Cotton – Southwest: Insects Coming on Strong; Variety Concerns

    Cotton seedlings. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

    Debra Ferguson, Editor


    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton, sponsored by the Southwest team of PhytoGen cottonseed.


    Stress levels are high and the necessity of self-distancing sure makes it tough when you can’t meet for coffee or lunch to talk about what’s happening in the field. Consider setting up a free virtual Zoom gathering with your best farm friends. If nothing else, you’ll get to laugh together, and right now, that’s a win.

    Insect pressure is already on in southern areas with thrips, aphids and fleahoppers hiding in the weeds.

    Oklahoma growers are worried about seed quality and size in variety selection, where vigor and germination are concerns.

    Kansas growers are still deciding what to plant; in other words, what’s going to lose the least money.

    Arizona acres will likely be off by 20% or more.



    David Kerns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Professor and Statewide IPM Coordinator:

    “Cotton is squaring in parts of South Texas, but most of ours is just coming up or ready to be planted around College Station. We’ve seen thrips and need to watch for potential damage. There are no issues with seed treatments, but they will wear off after the first true leaf.

    “Cotton aphids are common in the early planted crop further south. There are also quite a few fleahoppers. Even though it’s too early to start worrying, our wet spring has created a perfect environment for them. Excessive weeds in ditches are good hosts for fleahoppers.

    “A few fields have bollworm eggs. We’re not that concerned this early in the season, but there’s no reason to believe we won’t have large bollworm populations later on. We saw large numbers in late June and early July last year. After that, most other issues were minor.

    “Corn looks good, but we’re picking up a lot of rootworm and wireworm infestations. While seed treatments tend to hold well for wireworms, rootworms are a whole different beast. In our tests, we’ve seen activity where fields don’t have the right Bt technology or seed treatment for rootworms. There were issues with them coming through Bt technology last year. We will collect resistance information in our research this year.”


    Seth Byrd, Oklahoma State University Extension Cotton Specialist, Stillwater/Altus:

    “We’re on a warm track after being cold, but still looking at the end of the month before Oklahoma’s initial cotton planting begins. We’re not sure if the state will reach the 680,000 cotton acres the USDA projected. I don’t think cotton is crazy attractive to anyone right now, but it still may be the best crop alternative out there.

    “We have good looking wheat, so acres planted as a cover crop for cotton may be carried out to harvest. But the freezes we had last week could impact those decisions. Weed control is often an issue – when to terminate wheat or other crops to provide residue for cotton. Those growers may not use a yellow herbicide as a burndown. We hope to determine which preplant herbicides work best in these situations, and we encourage using residual herbicides every step of the way in weed control. Some growers are switching from straight no-till to strip-till to improve weed control and other factors.

    “Cotton variety selection is still a big question. New varieties look promising, but seed quality and seed sizes are a concern. It’s tough for us to give a straight answer on selection because there’s variability in seed performance. In many cases, variety selection is coming back around to basic traits of vigor and germination.”


    Clyde Crumley, Crumley Agricultural Consulting, El Campo, Texas:

    “Early cotton is again a mixed bag. The balance has been planted and looks good, but overall it varies from just planted to right up to squaring. We had a 3-day cool spell with temperatures in the upper 40s last week. That’s not conducive to growing cotton, but we received beneficial rains that ranged from 2 inches in Matagorda County to 0.2 of an inch elsewhere.

    “Thrips are an issue where seed treatments have quit. We’re controlling them by applying Orthene while applying post-emerge herbicides. First fleahopper treatments are also going out. A systemic insecticide is taking care of them and we look for at least 10 days of control. But with all of the weeds and grass in ditches, we expect to see a lot of fleahopper and other insect pressure all season. I’ve already seen some spider mites on cotyledon – something else to grit your teeth at.

    “Thankfully, weed control looks good. Most residuals have been applied, and we’ve had favorable weather to activate them. Farmers are paying close attention to their post-emerge applications. They know their herbicide chemistry, as well as their neighbor’s and the wind direction before spraying.

    “The overall corn crop is progressing well. Corn will tassel in a couple of weeks.”


    Stu Duncan, Kansas State University Crops & Soils Specialist, Manhattan:

    “Growers are still debating how much cotton to plant. I discussed the issue with a district agent yesterday (4/20). We looked at what guys can plant that would lose the least money. I had anticipated another bump in cotton acres. But the low price has growers thinking more about it.

    “Guys who have grown it will stick with cotton in their rotation. Last year they still more than broke even, which didn’t happen with anything else they raised. We had about 200 guys attend our mid-state cotton conference in Wichita earlier this year, so there is still interest. But with the low prices, I’ll be tickled if we have the same number of acres as in 2019. They just need to figure it out.

    “Stress levels are high on all growers. It’s like they were in the ’80s when prices were so low. After this self-distancing, it would help if guys could get together for a cup of coffee to talk about it.”


    Tyler Mays, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hill County:

    “Our planting would be going strong if we hadn’t caught all of the rain in recent weeks. Most corn finally got planted, and I’m watching the only planter I know of that’s planting cotton today (4/20). It’s amazing how you can drive 50 miles south on I-35 and see cotton that’s already at 1 true leaf outside of Temple.

    “We finally expect our planting to be in full swing later this week, if not the start of next week. Soil temperatures are in the mid-60s and the forecast looks favorable for the next few days.

    “Burndown herbicide is working well and holding strong. You can see weed pressure on fields where guys didn’t apply a burndown.”


    Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist, Safford:

    “Arizona cotton acres are going to be down considerably. I talked with a grower in Goodyear today (4/20) and he said his acres will be down 30%. Most growers are in the same situation. I think the state will be down 20 to 25%.

    “Meanwhile, cotton is up in the Yuma area. Yuma’s earlier stuff went in March 5. It was hit with a 5-inch rain and still came up. It’s at 3 to 4 leaf. There aren’t any problems with thrips because most guys put down an insecticide at planting. Due to the many year-round produce and other rotational crops, growers don’t plant treated seed. Since it’s usually warm, they don’t need fungal protection either.

    “Central Arizona has about 15% of the acreage planted. The higher elevations in the southeast are just now getting started. Pima planted acres will make up about one-third of the southeast region’s crop.”


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    AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Owen Taylor, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the main cotton growing 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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