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Texas Plains: Next Few Weeks Critical for Crop Yields

Ernst Undesser
By Blayne Reed, Texas AgriLife Extension Agent for Hale, Swisher, and Floyd Counties August 8, 2017

Texas Plains: Next Few Weeks Critical for Crop Yields

General Status

Welcome back to crop crunch time. Planting, early season weed control, early irrigations, fertilizing, everything that our area producers have accomplished up until now has only been the preliminaries. Without the preliminaries going somewhat well, we could not be here. Several area fields have not made it to this point.

But these next critical few days to weeks, with stages our crops (particularly cotton) are in right now, are when yields are made or vanish.

The majority of cotton fields are in peak-bloom (and peak water use) right now or are very close to it, most corn is in grain fill, and sorghum is somewhere between VX and early hard dough and when its grain is set. And there are still a lot of different things happening in our area fields on multiple fronts.

The rains the area received over the past week could not have come at a much better time for most surviving fields.

From the fields we have been able to scout this week, another round of weeds are flushing, plenty of fields are growthy (especially any well watered late ones), Lygus are lurking, bollworms are creeping in, mites are strongly hanging on, sugarcane aphids are multiplying, fall armyworms are working, vert is showing, common rust and a few other plant pathogens are jumping, sorghum midge have arrived, yellow sugarcane aphids are holding, while cotton aphids, beet armyworms, and stink bugs are circling in the shadows.

Cotton

Our Plains Pest Management scouting crew is likely only about 2/3 across our scouting acres this week, so our update is partial. This week our stages ranged from 9/10 grown square stage up to 3.8 NAWF with most fields coming in between 4.8 and 7.2 NAWF. I do not plenty of cotton in the area much later than our fields.

One important fact, date and management tip I can share for these fields is this. The average last date for cotton to put on a square that has any chance of maturing into a harvestable boll before our average freeze date is August 4th, today. This means that if everything works on the hypothetical average, any new squares and growth from those very late fields will be waste as it is likely to only make harvestable fruit from the square the plant already has on it today.

Many of these fields are dryland and not as pressing a concern, but I would suggest adjusting any fertilizer, irrigation, PGR, and even pest management inputs to fit the reality of the time frame.

As for our PPM fields, here is our pest found, pest levels found thus far this week and recommended ET in table format. We have not found any pest at an economic level this week but have had several require PGRs. Bollworm eggs were found in about 25% of fields this week.

Corn

Our PPM corn fields were stage VX to dough – late dough. Common rust increased heavily in our late planted field, but still below ET. We are still not finding any whorl damage from any Lepidopteran pest in this northwestern Floyd non-Bt field yet. We did pick up on just a few Banks grass mites on a minority of lower leaves in too.

Herbicide Resistance Info


Meanwhile, our earlier planted corn remains at 100% infested ears with bollworms (CEW) and even more eggs lain this week. While this remains remarkable pressure, it should not be economic with only the tips being fed upon and the CEW cannibalistic nature to find the survival of the fittest larva until only one larva remains per ear.

We still have not found any fall armyworms (FAW) or western bean cutworms yet but we did note one scouted ear with damage lower on the ear that would be more indicative of one of these two species. No worm were found at that damage site.

Rust pressure increased here as well, but remained well below any economic level. The only economic threat we are finding this week remains the Banks grass mite (BGM). It was hoped that the moisture would have stimulated some mite pathogens to help control the pest. These pathogens were noted but the mites actually increased in damage rating slightly as many mite specific predators seemed to leave the field.

This week the damage rating increased to 2.84 on the 0-10 damage rating scale with 3.5-4 being ET. We are finding these mites in quarter to dime sized colonies up to +1 leaf but usually at -1 or -2 leaf and not just on the lowest leaves.

Sorghum

Our PPM scouted sorghum and research test plots ranged from VX to dough stage with the majority of those older fields starting to show grain color very well. The sugarcane aphid is our primary pest in our sorghum this week as populations across Hale and Floyd easily doubled over last week despite hopes that cooler temperatures and rain might slow them.

I do not have confirmed reports of fields being treated yet, but the issue might be commonplace enough this year to not warrant headlines. Many of our fields are nearing the ET of 20% infested plants at whorl stage and 30% plants post boot stage but many early planted fields could make black line very soon.

Miraculously, many of our fields in Swisher do not have any traceable populations yet and it was only this morning that I was able to confirm them even in the county. Our fields in Swisher are dough stage and some nearing that black line stage. Once fields advance to the black line stage, SCA would only be an economic issue if they are heavy enough to interfere with harvest. It is very conceivable that most of these fields will not have economic SCA issues this year due to timing.

The yellow sugarcane aphid (YSCA) remains stubborn in a handful of fields and dropping in others. With the release of drought conditions on our ET YSCA dryland field, YSCA were confirmed to still be an issue and were treated. We did recommend treating with a product known to control SCA also. Hopefully, this will cover both pests with one treatment for the season.

Headworms remain light with only a few fields having the issue and the highest rate of infestation we had was 0.17 small worms per head of which none were FAW. We are still only finding FAW in whorl stage sorghum fields at very low levels. BGM increased in all fields but remain below ET also.

Ernst Undesser
By Blayne Reed, Texas AgriLife Extension Agent for Hale, Swisher, and Floyd Counties August 8, 2017