in late-planted corn. Sugarcane aphid populations are also light. There are a few green stink bug populations we’re monitoring but nothing is at threshold.

    “I don’t expect a big change in the cotton-corn rotation we see up here. Many guys planted sorghum after they lost cotton to cool wet weather early on. Those acres will likely go back into corn next year. But rotations can change, based on water availability and customer base.”

    Robert Flynn, New Mexico State University Extension Soils/Agronomist, Artesia:

    “Irrigation is always an issue in our area. Since our NMSU farm had problems with watering this summer, our cotton trials will likely yield only about 650 pounds per acre. Regional fields look better where growers had sufficient water. There are good boll loads.

    “Still, there were too many fields that were too hot and dry early in the season. Higher summer rainfall amounts helped those crops. But we can’t expect to receive a lot of summer rain on an annual basis. Our climate doesn’t cooperate that way.

    “I expect growers to look for ways to better manage irrigation next year in the event we see a dry summer. They should be fine as far as soil fertility goes. Growers work well with their input dealers to measure what soil nutrients are needed. They have a good idea of what to apply.”

    Brad Easterling, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Glasscock, Reagan, Upton Counties:

    “The crop is coming along and looking good. But like others, we’re 10 days to two weeks behind. A fair number of acres are still blooming. The dryland crop looks tremendous compared with the past several years. Some dryland will go well over a bale in yield. Others may be a half bale or less. Due to early cool, wet weather and fleahopper infestations, the irrigated and dryland did not set a good fruit load in the middle of plants. But the later-planted stuff is loaded up.

    “Stink bugs are gone but aphids are here. However, beneficials are moving in rapidly and controlling them. I haven’t had to spray any acres. We hope that trend continues. Growers have spent so much money on weed control, fertilizer and early irrigation. We don’t want to have to spray for aphids.

    “Weeds are still an issue in areas, but guys are taking care of them. For the most part, Dicamba and Enlist technologies worked well. Guys did a good job with them. I’ve heard of no reports of drift or volatilization.

    “Year in and year out, weed control is our biggest issue. I advise growers to have a good herbicide plan heading into the 2022 season. We should use pre-emerges where we can and lots of residuals. That will help get the most out of the newer herbicide technologies.”

    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock:

    “Parts of the South Plains and Panhandle enjoyed spotty rainfall over the weekend. But here at the AgriLife station in Lubbock, we struck out. I’m looking at a dryland plot right now (Sept. 7) and it just looks hot. I’m not worried about its maturity, but there is still cotton in this area that will need an open fall to finish.

    “As of now, we’re in good shape overall. This week’s forecast is for temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s. Lows are forecast in the uppers 60s in the South Plains, but temperatures could drop below 60 in the northern Panhandle.

    “With a good crop on the way, folks still need to watch for a late blowup of aphids at bolls start to open. Don’t get caught by surprise.”


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    AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the main cotton growing season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address:
    Farm Journal, 8725 Rosehill Rd., Suite 200, Lenexa, KS 66215
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