Here is our first issue of AgFax Southeast Cotton for 2020.
This marks the start of our 23nd season covering the region’s cotton crop. Our thanks to the Southern field staff of AMVAC for once again sponsoring this coverage.
Considering the potential for later thrips pressure, is this a good time to plant cotton (if conditions are otherwise right)? Extension entomologists this week emphasized the importance of running the Thrips Infestation Predictor Tool for Cotton as a way to answer that question.
The model provides a localized forecast of when thrips pressure might peak, based on planting date and anticipated weather conditions. The predictions are subject to change, of course, but running the model every day can add clarity to planting and thrips management decisions. Connect to the model in our Also of Note section.
Grasshoppers are stirring in parts of our coverage area. The trick, of course, is to spray them while they are still young. See comments by Ron Smith.
Cooler temperatures and rain have put planting on hold across a wide area.
Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University
“About two weeks ago, people started calling about grasshoppers in south Alabama. Grasshoppers are turning up in burndown areas. Where anyone is seeing high numbers of small grasshoppers, they present a risk when cotton emerges, and treatments are strongly advised before the insects become adults, which takes about 30 days. You can kill immatures with just about any cotton insecticide. Adult grasshoppers, on the other hand, are harder to control.
“Numerous reports have come in about true armyworm in burndown fields. They are living under the thatch and feeding on old burndown vegetation like a cow feeding on hay in the winter. Once we plant any crop into that, they will eat it.
“The primary crops that are up now are corn and early-planted grain sorghum, so those acres are at high risk of being eaten up. As cotton emerges, true armyworm can threaten it, too, if they are still in the field.
“The Thrips Infestation Predictor Model for Cotton, what we call ‘the thrips model,’ shows peak movement of thrips was in an April 1-15 window in south Alabama. In north Alabama, the peak potential for damage will be May 5-30.
“With most farmers intending to plant in May, that peak is going to catch young seedlings when they emerge. It’s too wet and too cool to plant right now. So, plenty of growers could end up planting right into the peak window for thrips.
“If planting during that period, go with a seed treatment and also know that you likely will need to make a foliar spray. We will run the model every 7 to 10 days. If the model is still telling us heavy thrips populations are likely, an overspray might be advised at the 1- to 2-true-leaf stage.”
“Right now, people are sitting on go, ready to plant cotton. Everybody wants to plant, but we are still holding back, making our plans and getting ready.
“One thing we do need to emphasize is using an at-plant insecticide for thrips. Of all the insect pests we deal with in cotton, thrips are the most consistent. And in all the trials we do, thrips control is where we see the most consistent impact on yield. We do not want to cut corners on thrips.
“We all should regularly check the thrips predictor model (see link in Also of Note section below). I have a great deal of confidence in that model. It’s still a predictor, but if growers sit and think about it, it can help.
“In my mind, if a grower knew what to expect – if he knew thrips were going to be bad – he might invest a little more on thrips control and do something beyond a seed treatment. The ideal time for a foliar spray is at first true leaf, but that requires an extra trip across the field at a busy time.
“Given that, a grower might want to go in-furrow with a more active treatment – an aldicarb or liquid imidacloprid – to provide longer residual control than a seed treatment by itself.
“When using the thrips predictor model, run it for your specific area because the prediction is specific to that geography. This is our opportunity to actually prepare for insect pressure, and that’s not an opportunity we often have.”
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina
“I’m planting soybeans and cotton today (4/16) as part of our planting date studies. I’m doing the opposite of what cotton growers should be doing. Growers should look at the thrips predictor tool – and look at it often. The model shows that this is the peak risk date – in terms of thrips pressure — for planting cotton in this area. So for research purposes, I will be planting a big thrips trial tomorrow.
“We do have some options for controlling thrips. The standard in cotton is an insecticide seed treatment. Unless you specified that you did not want an insecticide seed treatment, your seed likely will have an insecticide on it. After emergence, we recommend scouting, with treatments as needed. Don’t just make a calendar spray.
“Look for immature thrips and injury to the new leaves as they emerge. The model is showing pretty heavy pressure in our area for tobacco thrips in a few weeks. If I were a grower, I’d wait until May to plant, and I’d check the thrips predictor tool before I put seed in the ground.”
Brad Smith, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Selma, Alabama
“A few growers in southeast Alabama started planting this week. Mostly, we are waiting to get past the rain that’s expected over the weekend. Some folks may start early next week.
“I would rather see somebody wait until the ground temperature is 65 degrees or better. Then again, some of the older guys have always said: ‘If you are going to replant, you better get started planting early.’
“Some folks who planted before a significant rain last year had to replant, and those acres didn’t perform as well as the cotton that was planted later.
“Who knows which is right? We are doing so much of this out here just because it’s time to do it and because we don’t ever know whether the rain is coming – or if it’s coming. Some guys are worried that the rain will turn off and they won’t have the needed moisture later if they wait to plant.
“When we do get planted, we need to protect our cotton from grasshoppers and cutworms.
“For our other crops, corn looks good, and a few soybeans are up.”
John Beasley, South Georgia Crop Services, Inc., Screven, Georgia
“We aren’t in the cotton fields yet. Some people wanted to start planting this week, but we had a big rain early. I’m usually jumping up and down wanting people to start, but I think we’re better off waiting for warmer soil conditions.
“For thrips control, a few of my clients will use a seed treatment, but the majority will apply an in-furrow treatment. When you look at what’s crawling over these corn plants and see what’s going on in tobacco, it looks like we’re going to have a lot of thrips pressure. We need to protect our cotton.”
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.