Cotton – Southeast – Insects Driving More Decisions – AgFax

Adult green stink bug. Photo: University of Tennessee

Pam Caraway, Contributing Editor

Owen Taylor, Editor

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


Insect pressure varies across the Southeast but is generally light. Heavy stink bug pressure continues in pockets, and the threat of bollworms is keeping crop advisors on their toes. Two-gene cotton is particularly at risk from escapes.

Plant bugs continue to menace the crop in the upper Southeast and north Alabama.

Target spot is triggering defoliation in southwest Georgia where the disease first took hold and continues to affect yield potential.

Also of Note: Our links section this week includes articles from Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, plus analysis on the current cotton market and possible 2020 planting intentions. You also will find a piece from Tennessee on grass control issues in Xtend cotton.



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

“Farmers raise a good deal of silage around here, so we need to watch for stink bugs coming out of it. Whitefly pressure is light, but we need to stay on top of that. Most of our guys are still hitting stink bugs with a pyrethroid, which provides a little help with bollworms. We have seen an occasional hit in two-gene cotton, but nothing to worry about.

“The highest priority for growers right now is the market facilitation program. Talk to your FSA office and sign up.”

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

“Everybody is focused on stink bug management in cotton. Any mention of bollworms has been slight. We’re seeing occasional moths in fields, but egg laying hasn’t taken off yet.

“In the lab, I killed most of the first batch of moths with a low dose of pyrethroid. That confirms we’re on track with a strategy of spraying stink bugs with a pyrethroid, which will also catch any escaped bollworms. Spider mites may become an issue, based on whether the field is dry. Rain is the best thing you can put on your crop for spider mites.

“A wide range of species is in our soybeans right now, and green cloverworms have been the most numerous recently. However, the pressure is neither heavy nor widespread. When making treatment decisions, follow defoliation thresholds. When a field reaches threshold, figure out which defoliator is causing the biggest and treat accordingly.”

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

“Plant bugs remain light, which is excellent news. Cotton is still under heavy pressure from stink bugs in places, but it’s nothing widespread. The bollworm flight also varies. It’s winding down in certain areas but remains extremely heavy in others.

“People are asking if they should add an insecticide to plant growth regulator applications. The answer depends on what the scouting report shows. If you need to treat insects, yes, add it. But don’t spend money unless a reason exists.”


Eddie McGriff, Regional Extension Agronomist, Northeast Alabama:

“Cotton is bolling up, corn is drying down and soybeans are putting on pods. Recent rainfall helped cotton and soybeans, but it mostly came too late for corn. Yields in a significant portion of our corn will be off due to dry weather. That said, random pockets of corn look like they have been irrigated all year.


“We’re not likely to see bollworms until next week, but we need to pay close attention starting now. Look at the blooms, in the blooms and on the bloom tags, especially in two-gene cotton.

“Also, closely monitor for stink bugs in cotton near corn. Corn is drying down earlier, so stink bugs will be moving into cotton. Stink bugs are like heart disease – a silent killer. If you don’t pay attention, they’ll inflict significant damage.”

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

“The main moth flight is happening now, which is the normal timing. The flight isn’t heavy and no escapes are turning up. We are carefully scouting two-gene cotton. Stink bugs and plant bugs are lighter this year than in recent seasons. In cotton, we’re seeing fruit shed, but lower temperatures last week slowed those losses.

“In soybeans, fields range from just flowering to others that will be ready for harvest in about three weeks. Soybean podworms are not an issue in most areas, but treatments are going out where needed.

“Generally, we need widespread soaking rains. Rain can still help cotton and soybeans, although it’s too late for most of the corn.”

Ethan Carter, Regional Crop IPM, Marianna, Florida:

“Cotton is progressing very well, but I’m still amazed at how late specific fields are. One field last week was only at three true leaves. I hope it’s an early-maturing variety, but even at that, I don’t know if it will make it to maturity. We started late because of delays due to the hurricane last fall (Michael). All we really can do now is hope the first frost doesn’t come early.

“On the other end of the growth spectrum, our most advanced cotton is in the eighth week of bloom. Insects aren’t heavy. A good deal of our acreage is triple-stack cotton, and growers are happy with it.

“More velvetbean caterpillars are turning up in soybeans and peanuts. I detected redneck peanut worms in peanuts next to wooded areas. It’s nothing at high levels, but they’re present, plus I can find tattered leaves. When I dig around, I can find them.”

Sally Taylor, Virginia Tech Extension Entomologist, Tidewater REC:

“Our bollworm flight kicked up last week, but trap captures remain moderate. Egg counts reached threshold here and there, but only a few escaped worms are evident. Stink bug pressure varies by field.

“Pay attention to plant bugs until cutout and remember our populations usually peak in mid-August. The dynamics for plant bugs vary. You may be able to go a whole season without a plant bug spray, or you might be forced to spray six times. The sprays work, but as long as fresh plant material is available, they’ll be there. Plant bugs are ubiquitous in our environment, so the opportunity for re-infestation is always with us.

“Scout sorghum. We identified the first sugarcane aphid of the season last week, and they are here a little earlier than normal.”

Kevin Cotton, High Cotton Consultants, Leesburg, Georgia:

“We’re finding high numbers of moths, both corn earworm and budworm, and bollworm escapes are running 10% to 12% on the two-gene cotton. Stink bug pressure continues.

“Target spot is a concern on about 30% of my acres. It’s all about best management practices. Where growers carefully managed growth regulators and insects, their cotton looks alright. Some fields look exceptional where farmers planted in late April and early May and plants are 38 to 42 inches tall now. In those fields, target spot is at tolerable levels. Where growth got out of hand, target spot is worse, with more defoliation.


“We’re hoping for rain, which will help with boll retention. Right now, humidity is piling in – and that’s not good for retention or the potential for disease.

“In peanuts, the quality of the program also is affecting potential. In some dryland peanuts on a cheap program, we’re finding scattered white mold hits at light to medium levels. The same goes for leaf spot. Growers who’ve spent a little money on their fungicide programs are in better shape.

“Tomato spotted wilt virus is as high as I’ve seen it since we started planting Georgia-06G, and it has developed in nearly every field.

“Low levels of loopers and plenty of stink bugs have developed in our soybeans, and we’re finding redbanded stink bugs in Group IVs and Group Vs. We’ve sprayed most soybeans at least once and some twice for stink bugs. On the later planted soybeans, the Group VIIs, kudzu bugs range from medium to heavy. They’re starting to cycle and we will likely treat them.”

Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University:

“Stink bugs are the dominant pest right now in central and south Alabama. Populations are shifting now from browns to Southern greens, which means pyrethroids will perform much better if you must spray. Numbers vary from field to field – really high in places and nonexistent in others. We can’t account for this wide variability, and the only way to properly manage this pest is to scout each field.

“North Alabama growers are still battling plant bugs.

“We picked up bollworm eggs in Prattville last week, but I haven’t heard of any breakthroughs in two- or three-gene fields.

“Redbanded stink bugs (RBSB) are on soybeans from the gulf to Highway 80 between Montgomery and Selma. RBSB is a threat only to fields with pods. We also are picking up more loopers and velvetbean caterpillar.”

Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia:

 “Whiteflies are slowly building. In our historical areas, whitefly numbers are a bit higher, and treatments are going out where they are at threshold. To date, only a few fields reached that point. We need to scout and be ready to react.

“Corn earworm is limited to pockets. Stink bug pressure remains above-average, and that’s the primary insect we’re treating right now – by far. Be careful that stink bug treatments don’t trigger other problems.

“The priority for insect control is scouting. We absolutely must find the pockets where there’s a problem and take care of it.”

Like soybeans, cotton was hit by China with a 25% tariff last July and has been one of the trade-war casualties. 
We will now wait to see if this advance has legs to stand on or if it will be short-lived, a product of market consolidation.
The short answer is no. Here’s a quick look at the underlying science that leads to the conclusion.
“Several cotton growers this year stated their weed control costs have doubled to tripled trying to control grass in Xtend cotton.” – Larry Steckel
Although no one enjoys seeing this, it is not surprising considering recent conditions of the cotton crop and environment.
“I think for the next 3days we have some easy decisions and maybe a dilemma or two.” – Johnny Parker
“I saw dryland cotton harvesting in Willacy and Cameron Counties.”
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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