Eddie McGriff, Regional Extension Agronomist, Northeast, Alabama:
“It’s been dry for over 2 weeks (as of 6/3). Cotton is a mixed bag – pretty good in certain areas but rough in others. At this stage, cotton doesn’t demand a lot of moisture. We do have fields planted in late April that are squaring. but most was planted in May and ranges between the first and fifth leaf stages.
“Thrips also are a mixed bag. In certain areas we don’t have pressure, but quite a few acres did require treatments. We need to continue checking for thrips, especially in cotton planted after May 15-20. How a lot of this cotton looks depends on if it got rain. Dry weather since mid-May has affected all of our crops, but especially corn. If corn isn’t irrigated, it’s twisting up.”
Brandon Phillips, Phillips Ag Services, LLC, Fitzgerald, Georgia:
“Any cotton planted in the last 2 weeks under pivot had to be intensely watered to gain and keep stands. High soil temperatures have been working against us. I took one photo of my soil thermometer reading 146 at the surface.
“Daily water evaporation rates have been 0.3 of an inch and up to 0.4 at times. Typically, you might dust in cotton and water it up and need 0.3 to 0.4 to get a stand, but in some instances this year it’s taken 3 to 4 waterings and that still might not be working.
“Each farmer has a different way of approaching this. But the tactic that is working best, I think, is applying 1 to 1.5 inches before planting and then give it a day to let the irrigation water meet the moisture down in the soil. That ensures there’s moisture both where the seed germinates and, hopefully, moisture where the tap root will go.
“From there, we’re planting about an inch deep and then coming back about 4 days later with half- to three-quarters of an inch of water. If you water too little, the seed swells and rots or there’s no moisture left in the root zone when the tap root comes out.
“One dryland field had been planted and it actually rained 0.6 of an inch on it, which was a double-edged sword. The rain provided enough moisture for the seed to sprout. But when it came through that top half-inch, the soil was so hot that it burned off the cotyledons. For these little cotton plants, it’s been hell – that’s the best way to describe it.
“Also, we’re fighting thrips, which is highly unusual this late. They’re not widespread but have been at treatment levels in places, plus we’re still dealing with sporadic grasshoppers.
“Most of our peanuts have had at least one fungicide spray and the majority are 30 to 50 days old. Scattered aspergillus crown rot developed, nothing severe, and it thrives in hot, dry conditions. We’re also picking up a decent amount of tomato spotted wilt virus, which isn’t surprising because of all the early plantings and high thrips pressure.
“The scariest thing now is that we’re on the front end of a lesser cornstalk borers (LCSB) flight. We’re in the middle of a small corn earworm flight, too, but not enough to be a concern. Also, those same intense soil temperatures that are killing emerging cotton are burning peanut pegs when they hit the ground.
“We’re having to irrigate peanuts to cool the soil surface and also to water in soil fungicides. If we don’t water in fungicides, white mold will eat us up, both above and below ground. White mold thrives on hot temperatures and moisture, and we need that foundation protection in place so white mold won’t even start.
“Overall, I’ve never had to irrigate this much this early. Normally, we don’t initiate irrigation in peanuts until 45 to 50 days, and we’re watering 2- and 3-leaf cotton just to keep it alive.”
Ethan Carter, Regional Crop IPM, Marianna, Florida:
“It’s hot and dry and this part of the state is under a burn ban. Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday through the weekend, with the best chances we’ve had in the last 10 days (from 6/3). Dryland crops are hurting.
“Growers planted in dryland fields until 10 or 12 days ago but then paused when they ran out of moisture. In places, they opened strip-till beds into moisture, but it dried up as soon as they planted and the soil was dry 4 or 5 inches deep. Over the past week it’s be close to or at 100 degrees every day.
“Thrips have been more of a factor in dryland due to slow growth. You can spray thrips but without a pivot you can’t do anything about lack of moisture.
“Cotton ranges from cotyledon to 5 true leaves, and a small amount of our oldest cotton might be a bit further along than that. Maybe 70% of the cotton in this area has been planted, and it’s a spread-out crop. The first planting started the week after Easter and it’s likely that we’ll still be planting in June as soon as it rains.
“Equipment problems due to hurricane damage last fall probably contributed to planting delays. People are still trying to get things straightened out after Hurricane Michael.”
Steve Bullard, CCA, BCT Gin Co., Quitman, Georgia:
“It’s hot and dry. It’s been dry enough that some of our at-planting insecticides didn’t work. Plants couldn’t take up the materials and thrips jumped on the cotton.
“Overall, though, things look pretty good, considering how dry we are. A few people haven’t finished planting yet – just odds and ends, maybe some corners left to plant. We also still need to replant in places but it’s too dry to take a chance (as of 6/3). Rain chances are at 40% starting this Saturday, and that would help a great deal.
“Surprisingly, over-the-top herbicides have mostly been working well.
“Several growers just started firing up their pivots. With the cotton market where it is, you’d maybe hesitate starting a pivot this early. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll have to keep watering. Moisture was more than adequate early on, so plants grew nicely and should have made a good start with root development.
“With peanuts, we’ve finished planting and the crop looks pretty good. We had moisture and everyone kept going once they started planting. Peanut planting began a little earlier than normal, but the effects of hurricane Michael last year were on people’s minds, and they wanted to establish the crop as soon as they could.