Degree days are piling up as hot, dry weather persists. Early-planted cotton – a small percentage of 2019’s acreage – is starting to open. The first defoliation sprays are within sight.
Whiteflies are building in Georgia fields that have a history of pressure. Where whitefly populations develop, every treatment decision must take into account the potential effects on this expensive pest.
Anxiety over bollworms is easing. Expected pressure from escapes did not materialize in the vast majority of fields this season.
Cotton marketing is always a challenge…this year, more so. In our Also of Note action, connect to this week’s commentaries from Jeff Thompson and Don Shurley.
Billy McLawhorn, McLawhorn Crop Services, Inc., Cove City, North Carolina:
“We are still monitoring much of our cotton and treating isolated areas for stink bugs, plant bugs and bollworms. Our most advanced cotton is entering the eighth week of bloom, which is unheard of for this time of the year. Most cotton, though, ranges between the fifth to seventh week of bloom. This unreal heat has pushed everything, and the season is changing fast.
“In soybean, kudzu bug counts have hit the highest levels we’ve seen in about five years, but they’re still not heavy. We are treating soybeans for corn earworm and stink bugs, although none of these pests are widespread. We haven’t seen much looper pressure, but they often come later in the season.
“Peanuts are fairly clean. We aren’t detecting much leaf spot and hardly any stem rot. We treated a fair number of acres for corn earworms, but mostly because we found pressure and we also could add that treatment to a fungicide spray.”
Trey Bullock, Bullock’s Ag Consulting, Hattiesburg, Mississippi:
“Heat is pushing this crop. Our early-planted cotton has been trying to prove all year that it will finish early, and it’s starting to open. On the other hand, we have fields just beginning to bloom.
“With the humidity this week, bloom tags are sticking and bolls are dropping. A fresh egg lay is under way and plenty of bollworm moths are apparent. We treated several fields today (8/13)). We knocked back stink bugs last week.
“We expected target spot to flare up, but the little bit of disease that’s coming in now may knock off some leaves as we’re going into late season and preparing for defoliation and harvest. We are in about our twelfth year of fungicide trials but aren’t treating target spot since we don’t consistently measure a yield benefit. So, we’ll see what this year shows.
“Peanuts look absolutely wonderful – loaded up with low disease pressure. Southern blight is apparent in isolated spots in fields with a poor rotation. The better growers here averaged 6,700 lbs/acre in the last few years. Those yields help overcome poor prices, and we sure need peanuts to pull their financial weight.
“Our grain sorghum looks good. Sugarcane aphid pressure has been heavy. We sprayed every single acre once and then most of it twice, with a few fields even requiring a third application.”
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina:
“Most of our acres are dryland, and that part of the crop has been living on scattered thunderstorms. Cotton is cutting out where it missed rains and is now ‘vertically challenged.’ Stink bug pressure is low. Spider mite pressure is low, but it may be building. Consultants are struggling to find insects at treatable levels, which is good, but they also are worried that they’re missing something.
“I still think it’s going to be an early crop because of inconsistent rainfall, and for many acres, any rain now would come too late.
“In soybeans, nothing is out of control. Watch for velvetbean caterpillars (VBC). We are finding them in peanuts in the southern part of the state, and that’s about a month earlier than we expect them. Because VBC is early, that migratory species might move up into soybeans soon.”
Gary Swords, Swords Consulting, Arlington, Georgia:
“This crop is all over the board, with much of that due to whether or how much it rained. One grower received a 2-inch rain at planting, then 4.5 inches on the first of August – and nothing in between. Then again, dryland cotton in places where regular rains fell may push three bales/acre. From zero to three bales – that’s quite a spread.
“Insect pressure is minimal. On the older cotton, we treated for target spot. Now that target spot is coming in, we can see the difference in terms of plant health where we treated. Generally, the cotton is maturing on schedule, but it’s all over the board as far as maturity goes – from the second to the ninth week of bloom.
“With this heat, the older cotton is opening fast. In the younger cotton, we’re still controlling weeds and putting out PGRs. Here it is mid-August, and herbicides are still going out? That’s not good.
“I’m eager for defoliation to start and then watch pickers running. With all the damage last year from the hurricane (Michael), I didn’t see much of that in 2018.
“In peanuts, we are treating scattered acres for velvetbean caterpillars, corn earworms and loopers. A light moth flight developed, and we’re going to work with beneficials as much as we can.
“We’re picking corn now and yields look about average so far. We’re figuring averages at 235 to 240 bu/acre.”
Dominic Reisig, NCSU Extension Specialist, Entomology, Plymouth, North Carolina:
“Insect activity is light in cotton and soybeans. Treatments for corn earworms are going out in soybeans. Stink bugs are around, but not at alarming levels.
“Cotton growers are worried about bollworms, but we’re not seeing many escapes. We are pretty much done with them this season, except for scouting the latest cotton.”
John D. Beasley, South Georgia Crop Services, Inc., Screven, Georgia:
“We made our first whitefly treatment this week. The cotton was young, a hairy leaf variety and the field was isolated. We may have to spray a few more acres, but the pressure is nothing like we saw in 2017.
“Less than 10% of the cotton acres will be ready to defoliate next week. Another 10% just started blooming, and the rest is mostly in the fifth or sixth week of bloom. We’re trying to keep stink bugs out of the older cotton, although they’re not too concerning.
“Overall, our cotton is about 7 to 10 days ahead of where it should be. When we hit that seventh week of bloom, it’s done, which is unusual for us. Typically, we can stretch out the season to some extent.
“In peanuts, we treated velvetbean caterpillar last week, and they’re under control now.
“If we can receive some rain this month and no hurricanes develop, we can finish with some good yields in peanuts and cotton.”
Richard Davis, Davis Ag Consulting, Montgomery, Alabama:
“We’re pretty dry. We are catching showers here and there, but it’s so hot that the moisture is just sucked right out of the field the next day. The small percentage of cotton that was planted the first of April is about 20% open.
“We’re spraying younger cotton for stink bugs if it has a chance. The aphids didn’t rebound this year, and we don’t have any problems with worms. If we can mature and open what we have now, the crop won’t be a bust. A top crop to go with it would be nice, but I doubt we’ll get that opportunity.”
Sally Taylor, Virginia Tech Extension Entomologist, Tidewater REC:
“Cotton is nearing cutout in many locations. Although plant bug pressure is highest in mid-August this year, sprays are discouraged because late-season applications offer lower economic returns.
“Some soybean fields are experiencing high worm pressure. Until there are pods, plants can compensate for moderate flower feeding. Use the North Carolina State University earworm threshold calculator to determine whether sprays are necessary. The threshold calculator is a great tool because it takes into account the price per bushel, application costs and your sampling method. We are already picking up soybean loopers. Because pyrethroids will flare loopers in our region, avoid spraying unless it’s necessary.”
Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University:
“The season is winding down fast because of heat and drought, and plants are shedding many of the top bolls, leaving nothing to feed the worms. Stink bugs are in late-planted cotton but mainly in select fields, and pressure isn’t heavy. The only sound way to make stink bug decisions is to scout each field and treat where necessary.
“North Alabama growers are finding plant bugs. Spider mites have pressured cotton in dry pockets, and this weather complicates treatment decisions. However, we don’t want to let spider mites defoliate plants and put bolls at risk.
“Areas in the state have missed rain for six weeks. Two of the driest pockets are near Florala and northeast of Wetumpka. The crop is all over the board, based on whether a field received timely rains. In many fields, it’s too late for water to make a difference. I tweeted this week that it’s so dry and hot that kudzu bugs are moving from soybeans into cotton, a non-host crop, because they want to be in the shade.”
“Heat and dry weather over the last 10 days set us back a step. Cotton is maturing rapidly and appears to be ahead of schedule by more than a week. That’s not all bad, but people need to be ready, and we will start defoliating the earliest planted cotton in the next 7 to 10 days.
“That’s a small percentage of acres. We planted from mid-April to late June, and we will harvest from mid-September until Christmas. That’s how it is every year.
“Stink bugs seem to have moderated, which generally isn’t the case most years, although in places stink bugs are heavy. It’s a strange year. Spider mites are scattered. Aphids are still turning up here and there. Scout closely. If you don’t have a problem, let the beneficials help you out, and the fungus should develop and take out the aphids.
“Whiteflies, on the other hand, have really done well in this hot, dry period. In our historic hot spots, people are treating. Many fields are below threshold. Where you find whitefly populations, take them into account when making any management decisions. Do everything possible to avoid flaring whiteflies.”
This 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.