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Owen Taylor, Editor



Many farmers are making a last big push to finish planting cotton. After cool and wet weather, conditions were mostly open and warm this week, so planters have been running across much of the region. Rain was expected on Thursday, so that set an informal deadline for wrapping it up.


Plants were responding to better growing conditions after stalling out during cold spells and heavy rains.


How much cotton finally shifts to soybeans is anybody’s guess. How much it rains later this week will be a factor.


Weather issues this month in the upper Midsouth will reduce some of the expected cotton acreage. Aside from direct losses to flooding in Arkansas and Missouri, high rivers are pushing seep water under levees and killing crops or at least setting them back. Hail in parts of northeast Arkansas flattened a good deal of established crops.


High winds in the middle of this week likely damaged at least some cotton in parts of the region. We have not had direct reports about sand blasting in cotton, but a Missouri rice consultant said today that wind damage was obvious in certain fields on Wednesday afternoon.


Thrips pressure has been less than some people expected, likely because heavy rains kept washing the insects off plants.


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Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi

“Cotton ranges from some just emerging to cotton from April 10 that’s at the fourth to fifth true leaf. Cold weather plus cloudy conditions slowed cotton in places, and we did have to spray for thrips where it wasn’t growing enough. Making one thrips spray isn’t uncommon here. But two treatments were needed in cotton planted in an April 10-20 window. Cotton planted on or after April 25 came on with a little more vigor, and we’ve only had to treat it once.


“Rain also caused problems. We got 1 inch to 3.5 inches of rain, which idled everything until about Wednesday (5/10). It rained maybe a half-inch at first, which would have been perfect, but then another system pushed in and stalled. Areas around Caledonia received 3.5 inches, with 6 inches at one location.


“My cotton acres are up this year, and more cotton has been planted in the area, overall. Soybeans are about gone in Noxubee County. Cotton was the crop that carried a lot of guys in 2016 when we ran short on rain. Plenty of dryland corn only averaged 60 to 90 bu/acre.”


Harold Lambert, Independent Consultant, Innis, Louisiana

“We’re still trying to finish cotton planting. Big rains developed over the last 7 to 10 days (from 5/15), which knocked us out of the field in places. Some cotton planted before that last rain is mostly doing okay but has only reached the first true leaf. No pest issues yet.


“People who still have acres to plant will stay with cotton, I think. We’re not talking about a lot of acres still unplanted. However, if it rains again toward the end of this week, the story might change. Our lighter soils tend to go to corn and sugarcane, so cotton is mostly planted on mixed and heavy clay soils. Another rain this week might prompt growers to skip some of that last cotton.”


David Hydrick, Hydrick’s Crop Consulting, Inc., Jonesboro, Arkansas

“In cotton, we’re mostly trying to finish planting and make a stand. All the rain and flooding has thrown everything off. It’s a mess, and more rain is coming on Thursday (5/18).


“I expected more cotton this year than in 2016, but we will end up with a good bit less of it than we had last year. It’s too wet to plant in certain areas, not just from the rain and flooding but also due to seepage under levees. It’s not a good situation. One or two planters are running right now (late afternoon, 5/15) and we'll have rotary hoes in fields, too. Seepage is killing cotton, corn and beans in places.


“We made a great start with our crops, then everything turned against us. It rained 13 inches in one week where we had planted some cotton. We replanted that, then got another 4 inches of rain on top of that. We’re running rotary hoes there now to try to get a stand.


“A huge hail storm came through, too, and we’re still replanting that corn, soybeans and cotton where we can get in the field. The hail hit about 2 weeks ago -- one big bout at first, then a second smaller round came through last Thursday in the same area. That added insult to injury. The main part of the hail fell along a 10-mile strip. My own growers probably lost 2,500 acres across all crops. It was only pea-size hail but so much of it fell that it looked like snow on the ground.


“The southern part of my territory is pretty much dry today, with maybe just wet spots in fields. But in the northern part of my area you can’t do anything except maybe on sand, and even then a lot of it is still too wet. I heard that one grower on sand had only planted about 400 acres of the 4,000 acres he expects to grow this year.”


Richard Griffing, Griffing Consulting, LLC, Monterey, Louisiana

Cotton ranges from just emerged to about 600 acres of early-planted cotton that’s at the eighth to ninth node. Between those two points we have a lot of fields at first to second true leaves. That 600 acres of early planted cotton has really taken off in the last few days now that the weather has improved.



“Thrips pressure hasn’t been heavy, but cotton stalled during 10 to 14 days of wet, cool weather, so we had to treat to keep thrips from setting back those young plants. The rain really threw us behind. It totaled 5 to 6 inches in a 10-day period. We are through planting cotton.”


Tyson Raper, Cotton And Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee

It rained on Friday (5/12) and a few areas got quite a bit, but most growers were back in the field as early as Saturday. They’re in the thick of planting today (5/16). By the end of the week a lot of people should be done or close to it.


“We do have a chance of rain, maybe on Friday. Some planting will string into next week, but that will be it. The majority of our cotton was planted in the last week, and a little of that might be cracking. We had a small amount of earlier planted cotton, and we’re just getting into some acephate sprays on that for thrips.”


Darrin Dodds, Mississippi Cotton Specialist

We covered a lot of ground last week. People were concerned about rain in the forecast for Friday, so they pushed hard last Thursday.


“Planting kicked into high gear this week where people could get in the field, although certain areas were too wet. Rainfall amounts varied. I’m hearing about 3 inches in places. Some areas received a half-inch to an inch on Thursday night, then another 2 inches fell on Friday. It rained enough in the Tunica area that even sandy ground was too wet today (5/15).


“I’m hearing a lot of talk about cotton planting running late and some of that last acreage slipping into soybeans. I don’t feel like we’re wet enough for that to be a concern. By tomorrow and Wednesday, things should start breaking loose again. With 7 to 10 days of good weather, I think we can wrap up planting without losing a substantial amount of cotton to beans.


“I can think of exceptions to that. The Mississippi River won’t go down in time to come in with cotton where farmers had expected to plant it. How all this turns out also hinges on this next rain. If it rains another 3 inches late this week then we could lose a little acreage.


“A few folks are spraying thrips, and I’m getting questions about mixing herbicides and insecticides where cotton was beaten up by wind and seedling diseases. We have had a few replants because of the cool weather.


“I’m running into folks who also burned down early, then it stayed cool and wet and they couldn’t plant right away, so now they’re finding a jungle of emerged pigweed. What’s the best approach? Those weeds are at a size now that it will probably take 2 shots to kill them. If people jump in there and smooth those beds over, that will push dirt over some of that green vegetation, so any spraying at that point will be less effective. Weeds that aren't killed will start poking their heads up again, and then you’re dealing with another mess.


“My preference is to get the hottest shot out that you can right now. Wait for pigweed to poke up again, then drop in and spray again after planting. If pigweeds are 4 inches tall or less, you can kill them. Be prepared to make that initial postemergence application earlier than you normally would.”


Dan Fromme, Louisiana Extension Cotton And Corn Specialist

Cotton planting in Louisiana is 90% to 95% completed, and we just need warm weather now to move past issues with thrips and seedling disease. In the past 2 weeks we’ve had periods of cool, wet weather, which held back the crop. Overall, we’ve probably replanted 20% to 30% of this year’s crop. Conditions look better now (5/16), so I think we’ll get over the hump on how this crop started.


“Applications for thrips have been pretty common, and just about everyone I’ve talked to needed to spray. With all the rain, growers lost a lot of the protective insecticides, aside from the fact that cotton stalled out in the cool weather. Once plants get past that fifth leaf stage, thrips will be less of a factor.”


Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist

Right now, we’re probably two-thirds finished with planting the cotton we intended to have. A farmer said he would continue planting until Friday (5/19). Any land he’d planned for cotton that wasn’t planted by then would switch to soybeans. Year in and year out we just don’t plant cotton in June in Arkansas. Sure, some does get planted on ‘May 33 or May 34,’ as the joke goes. But there’s a long-standing rule of thumb that you lose 2% of cotton’s yield potential every day after a May 20 planting date.


“Some growers in Mississippi County have already switched off from cotton to beans, but I think most people will go hard and strong this week and then make decisions next week about whether to plant more cotton or go to beans. A lot depends on this next rain in the forecast.


“A storm is expected Thursday (5/18). If that amounts to anything, it could be next Wednesday before people are back in the field. Another system is predicted right after that. If anyone wanted to still plant cotton after this Thursday, they could be trying to get something done a day or two here and there, and I don’t know that many people will want to do that.”


Hank Jones, C&J Ag Consulting, Pioneer, Louisiana

Everything is shaping up now, and we’re finally moving past this early-season adversity. We still haven’t had things as bad as our friends in the upper Delta, what with all the flooding, so I’m not going to complain.


“The cotton I’m checking ranges from just sprouting up to 4 leaves. We have had a good bit of seedling disease in cotton planted in early April, but it seems to have overcome that and appears to be off to the races.


“I haven’t had any bad thrips situations yet. I thought this would be a heavy thrips year but it hasn’t turned out that way yet. Maybe all the rain washed enough of them off plants to hold populations at bay.


“We’ve found a lot of brown stink bug injury in corn this year. Mostly, it’s a cosmetic effect. However, seeing this level of stink bugs now could be an indicator that things could get worse as the next generation develops. Other insects seem to be gaining a head start. I’ve been sweeping in clovers and such and have been catching more plant bugs than I can easily count. Last year we didn’t begin finding redbanded stink bugs in north Louisiana until the first week of July, but we’re already picking up thousands of them in clover – crimson clover in particular.


“All of my crops have been planted, and it’s rare that we’ve wrapped up planting before June. One indication about how warm the winter was, we have cotton coming back from stalks that were mowed last year. Those stalks are putting on roots. In places we have that cotton growing where we also have planted cotton.”


Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist

Thrips activity is obvious here and there, but I think all the rain this spring kept beating them down. The weather has been a bit drier lately, so thrips are a little more active and some applications are going out.


“These are mostly tobacco thrips, with small numbers of western flower thrips, too. The amount of treatments being made isn’t out of the ordinary for us, and better growing conditions will help. Once cotton gets out to the fourth true leaf, thrips will be in the rearview mirror.



“In soybeans we’re seeing some saltmarsh caterpillars and bean leaf beetles. I don’t recall finding this much saltmarsh activity this early. They’ve gotten into some cover crops and caused problems in soybeans.


“Bollworm moth trap counts are going up. We’re finding some decent numbers every 4 days, with 100 moths per trap in certain cases. People are sweeping up bollworms in some blooming beans. I’m not overly concerned about this generation, but that next generation could be a big one. By late June we might have to confront some pretty significant numbers in soybeans, and they could become a factor in dual gene cotton later, too.”


Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina

Cotton planting has rolled along pretty well in the last week or so, and momentum in north Alabama really started picking up around May 8. Most growers have either finished planting or are close to wrapping it up.


“Spells of cold weather slowed crop development where cotton was planted earlier, but I feel really good about cotton planted last week. It emerged quickly and should be fine.


“With all the acres planted last week, most folks ran Gramoxone and a preemerge herbicide behind the planter. That was a good strategy for controlling Palmer pigweed. All we needed was a rain to incorporate the preemerge, and rain was in the forecast. Unfortunately, a major portion of the Tennessee Valley did not receive rain soon enough. At this point, we’ll have to switch to Plan B for pigweed.


“People already are asking what they should do now, and the answer somewhat depends on the seed technology they selected. Most growers at least had Gramoxone in the tank, so that took care of whatever already was up.”


Victor Roth, Roth Farm Service, Malden, Missouri

“We did have some April cotton, although not a lot of it. Anything planted last week or this week should come up to a stand pretty quickly. The temperature reached 84 at one point today (5/16), and that’s what cotton needs right now. Tomorrow, however, windy conditions are in the forecast, with up to 40 mph gusts.


“All the rain in late April and the flooding this month held people up on planting. I was expecting cotton acres to be up, and I’m thinking that still will be the case. But rivers are getting up, which could limit some acreage. That includes the St. Francis River on the west side of our area and the Mississippi River to the east. We’ve had wet ends of fields in places and a little seep water from the St. Francis River. That will keep some cotton from being planted, at least for a while.


“How much of that ground is finally planted will depend on how late farmers care to go. We start expecting yield declines for any cotton planted during or after about May 21-22, but we’ve planted cotton as late as May 29-30 and still averaged 1,200 lbs/acre. Planting late means harvesting late, so we could end up rutting fields if this turns into a wet fall. That leads to rutting, which creates a problem next year. Sometimes in that case we’re maybe better off going to an alternative crop.”


Herbert Jones Jr., Ind. Consultant, Leland, Mississippi

“Big growers in the area are probably 50% to 75% finished with planting cotton. One farmer told me he had 2,000 acres of cotton left to plant. If it hadn’t been for that last round of rain, most would have been through.


“Some thrips treatments have been going out in the area. Overall, though, things are quiet. Acreage in Washington County probably hasn’t changed much from last year. I keep hearing about cotton acreage picking up in other parts of the Delta, but it’s not making any big gain in my immediate area. This year all of the cotton I’m checking is tied to research, and none of it is up. Some is cracking (as of 5/15) but hasn’t really emerged yet.”




Arkansas Cotton: Some Still Planting While Others Debate Replanting   5-17


Tennessee: General Thoughts on Early Season Pests in Corn, Cotton, and Soybeans   5-17


Cotton Southwest – Irrigation Running; More Planting; First Time Growers – AgFax   5-17


Arkansas: Ag Flood Damage Estimate Widens to $175Mln   5-16


Arkansas Cotton: New Spinning Mill Promises New Market Opportunity – Video   5-15


Tennessee: Cotton Insect Scout School, Jackson, May 26



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