Texas Plains Cotton: Heat – Thrips – Stand Issues

Photo: Blayne Reed, Texas AgriLife

General Status

Hot and dry environmental conditions are still predominating our world and remain our main obstacle to overcome. Some of us did receive relief last night with the arrival of some spotty and electrically hot showers that passed through.

According to public data from texaspivot.com area rainfall across Hale, Swisher, & Floyd varied from 0” up to 2.67” overnight and this morning with most of the fields that received rainfall received less than 0.5”. At this time, I am unaware of damaging weather with this storm, but the potential was certainly there for some serious damage in spots.

Looking at the public data available from texaspivot.com again this week’s rains brought our recorded annual totals from an area low field of 0.36” in southwestern Hale to an area high of 4.8” in south-central Floyd with most field recordings averaging around 2.8” for the year.

While these are unofficial totals, they should adequately describe our difficulties in establishing viable crop stands under these extreme dry, hot, and windy conditions. Many of our area crop stands remain in question, particularly the dryland, but any field with the addition of more adversity has or is at risk of failing soon.

We are finding many fields where a little rain did more harm than good by germinating seeds, but not supplying enough moisture to emerge or support. We are also still finding wireworm populations that surprise us and thrips are still an issue for most cotton fields.

Cotton

This week our scouting program acres ranged in stage from dry seed in the ground up to 5th true leaf stage. Most fields were between 1st and 4th true leaf stage as we scouted this week.

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Thrips were our biggest pest concern this week. Most fields that had high populations last week, typically in our northern scouting areas, have been treated over the top while lighter fields, typically in our southern scouting areas, had no need of treatment.

This week, the thrips seem to be slowing in the heat. Treated fields are not seeing a large resurgence once residual ends and populations are not spreading across the area. Our thrips per true leaf counts this week ranged between 0 and 0.7 with most fields across the three counties coming in between 0.1 and 0.5 thrips per true leaf.

With the economic threshold for thrips being 1 thrips per true leaf stage, we had no fields require treatment this week.

Wireworms have not been an issue in cotton once and if field per acre plant stands have established to at least a minimally acceptable plants per acre level. Beneficial populations were again very light with spiders and a few big-eyed bugs being noted.

Cotton Stand Issues

Our producers are pushing hard dealing with the extreme adverse environmental conditions. Inevitably there are ‘losses.’ For most irrigated fields it is in our final plants per acre level. Most area fields are unavoidably settling for fewer plants per acre than we would like.

In cotton, we generally operate with the rule of thumb that we need at least 31,000 plants per acre and no gaps larger than 1 foot to maintain potential yields of 1,200-pounds lint and up while a stand of 27,000 should hold the 1,000-pound yield potential barrier. This season we are keeping several irrigated fields at or about the 23,000 plants per acre level because they are even.

Lighter plant stands are usually preferable in serious drought situations as there are fewer plants competing for limited re-sources. This lack of competition can save fields from this fight for water that often lead to an early absolute cut-out that caps unrecoverable yields.

However, if the plant population is too low there are not enough plants to support making the higher yields. With our plant population already light, I urge producers to remember these now real yield limitations as we purchase and apply our other inputs for these limited return fields.

Even if our original yield goals called for 3 bale plus yields, if we are forced to work with a plant population that has no hope of obtaining those yields, we likely should not waist the investments for that now unattainable level of return.

Corn & Sorghum

Our scouting program corn ranged in stage from V6 to V8 with no pest of note found. Our sorghum ranged from needing a replant to V6 with quite a bit of variability within fields. In our sorghum, the usual pest suspects were missing also.

However, wireworm and false wireworm adults and larva combined, moved on one of these fields, and with the extreme environmental conditions adding to stress, the field’s plant per acre stand was reduced with many young plants desiccating and dyeing to a point that profitability for the field was lost and a replant was recommended.

This is the first instance of wireworms damaging an (at least minimally) established crop to this serious level recorded locally. While not affecting the failure alone, insect and plant samples have been taken and species and nutrient analysis are underway.

We will share any conclusive results but producers should be aware of this new possibility of problems.


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