Owen Taylor, Editor
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Plant bugs and stink bugs remain quite active across parts of the region. Plant bugs are particularly bad in eastern North Carolina this year and are more widespread across the state than usual.
Drier conditions are allowing people to return to the field in more areas, but rainy weather patterns are still hanging over portions of the Southeast.
Many fields clearly took a hit from weeks of rain and saturated soils. Some are bouncing back faster than others. In worst-case situations, plants are cutting out. In other cases, cotton is responding well to nitrogen applications and could make some progress. With compromised root systems across thousands of acres, rain will have to come on a regular basis to keep that part of the crop moving forward. As our contacts continue to note, older cotton came through all the wet weather in better shape than fields planted into June.
Aphids have crashed in places but are still going in others.
Target spot and other leaf-spot type diseases are still being reported.
Plant growth regulators are going out in heavy doses in many areas to offset the way all the rain has been pushing plants.
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Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist: "We definitely have cotton affected by all this rain. Some remains yellowish, stunted and not growing. We do, in fact, have some cotton that looks good, and the differences partly depend on planting dates. The older cotton seemed to fare better under this deluge of rain compared to cotton planted later. Cotton planted on June 1 or later is really stunted. Insects remain mostly quiet, although it’s hard to generalize. I was told that tarnished and clouded plant bugs were showing in quite a few fields in Monroe County.”
Trey Bullock, Bullock's Ag Consulting, Hattiesburg, Mississippi: "We’re way behind and it keeps raining. We might have places that are getting borderline dry, but 80% of the area I work has gotten soaked since last Thursday (7/25). People are getting into fields where they can now (7/29). Since last Friday we’ve gotten 2 to 4 inches of rain across a pretty broad area and up to 6 inches in some locations, and it wasn’t dry when that rain started.
“Every 7 to 10 days we’re putting out plant growth regulators. Where we’ve been able to do that, cotton is at 17 nodes and is still 7 NAWF. But we also have isolated spots where we haven’t been able to spray in a couple of weeks and plants aren’t able to hold the fruit as well.
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“Aphids were starting to cause defoliation in some spots last week. Even with good moisture, they were pummeling parts of certain fields. We began treating last Friday, but they’ve since started crashing. Plant bugs have been high in places and stink bugs are around, too. That cotton isn’t quite at a stage that stink bugs would matter, but plants will be putting on some bolls next week. So, when we’re spraying plant bugs we’re taking care of stink bugs, too. Stink bugs seem to be a little higher than average across the board. A lot of cotton fields are next to corn, so we’re probably about to start fighting stink bugs and plant bugs in that cotton.”
Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia: "Insects are still in a holding pattern. About the only thing going on are a few stink bug sprays and just a little plant bug activity now and then. But the primary pests are stink bugs. We’ve had sunshine for a couple of days, depending on the location. The crop is still a mixed bag. Some cotton looks very good, some still has a ways to go.”
David Butcher, NC Ag Service, Inc., Pantego, North Carolina: "We’re having a time with plant bugs. This is the worst year ever for them in cotton. Some fields are on their second go-round. Most years we never have to spray for them at all and if any are in cotton we tend to pick them up with an overspray for a combination of things. One area has had bad aphid pressure. Even though we’ve sprayed a couple of times, they’re still there. We’re maybe seeing a little target spot around, too. Rains have been spotty in the areas I’m working, and we’re mostly dry, but it’s wet in areas north of here.”
John D. Beasley, South Georgia Crop Services, Inc., Screven, Georgia: “We’re spraying stink bugs. Any decent looking cotton in the third week of bloom has a lot of pressure. When all is said and done, I think this will be viewed as a year with above-average stink bug activity.
“Aphids never built to any level that was even close to treatable. I didn’t see a lot of fungus but think that with all the wet weather they never got to a sufficient level when they would typically crash. We’re seeing some corn earworms but haven’t sprayed any.
“The weather report looks a lot better. It finally started drying, and we’ve put out a lot of fertilizer in the last 10 to 14 days. That’s really turned the crop around. We’re still running late on a big part of this crop. I’m guessing that we’re 20 days behind where we normally would be, mainly due to wet conditions, delayed planting behind wheat and delayed fertility.
“Cotton planted at the end of April and into the first part of May and that got fertilizer is pretty much on schedule and looks pretty good. Everything else that was planted on time but didn’t get that fertilizer kind of ran out of gas. But once we made nitrogen applications, it kicked back off and we can see a huge change in how it looks.”
Mace Bauer, Extension Agent, Columbia County, Florida: “We’re up to the fifth week of bloom in cotton planted in an April 20-25 window, so it’s pretty far along. But the bulk of our crop came later and is into the third week of bloom, so the focus is now on stink bugs in those fields. We’re scouting a little harder and putting some sprays out. We’ve also got fields planted behind wheat around June 10. The weather has been generally cooperative since June 1 – dry when we needed it to be dry and then it would rain when we needed it to be wet.”
Richard Davis, Davis Ag Consulting, Montgomery, Alabama: “We haven’t had a rain in the last 4 to 5 days (from 7/30). We do need sunshine, but I don’t want the rain to completely cut off now. We sprayed a little for aphids the last time we applied Pix, but they’ve crashed now in other places. Plant bugs never amounted to anything for us. We are on the front end of stink bugs. If damage increases just a little more we’ll probably spray next week. What I’ve observed so far are browns.
“Target spot is way down low in some of the older cotton. In certain fields we’ve already put on one application of Headline, which I’ve used for the last couple of years. I’ve never seen a bad case, but conditions this year are set up for problems. The thinking is that target spot is always worse in irrigated cotton, but everything this year is essentially irrigated cotton because we kept getting rain pretty much as we’ve needed it. So, I’d like to apply a fungicide on dryland fields as a precaution, although it may be hard to convince farmers to do that if it’s never been necessary in the past.”
Jack Bacheler, North Carolina Extension Cotton Entomologist: "Generally speaking, there’s a lot of hurting cotton in North Carolina. Most of it’s late and has a poor root system due to all the rain. Plus, we’re expecting an extended period for insect control. Matters could get worse if we get into droughty conditions for an extended period. With this limited root system, we could end up with a pretty fast cutout. So, much depends on whether we get regular rains, and that applies to both cotton and soybeans. We’ll need continuing moisture if we expect to come close to a 500 lb/acre average on a lot of this crop.
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“Cotton can surprise you, but we have plants here in late July that are just beginning to bloom and might only be thigh high. They have nutritional problems, often combined with terrible weed pressure. Some folks are talking to their insurance providers about whether they can plant soybeans or sorghum after mid July and they’re asking us questions about potential yield prospects and about the cost of fallowing fields.
“And then you throw in the fact that we’re in the middle of a pretty heavy plant bug and stink bug year. The question then turns to whether to spend more money protecting a crop with lower-than-average yield potential. In other words, how much more money can I afford to put into this crop? The question growers should be asking is whether an insecticide application will give enough back in extra yield compared to not spraying. Typically, it takes about 15 lbs/acre of extra yield to cover the cost, so in a lot of cases the answer is, yes, go ahead and spray if you have any prospects at all.
“Plant bugs are very much a reality, and we’ve got more plant bugs in more areas this year than usual. In counties out east with plant bugs every year, one consultant is on his third spray, which is extreme, even by their standards. He’s actually getting pretty good control but movement into the field has been fairly constant. That’s a situation they see more in the Midsouth where plant bugs keep moving into cotton and multiple treatments are needed. I’m also getting calls from eastern areas about stink bugs and damage in cotton.
“Light traps strongly suggest that we’re on the front end of our early corn earworm flight, although it’s starting about two weeks late this year. It just picked up Friday in Scotland County on the border with South Carolina. Counts went from single digits to totals in the mid 20s. Those numbers are on the weak side from what we might expect.
"A quick reminder: our annual Blackland Farm Manager Tour is August 7 in Terra Ceia."
Larry Walker, Walker Cotton Technical Services, Flintville, Tennessee: “Cotton is right at or just before peak bloom. For us, that means 7 weeks before it will be mature and 8 to 10 weeks before we defoliate. That puts us right at October 1 to start defoliation, which is about 10 days behind normal. That’s assuming normal weather. It’s been cooler than normal lately. We were at 57 degrees on Monday morning, but we’d typically expect low 70s at night. So, cotton isn’t exactly hustling. That’s an issue.
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“We’ve used some pretty big rates of Pix, up to 22 oz/acre in places. That’s a lot for us. It’s rained enough that we’ve got to get aggressive. Between the wet weather and plant bugs, we’ve also lost some fruit, so that factors into decisions about Pix. We’ve been able to clean up plant bugs and haven’t run into a re-infestation. Aphids are apparent in some cotton, but we’ve also got lady bugs and fire ants in the mix, and we’ll see how that goes. Cotton has lapped in a lot of fields, so maybe any more resistant weed issues will be put to rest for the year.”
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina: “We’re finding a lot of stink bug pressure. Plants are actively growing and putting on bolls as fast as they can, and the bugs are interested in that. Some applications have been going out.
“Bollworm moth numbers in our traps here are going way up, and I think this is the start of a flight. Some folks don’t anticipate a big flight. But at least with the traps in this local area, the picture is shaping up differently. Tobacco budworm moth counts are going up, too, which could be important for any soybeans starting to bloom. We’re getting scattered reports of lingering spider mites and are hearing occasional talk about aphids, but no big issues appear to be developing.
“It’s not raining right now (late afternoon, 7/30) where I am, but I can see a pretty big thunderstorm in the distance. We’ve had a little run of dry weather and have been able to get some things done in the field, but we’ve got a 50% or better chance of rain for the rest of the week.
“A quick reminder: our annual field day at the Pee Dee REC in Florence is next Tuesday, August 6. Registration starts at 8 a.m. Sessions will cover cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and tobacco.”
Larry Varnadoe, County Extension Agent, Worth County, Georgia: “We’ve had dry weather the last few days and people are getting some spraying and field work done. Growers are still trying to get nitrogen on some of the late cotton and tie up other loose ends. We’ve had 3 days in a row without rain and some 90-plus high temperatures to help dry things out.
“The crop is looking up and is turning a much stronger shade of green where it’s taking up the nitrogen. If we have a warm, late fall, we should be alright. A few plant bugs and stink bugs are in the cotton, but the main emphasis in cotton right now is applying herbicides to take care of pigweed and grass. Our older cotton is in bloom and our younger cotton, which went in behind wheat, is just starting to square. Normally, it would have been squaring 3 weeks ago.”
Ames Herbert, Virginia Extension Entomologist: "We’ve scouted several fields and have found low levels of stink bug damage, maybe 10% to 12% damaged bolls and a little higher in places. That’s not as high as I expected. We’re in the third week of bloom across more of the crop, so the focus has to be on stink bugs. Some fields are actually pretty clean. But, what we’ve found where we’ve been is no indication that stink bugs aren’t doing more damage in other areas, and I think we will see pressure increase as we go along.
“Cotton really wants to take off, and some cotton has already received 20 to 30 oz/acre of mepiquat chloride where people are trying to slow it down. More rain is predicted tomorrow (8/1). Nothing is dry to the point that it’s stressed, although some spots actually could use a shower. But farmers are so glad to be in the field that they’d just as soon any rain held off a little. Damage from saturated soils is quite obvious in places across cotton, soybeans and peanuts. Certain cotton fields were clearly compromised and cotton is cutting out.”
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