AgFax Southeast Cotton: Perhaps “The Best Planting Season In A Generation” For Some Areas?

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Owen Taylor, Editor
    Questions, comments, complaints? My door is always open.

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southeast Cotton, sponsored by
    the Southern Cotton Team of AMVAC Chemical Corporation


    Cotton planting is pushing along on a wide basis. Planting conditions are being described as good to excellent except maybe in areas that missed some recent rains.

    In the upper Atlantic Southeast, growers are having a particularly good planting season. See comments by Johnny Parker and Guy Collins for Virginia and North Carolina, respectively.

    Rain is in the forecast for at least the western side of our coverage area. Some growers pulled back on further planting until the system moves through.

    Stink bugs have built up in corn in portions of southwest Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. See comments from Ron Smith about the chance to treat them now to potentially reduce pressure later in cotton and soybeans.



    Johnny Parker, Agronomist, Commonwealth Gin, Windsor, Virginia:

    “We are starting the second week of what seems to be one of the best planting seasons in a generation. A lot of times we get good temperature, but it turns wet. Other times, we receive good moisture but slip into cold conditions, especially at night. In other seasons, we have those heavy downpours that stop progress and mess up any work we’ve already done, which was part of the problem in 2018.

    “But this year it’s ‘so far, so good’ and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Some operations made tremendous progress last week while others were able to catch up on other jobs like finishing corn planting and starting peanuts.

    “We’ll plant a lot of our cotton acres this week. Emergence has been excellent and stands are complete. It’s making me feel a bit like the Maytag repairman – very few challenges so far.”

    Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina:

    “USDA’s report had us at 22% planted, based on surveys from late last week. That’s up from 5% the week before. While that (22%) seems a little high to me, the 5-year average for this point is 21%, which also seems high for early May. A year ago, planted acres were at 11%.

    “It’s either wet or dry here. In places, it was pretty dry and then it rained and then it rained again. More rain is in the forecast for Friday.

    “One county agent said his farmers planted a bunch of cotton last week and that much of their crop has gone in the ground by now. Here in the southern half of South Carolina, our better yields actually tend to be in cotton planted toward the end of May.

    “I have already felt thrips on my arms when outside, so thrips pressure is starting. You should closely check the young cotton crop.”

    Eddie McGriff, Regional Extension Agronomist, Centre, Alabama:

    “We’re about 30% finished with planting in this area (as of 5/6). A lot of it started last week and people made good progress, then it rained 2.5 to 3 inches over the weekend. That slowed things down for the next few days. At least some rain is in the forecast again for mid-week, although it doesn’t sound as bad as this last round of storms.

    “Cotton acres here are probably up 5% to 10% but acreage was up last year, too. At least some of this increase is due to new farmers coming into the crop and also fields coming out of corn and soybeans. Peanut acreage will be up slightly due to a couple of new growers moving into the crop.”

    Brandon Phillips, Phillips Ag Services, LLC, Fitzgerald, Georgia:

    “Probably 15% to 20% of our cotton has been planted (as of 5/6). Things turned off dry enough that people pulled back on dryland fields and were only planting under pivots. Then it rained in spots over the weekend, from a couple of tenths to an inch – but more spots only received 2 to 3 tenths than anything like an inch.

    “Where it rained, planters were running as hard as they could to take advantage of that moisture. Around here, a half-inch won’t last long. Where moisture has dried up, farmers are running under the pivots again. One indication of how dry it’s been – some corn already has been watered 3 times.

    “Our cotton planted on April 11 is now at the fourth leaf stage and required a thrips spray. I’m seeing a tremendous difference in thrips pressure between where we went with a liquid in-furrow treatment and aldicarb. I’m not saying we won’t have to spray behind the aldicarb, but for right now it’s holding.

    “I think our cotton acres will be down 5% to 10%. The market dropped pretty significantly today (5/6), so we may see some further decline in cotton.

    “We’re still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Michael. There were promises of financial relief but that has yet to materialize, and a few farmers simply weren’t able to come back this year.

    “Peanut planting is probably 50% finished. Typically, the first-planted fields have more thrips pressure and then more from tomato spotted wilt. We haven’t had significant wilt pressure in a couple of years but all this early planting could be setting us up for issues. It is really odd to have so many peanuts in the ground on May 6.”

    David Butcher, NC Ag Service, Inc., Pantego, North Carolina:

    “Cotton is being planted and a little is popping up. The earliest went in the ground about 2 weeks ago (from 5/7). We had a wet winter and early spring but things have really dried out now. We now need rain to sprout seed.

    “Most of our corn has been planted and a big portion of the beans, too. If we can go hard this week, we could have 75% of our crops planted overall. Our corn looks good because the weather has been mostly warm. Some is a bit skippy because of dry ground and maybe seed haven’t sprouted yet. But the corn that’s up looks pretty. So does the cotton.”

    Steve Bullard, CCA, BCT Gin Co., Quitman, Georgia:

    “Growers are going wide open with both peanut and cotton planting. One grower said today (5/6) that he was running 5 planters.

    “It rained from a half-inch to 1.5 inches over the weekend. That was pretty well timed because we had almost reached the stage to stop planting because soil moisture had run short. Plus, it’s still early and we don’t want to push the envelope too much.


    “Peanut planting seemed to start a little earlier than usual and we’re probably 70% finished. Soils warmed up a little earlier compared to last year, which helped. With cotton, we’re 40% to 50% finished.

    “After dealing with hurricane Michael last year, growers are still a little nervous and wanted to start as soon as possible. Our cotton wasn’t nearly as devastated as in the worst-hit areas, but we did sustain some yield and quality loss. Some loss was due to the hurricane but we also took a hit from heavy amounts of rain.

    “Speaking from our standpoint as a peanut buying point, earlier peanut planting and an earlier peanut harvest means growers could potentially make an earlier start on picking cotton, which gets put on the back burner a little.”

    Mark Freeman, Extension Area Agronomist, East Georgia, Statesboro:

    “Planting conditions are great. Some areas of the state received rain over the weekend. In places, growers might have wanted a little bit more than they received. But in many locations, it rained enough but not so much to bog things up in the field.

    “Overall, conditions for field work have been quite good. The rain kept people out of the field short-term but we’re running again now (5/7). NASS had us at 23% planted, up from 12% the previous week, so we’ve obviously made progress.”

    Larry Walker, Walker Cotton Technical Services, Flintville, Tennessee:

    “We started planting cotton last week and some has emerged. Burndown was good and we had rain to set up our preemerge program. It rained about 2 inches over the weekend and that kept us out of the field, but we’re running again today (5/7).

    “Rain is in the forecast later this week, so that has to be taken into account. There’s a limited seed inventory in the high-demand varieties, with some issues with germ specs. I’ve heard of cases where farmers had to sign waivers that they knew the germ was lower than normal with certain varieties they intended to plant.

    “It’s a little amazing how well planting has gone so far after it had rained here for 7 straight months. In the first 40% of the 2019 we received over 30 inches of rain in this area, which is 60% of our annual rainfall average.

    “We’ve probably planted 40% of the cotton we will have. Rain – with potentially heavy amounts – is in the forecast for Thursday and into Sunday. Growers will plant today and tomorrow and then I think they’ll hold back off until it’s dry enough again.

    “Our cotton acres will be about the same. With the weather we’re about to have, I don’t think we can increase our cotton acres that much more. When it does dry up again, we’ll be into the second half of May, and it will be kind of touchy to get more in after that.”

    Ethan Carter, Regional Crop IPM, Marianna, Florida:

    “Planting is underway and most everyone who has a planter is either running it or working on it to get it ready. A big portion of our growers actually started right after Easter in that third week of April, and we’re about 15% to 20% done with cotton now (5/7). Planting activity should start ramping up now.

    “The big issue is that most pivots in the county went down during the hurricane (Michael) and everyone has been pushing to get them upright and running again. A lot of planting so far has been in dryland fields while growers also were dealing with pivot repairs. Just driving around, it looks like most of our pivots are standing up again but I can’t say how many are functional. A good deal of electrical work has been required, and that has been progressing slowly but surely.

    “A lot of people are trying to figure out what to do in terms of preemerge herbicides. With pivots, they can water in the materials if it doesn’t rain. But if a pivot can’t run yet, a grower has to deal with that field like it’s in dryland production.

    “Some peanuts are up to about 3 true leaves, and it’s rare to have them that far along this early. People are pushing hard to make an early start, keeping in mind what happened with Michael. We lost about 90% of the cotton crop and 50% of the peanut crop.

    “With peanuts, growers were essentially finished with harvest but the buying points were heavily damaged by the storm and a good deal of the crop was ruined. At one buying point, 105 wagons were soaked by all the rain and those peanuts had to be dumped.

    “Part of the loss also was where growers still had peanuts in the field and were delayed by all the rain, aside from the fact that some growers had to dig equipment out of barns that Michael destroyed. By the time they could start on peanut harvest again, yields and quality were down to nothing.”

    Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:

    “The main insect calls I’m getting this week are about brown stink bugs in corn, and people are spraying on almost a wall-to-wall basis in parts of southwest Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

    “This is in knee-high corn, and growers are treating to reduce populations. In a number of fields, they’re finding stink bugs on a third of the plants. We had a mild winter, and the insects overwintered in kudzu, buildings, hedgerows and other habitat. If stink bugs were in soybeans last year but weren’t sprayed, it’s logical to find them now.

    “If they’re on a third of the plants, this is a time to be proactive. The insect has a long lifecycle and can live up to 30 days, laying eggs during that period to crank out the next generation. Spraying now would be the easiest and most efficient step because you can easily go in by ground.

    “Waiting to treat that next generation means corn will be tasseling, and it might not be as easy to go in with a ground rig. Plus, you don’t know what the weather will be like then. Maybe you can get in the field, maybe you can’t.


    “Entomologists always talk about the concept of trap crops and corn is the most beautiful trap crop ever created for stink bugs. There’s a population in corn now, so it’s an opportunity to knock down populations that will likely move into soybeans and cotton later.

    “White margined burrower bug immatures are heavily infesting cotton in a few fields in the Dothan area. Don’t panic, don’t spray. Where cotton had an imidacloprid seed treatment, it’s taking them out. Evidently, all they have to do is nibble to receive a fatal dose. You won’t even see damage to the plant – but you will find the dead ones. Again, these are immatures. They’re red and black and don’t yet have that white margin you see on adults.

    “Also, where we’ve swept daisy fleabane in southeast Alabama, we’re finding early instar plant bugs, which is pretty much what we would expect. That puts them at the adult stage toward the end of the month when cotton should reach pinhead square. Again, that’s normally when we begin finding plant bugs in cotton.”

    Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University:

    “Farmers are running wide open. Planting started last Monday (5/2), with maybe a few acres planted before that. Rain over the weekend kept a few people out of the field but by Monday the planters were running again on a wide basis and today (5/7) it’s in full swing.

    “The fact is, we were getting a little dry, so the rain was well timed. Where it rained, farmers mostly got about the right amount but not enough to hold things up for long. In places, people would have liked to have had a little more.

    “Overall, the forecast looks ideal for the rest of this week. For May 7, we’re way ahead of schedule and might be 40% to 50% finished by now. Some growers have actually wrapped up planting, and several larger operations are 40% to 60% finished.

    “People are covering a lot of ground in a short time. Our planting season typically includes periods with moderate to poor conditions — too much rain or stretches of colder temperatures or both – so we expect a good deal of stopping and starting. This year, though, it’s been virtually uninterrupted. Some cotton is up, barely.”

    Steve Brown, Extension Cotton Agronomist, Auburn University:

    “Northern Alabama moved into an aggressive planting mode, and some folks there aren’t far from finishing. As you move south, rains over the weekend kept growers out of the field for a while, but everyone should be rolling now. In peanut areas, that crop tends to go in first, which delays some cotton planting.

    “It would be nice if everyone got an inch or so of rain in the latter part of the week. Where cotton is coming up, I hear it looks alright. No big hurdles are apparent and it’s only May 7, so we still have plenty of time.”

    David Skinner, Agronomist, CPS, Macon, Mississippi:

    “Maybe 10% to 15% of our cotton has been planted and that went in last week. It has all pretty much emerged.

    “We’re waiting now for this predicted rain to pass through. So far, nobody has planted cotton this week to my knowledge. Along with the rain, the weather is supposed to be cooler. So, growers are keeping the seed in the sack for the time being. The really good varieties are in short supply, so if you’re forced into replanting, that could be an issue.

    “If you feel a little scared about jumping in there and planting ahead of this weather system, that’s not a bad thing.

    “Cotton acres will be up and soybean acres will be way down. Ginning capacity will be an issue with how much cotton growers may finally plant. Gins don’t want to commit to any more cotton. As it was, one gin was still running until February 20 this year.

    “We’ve finished planting corn. Our best yielding corn years tend to start with dry spring weather, which isn’t the case this year. In places, corn looks really good but we’re also seeing some that’s yellow and spots where it’s drowned out. You can tell we’ve had too much rain. So, yields will be off to a degree this year after a couple of years with really strong averages.”


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    AgFax Southeast Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Owen Taylor, Editorial Director.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the cotton production season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047. Office: 601-992-9488.
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