Texas Plains: Widespread Beneficial Rains; Insect Pressure Remains Light

    General Situation

    We were blessed with area wide rainfalls on multiple occasions late last week and through early and mid-week this week. Those that were not wholly blessed by the rain events had another round of personalized hail events that came across some scattered fields on various occasions. There was even a small tornado on the east side of Kress that did some roof damage.

    My perception today about these harsher weather events is that they were the exception, as most of the rains were paired with a fair amount of wind but all together ‘good’ rains. It might be a shame we could not order some of these rains when most of our dryland fields were desperate for moisture to establish. For those dryland fields that have established, the timing was near ideal, especially the early planted dryland sorghum now booting.

    On the pest front, our Plains Pest Management fields remain peaceful, but not quite as quiet as they have been. Beneficials are finally turning up in our data sets in notable populations but so are a few pests to watch.

    Much of our focus still seems to be on managing weeds and finding the best methodology in managing the new herbicides and herbicide trait technology. Hopefully, we do not have to be too focused on weeds only as pests look might be looking to sneaking about in a few area fields at least.


    Our scouting program cotton fields ranged in stage from 5th true leaf stage up to ¾ grown square stage with most fields coming in between ¼ and ½ grown square stage. Thrips are a pest of the past for all but a few fields now and they are almost a for-gotten pest by them with very little pressure or damage to speak of on the late fields.

    Square retention was on the mend this week, clawing its way back from earlier natural losses. We found many more fields with fleahoppers present in them but all our fields remained sub-threshold. What is a touch alarm sounding is that the majority of the fleahoppers we found were right out of the egg. These nymphs are tiny, only about the size of a spec of dirt, and almost undetectable without a drop cloth and a patient, experienced field scout armed with a hand lens.

    This sub-ET fleahopper population has not done much to increase square drop yet. Our PPM fields ranged be-tween no drop up to a wind whipped 11.66% with most fields falling between 2.5% and 7% square drop.

    We also noted a few stink bugs in our program fields this week. They were very few, but certainly a plant bug to keep an eye on as we attempt to set fruit. Our square set thresholds for fleahoppers and Lygus should have the ability to hold for stink bugs also if they become an issue.

    None of our fields sported any blooms this week. While the July 4th target date for first bloom is an appropriate goal, it is not the expectation. Our oldest fields should start sporting some blooms within a week and the bulk shortly thereafter. This places all but the latest fields on pace for a good bloom date before July 20th.

    This is the date I would consider a deadline for blooming cotton in our area to still have a healthy fruit set window of opportunity. We will need to be watching the fleahopper population and square retention rate closely until the second week of bloom.

    The link to the new Texas A&M AgriLife Extension cotton fleahopper guide is here.

    Corn & Sorghum

    With the addition of a hail failed cotton field replanted to corn, our PPM scouting program officially has 2 corn fields. Our corn acres ranged between V3 and VX with tassels looming close. I do note many area fields several weeks ahead of these fields. To date, the only pest of note has been a light population of banks grass mites in our older corn.

    This week we rated this mite population at 1.18 on our 0-10 mite damage rating scale. This is still very far below the 3.5 – 4 ET level, but mite colonies are starting to get larger and move slightly up these plants. Mite specific predators are still in very short supply but we have noted some Neozygites infected mites with the humid, wetter conditions these past few weeks. Once tasseling starts, and higher temperatures prevail, mites could be a problem soon.

    Our sorghum ranged from late planted V3 up to early planted boot. Pest have remained light with low populations of yellow sugarcane aphids and spider mites still to be found.

    We will begin looking for sorghum midge as fields enter bloom stage. The average midge ‘arrival’ date for Hale County is not until August 4th. Early planted fields should be at a lighter risk to midge damage, but this is a reduced risk, not an absent risk.

    Below is our sorghum midge scouting video from 2016.

    As of today, we have not noted any Lepidopteran feeding in our corn or even our sorghum. Local populations of bollworms (corn earworms or sorghum headworms if you like), fall armyworms (FAW), southwestern corn borer, and western bean cutworms have been very light early.

    Our bollworm traps are showing a slight increase but it is some regional FAW moth traps with an alarming increase over the past two weeks. These FAW could pose problems in tasseling, silking, and most later corn reproductive stages and sorghum from boot stage through black line. With many fields just reaching this stage, we should be on the lookout.

    Below are our panicle pest in sorghum scouting video and our post tassel corn scouting video.


    2014 and 2015 saw grasshoppers become edge issues for many fields across our territory. In 2016, the issue was more localized to areas that received less rainfall. In all three of these cases, grasshoppers did damage, often treatable, to many cotton, corn, and sorghum fields.

    The relationship between grasshoppers and rainfall is conversely linked. The less rainfall, the more likely they are to be an issue. This is twofold, one due to preferred habitat desiccation and through a higher survival rate for the grasshopper nymphs, hatched from eggs lain on the soil.

    While we have had good area rains recently and grasshopper preferred habitat is greening back up, I have noted a healthy population of grasshoppers in our area CRP, pastures, and meadows. This is also due to the higher than normal population from 2016 that lain plenty of eggs.

    We should note that if those CRP, pastures, and meadows are disturbed through management or drought onset, these grasshoppers could become an issue again for our production fields, gardens, and horticultural sites again in 2017.

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