Texas Plains Cotton: Good Growth in Heat, Mostly Quiet on Insects

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General Status

Hot with some of the first triple digit temperatures of the growing season. Which, despite being uncomfortable for humans, is what our late cotton needs, assuming it is rooting down too. Our pollinating corn has another opinion about the subject.

Our target 1st bloom date in cotton is July 4th. Admittedly this is a lofty goal that sometimes can be met if the crop gets off to a good enough start to be nearly perfect (note early cotton starts do not correlate to good, healthy starts or perfect starts). If a field can reach 1st bloom by July 4th, the field has the best potential to be something special.

This year the environment was having none of that. Our realistic goal for having good cotton is to have blooms by mid-July, or as we say in Swisher County, the week of picnic. This is picnic week and we have found our 1st blooms of the season. These are just a handful of fields so far. I ‘guestimate’ that 1/2 to 2/3 of our cotton should be blooming by next week.

About a month ago I stated our cotton is about 10 days behind. Very few fields are now ‘on time’ with the bulk being now just 5-9 days late with perhaps 1/3 being in that 10-days late range. The latest fields were either the latest cotton replants or had the most adversity early. Nothing is beyond hope at this point with most fields gaining ground in the heat while its needs are met.

Corn and sorghum continue to develop well, but our oldest fields are being taxed with the heat during key pollination and grain development stages. On the pest side, there remains plenty to be vigilant over with just a few fields reaching economic levels for plant bugs.


This week our cotton ranged from pinhead square to 1st bloom with the majority of fields sporting between ¼ grown squares and ¾ grown squares. The majority of our program fields should be sporting blooms by next week. The average first fruiting branch for these blooming fields was 7 or 8 with the 1st bloom being about 7.5 NAWF (node above white flower).

AgFax Weed Solutions

The plant bug / fruit drop dance most of these fields have had us going through over the past few weeks has gone either one of two ways. The vast majority of fields ‘straightened out’ with beneficials and / or conditions controlling or limiting fleahopper feeding and fruit loss easing to a much more acceptable level with very little newly developed squares being lost.

Very few fields went the other way with continued fleahopper infestation or nymph emergence and continued increasing drop with new fruit loss. In our program, we promptly treated the fleahopper problem fields which equated to about 5% of our program fields.

Our square drop ranged mostly between 5% and 15% for non-fleahopper issue fields but 18% to 31% in the clearly different category of fleahopper issue fields.

We did find one bollworm egg in a cotton field this week. This is early for the region and is hopefully not a precursor to issues of come but is noteworthy. Moths that are ready to lay eggs should be highly attracted to post-tasseled corn right now. We have noted some egg lay in corn, but not in heavy amounts yet, coinciding with our lower than expected moth trap catches so far.

The egg found in cotton was in a heavier irrigated field and not near any corn but was closer to the Caprock escarpment to the east. We also noted some BAW (beet armyworm) feeding in some fields.

All types of Bt looks to be handling these issues, but any foliage feeding should be documented, especially in conventional or non-Bt fields as damage will increase. ET for BAW should be 50,000 per acre.


Our program corn ranged in stage from V3 to early blister with most replant fields spread across all the vegetative growth stages evenly. Pests remain light with only sparse FAW feeding and light bollworm egg lay compared to recent seasons.

Banks grass mites continue to be found in most post tassel fields, but colonies are becoming harder to find with an increase in mite destroyer populations. Likewise, fungal diseases seem to have plateaued for the older corn at a sub-economic level while on younger fields they seem to be climbing slowly to the same plateau.

We have no sign of major FAW or western bean cutworm activity yet.


This week our program sorghum ranged in stage from V2 to boot stage, also with evenly spaced maturity levels. This could be a long season for watching pests such as sorghum midge and many others with such a wide range of blooming time frames in the same area.

It could prove likely that the pest populations could build larger with each ‘generation’ of crop development, reaching levels that would be quite high by the fall for the latest fields.

As of this week, pest populations remain very light with no sugarcane aphids found in our program fields yet, although some establishing populations have been found in the area as early as last week. We did note some light and spotty bollworms and FAW feeding in the whorls of ‘early’ replanted fields about V7-9 stage. So far, this is well below ET.

We also noted extremely light yellow sugarcane aphid feeding and a few colonies on extreme lower leaves, also well below ET.

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