Cotton – Southeast – Plenty Is Riding On If It Rains And How Much – AgFax

    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.


    Plenty is riding on whether it rains later this week. Forecasts call for at least some rain through much of our coverage area between now and Sunday. Dry conditions persist through a big part of the Southeast and last month also was one of the hottest Mays on record in portions of the region.

    Remember 2011? Several of our contacts this week compared the current weather pattern to what they remember in 2011, a brutal drought year.

    Thrips pressure continues in places. Scattered plant bug sprays already have been necessary in Georgia.



    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.


    “Starting early turned out to be a good thing because it’s so hot and dry now. If everyone had waited like we normally do, we would be having a hard time. With most peanuts, we’re at about the first fungicide spray.”

    David Skinner, Agronomist, CPS, Macon, Mississippi:

    “It’s dry – bone dry – but I don’t think it’s hurt the cotton yet. Of what’s up, 80% of our stands look good. Dryland corn, though, is in bad shape.

    “Our most advanced cotton is at 8 to 9 nodes now (6/3) and fruiting up well. The only bad thing is that some growers didn’t gain good stands where maybe seeds didn’t get all the way into moisture. Where we could, we watered it up. Rain is in the forecast this weekend, and we hope that will bring up cotton outside of the pivots.

    “We’re spraying thrips in places, although it’s nothing wholesale. Where acephate went in the furrow, we didn’t spray that. We did have to come back with a foliar spray on a limited basis where growers only went with an extra seed treatment. Where they only went with the factory seed treatment, a lot of that needed a foliar thrips treatment.”

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

    “Our cotton ranges from emerging cotyledons to a lot at the fourth to sixth leaf and aggressively growing. Although it’s been dry, we haven’t completely run out of moisture yet. A couple of growers were lucky enough to catch passing showers and that helped young cotton and corn. The forecast says we’ll get 2 to 3 inches of rain by Saturday night from a tropical low.

    “Where cotton is at 6 leaves, we should find blooms on it by the end of June if things stay on schedule.

    “Plenty of daisy fleabane and Queen Anne’s lace have bloomed out, so plant bugs will be looking for another host before cotton starts squaring. So far, I haven’t found any squares, although we should see some by the end of this coming week.”

    Dominic Reisig, NCSU Extension Specialist, Entomology, Plymouth, North Carolina:

    “In places, growers were lucky enough to receive rain, but others weren’t. However, we’re supposed to shift into a wetter pattern later this week, which would be a good thing. Overall, we need moisture.

    “Squaring has started in the earliest fields. With thrips, I think we’re mostly out of the woods now that we’ve gotten rain and maybe more is on the way.

    “I’ve been asked how seed treatments or in-furrow applications will perform after cottonseed has been in the ground for a couple of weeks. These are cases where growers planted in dryland fields and were hoping for a quick rain to make a stand.

    “I don’t have data on that, as such. If you don’t have time to scout for thrips in this late cotton, just plan on spraying when cotton emerges. If you have time to scout, then check closely and see if there’s a need.

    “Insecticide seed treatments can deteriorate over time. We put two batches of seed in a freezer – one with the treatment, one without. The next year we pulled out the seed and added the same treatment to the untreated batch. We compared the two batches, and control was much better in plots with seed that had received the same-year treatment.

    “We’re seeing some odd things. A student found fall armyworms (FAW) in non-Bt corn. It’s not unusual for them to develop by Memorial Day, but in this case the populations were pretty high. That was in a coastal county and FAW are a migratory insect. Velvetbean caterpillars also have been found eating in soybeans. That’s another migratory insect and it’s unusual to find them this early. Flea beetles also have turned up in cotton and soybeans.”

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

    “We have plenty of thrips. I rated some thrips plots yesterday (6/3), and, on a scale of 0 to 5, we had a lot of fours. A 5 rating indicates severe damage – plants or terminals are dead. They ran from 1 to 4, which is a wide range. A number of treatments weren’t performing like we tend to expect. Much of that, I suspect, was due to dry soils and there wasn’t enough water to move materials up into the plant.

    “In some of my trials where we didn’t have an at-planting treatment, we were unable to stop thrips with foliar sprays applied at first leaf. Plants were simply inundated with those populations. If nothing else, that shows you can’t do without an at-planting treatment if pressure is heavy. I don’t know how much those plants will be delayed, but they were hit hard.

    “A few more calls have come in about grasshoppers. Some of our earliest cotton is right at first square. It looks like it might rain this week. We haven’t seen any rain in 3 weeks, and last month was one of the hottest Mays on record in South Carolina, based on news reports.”

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

    “It rained enough in our area to save us. That started last Friday and went into the weekend, and amounts ranged from an inch to four inches.

    “Our biggest cotton (as of 6/4) is at the fourth true leaf and we also have cotton that’s just coming up. A little spot planting is all that’s left.

    “Thrips were bad before it rained. The problem was that we were spraying for them but the cotton wasn’t growing. After the rain, though, plants appear to be growing and the fields are cleaned up for at least a few days.

    “Thrips have been about as bad as I’ve ever seen them, but it also doesn’t get this dry in May. This year it was so dry and hot that cotton at one point would emerge and then die due to the hot soils. That’s the first I’ve ever seen that. The highs were over 90 during a lot of days in May and last week they went over 95 for three straight days.


    “I can only remember one year when it was this dry this early, and that was 2011. In May and June we never got enough rain to build a solid framework for our crops. It finally started raining a little in July but by then cotton had all but finished blooming and had cut out.

    “Our earliest corn is just starting to tassel. Soybeans are still pretty small from these dry conditions. We’re dealing with more deer damage than normal. Beans didn’t emerge well, so stands were thin even before the deer came in. In beans, we’ve done more spot planting than replanting.

    “I’m still optimistic. If we keep getting rains, we ought to have nice crops.”

    Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia:

    “We are dry – very, very dry. The last rain here at Tifton was around May 12. Everything is definitely stressed, but there is a chance for rain in the latter part of the week. Cotton planted in late April and the first 2 weeks of May looks pretty good. But anything planted in the latter part of May is struggling to gain a stand.

    “People with dryland cotton are putting seed in dry dirt and hoping for enough rain to bring it up.

    “Scout closely. Plant bugs are an occasional pest for us in Georgia but in certain fields they are now exceeding threshold. That’s not everywhere but it’s happening enough that you cannot assume they aren’t present in your cotton. Since my last report, more people than usual have called about plant bugs. Again, they’re not everywhere but they are requiring attention in places.

    “A lot of host plants on field edges and in ditches burned up and dried down, so we may be seeing an unusual amount of movement. Irrigated cotton is green and a very attractive destination for plant bugs but even a lot of our dryland cotton still would draw them.

    “Along those same lines, don’t treat with anything unless you have to. Conditions for spider mites have been perfect with these 3 weeks of hot, dry weather. Starting last Friday (5/31), I began receiving calls about spider mites. Even when mites are present, beneficial insects can work on them, and we want to preserve that resource. If you have to spray plant bugs, you have to spray plant bugs. But make sure, in fact, that it’s necessary.”

    Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:

    “We’re dry but everyone is looking forward to the front that could be here in the second half of the week. It will be a lifesaver if it does materialize. Otherwise, we have the makings for a disaster.

    “Some of this cotton in the southern part of Alabama actually looks pretty good. Despite drought, we’re seeing lengthy internodes, which means plants are growing well.

    “Thrips injury is still significant on a lot of younger cotton. It does appear that the older cotton will outgrow thrips. A good deal of spraying was necessary last week. But with this weather system coming, I would hesitate to advise anyone to spray again.

    “We’re already afraid of spider mites blowing up in this hot, dry weather, so we need to sit tight on thrips, avoid spraying and wait for rain. In Covington County today (6/4) we could easily see where mites were. Rain should at least push them back a bit.

    “The next thing to watch for are plant bugs. We have some 8- to 9-leaf cotton with 1 or 2 pinhead squares. At the same time, plant bugs are leaving daisy fleabane and are looking for a home, so we need to focus on those fields over the next month.

    “Green and brown stink bugs are building in carinata. Right now, we just have patches of it in places, but it looks like carinata is an attractive crop for stink bugs if this is any indication.

    “We’re beginning to see a little blip of tobacco budworms (TBW) in southwestern Alabama, and they’re about on time. They don’t matter in cotton with the traits we have but peanuts are another story. If you’ve only got a 6-inch-wide band of peanuts, a flight of TBW can quickly consume a lot of foliage.

    “If you’re finding worms in peanuts in that part of Alabama but aren’t sure if they’re TBW or bollworms, they’re TBW, based on our trap counts. We get a generation of them about now and will see another generation in about 30 days.”

    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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