Cotton – Southeast – Better Planting Weather (Hopefully) – AgFax

    Cotton planting. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    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.


    Heavy rain and cold temperatures stalled cotton planting in April through much of the Southeast, but the weather forecast looks far more promising as we head into the first week of May. Planters should be running more widely, and higher temperatures will prompt quick emergence and growth. That is, if the forecast holds.

    Redbanded stinkbugs overwintered in south Alabama at least as far north as Prattville. They’re not a problem in cotton. But as Midsouth farmers attest, this insect can damage soybean seeds and trigger yield losses if left unchecked. See comments by Ron Smith.

    Grasshoppers remain active in parts of the Southeast.



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

    “We have been in the 40s, and that’s too cold for cotton sitting in the ground. But temperatures are expected to hit 90 on Sunday and Monday, so it will suddenly be summer. Everybody in our area likely will reevaluate planting plans after the rain today (4/29). Some farmers are planting this week, and everybody will be in the field next week.

    “We will likely have issues soon with pests in some areas in minimum tillage fields that weren’t burned down well in advance of planting. That list of pests includes false cinch bugs, cutworms and grasshoppers. We need to burn down at least three weeks before planting. Otherwise, pests cross the green bridge from weeds to the new crop. You also reduce thrips pressure with a burndown that dries up any residue.

    “For our area, the Thrips Infestation Predictor Tool (connect to it in the Also of Note section) shows that we have come out of the woods for planting in the southern part of South Carolina. But our PeeDee region has another high-risk zone during the first week of May.

    “If a grower can hold off planting until mid- or late-May, he can reduce the risk of thrips injury. When you have a lot of acres, you may have to start early. But if you can be flexible, planting a bit later could reduce your risk and save some money.

    “I have seen cases where five days difference in planting dates can make a night-and-day difference in terms of thrips pressure.”


    Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University:

    “We offer three tools to help cotton farmers make planting decisions: the Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator, the NCDA Cotton Seed Quality Database, and the Thrips Infestation Predictor for Cotton. They are all listed under Calculators and Decision Aids on the North Carolina State Cotton Page.

    “Before planting, we encourage farmers to look at our database for cottonseed testing. Seed quality is an especially important factor on those days when conditions might not be exactly ideal for planting.

    “Looking at the Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator, the weather is right on that fence of being okay to plant. We can’t say we have a green light for everybody every day. We are kind of hedging on that fence. Some days are good enough, but with other days we need to hold off.


    “We encourage farmers to consult the planting conditions calculator – check it in the morning and check it in the evening. If the forecast changes, you’ll see that reflected in the calculator.

    “If it doesn’t rain a lot on Thursday night, you’re going to see plenty of planting start Saturday. And that’s right on time. How much we will plant depends on how much it rains on Thursday and what the weather does later next week.”


    Jennifer Bearden, Extension Agricultural Agent, Okaloosa County, Florida:

    “Our corn is up a little, and cotton is just going into the ground. Our mild winter means thrips and insect control need to be a strong focus for everybody.

    “People already are reporting grasshoppers in high numbers. It’s critical to stay on top of thrips and make sure we don’t leave things open for tomato spotted wilt virus to develop in our peanuts.

    “Closely scout young crops to see whether pests exceed thresholds. We haven’t detected worm issues in corn yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me for that to sneak up quickly.”


    Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University:

    “The planting window will likely open wide the first of next week. We saw a few tractors in the field early this week, although not many considering that we were in our heavy production areas in south Alabama. After this next front moves through, nearly everybody is going to be chomping at the bit to start planting. After all, it will be May after this week. That’s when we plant cotton.

    “Keep watching the thrips predictor tool. The heaviest pressure for thrips will be in north Alabama in May, which is when the cotton will be emerging. What I see in terms of the model’s forecasts all goes back to rainfall patterns. Where it rained more, thrips movement has been pushed into May. Where it rained less, thrips movement occurred in April. That’s the case in south Alabama – the heavy thrips pressure was in April, so it’s behind us now.

    “We are seeing heavy grasshopper pressure, with most still in the immature stage. While small, it’s easy to control them with just about any cotton insecticide.

    “When we see more immatures following an insecticide application, that may not be because the treatment failed or didn’t work well. Grasshoppers don’t uniformly emerge from their overwintering position in the soil, and they can come out over a period of time.

    “Our recommendation for grasshopper control is to make a burndown application that includes an insecticide that’s tank-mixed with an insect growth regulator (IGR) for residual control.

    “Auburn Extension Entomologist Scott Graham found redbanded stinkbugs (RBSB) on crimson clover at Prattville. That means they are overwintering at least that far north and likely any place south of there, including the Florida Panhandle.

    “RBSB does not damage cotton, only soybeans, and they probably won’t begin to hit soybeans until the crop begins developing seeds in the pod. My advice is to wait until early pod fill before considering a spray to control them, and then make an application that covers stinkbugs and foliage feeders, such as velvetbean caterpillars and soybean loopers, which also tend to start building at early pod fill.”


    Steve Brown, Extension Cotton Agronomist, Auburn University, Alabama:

    “Folks in south Alabama are in the field planting peanuts and cotton, but it doesn’t look like a lot of acres have been covered yet. That’s going to change Friday afternoon (5/1) when we turn the corner on springtime and head to summer.

    “We do think it pays to watch the thrips model to schedule planting. Cotton that was planted earlier — like a field we saw that was planted a couple of weeks ago — is struggling. That cotton was in cold ground and not growing. When it’s just sitting there, thrips can tear it up. In that specific case, those farmers don’t know if they will make a stand.

    “Generally, warm weather and a good thrips spray will help the crop turn the corner and start growing. With good seed vigor, cotton can outgrow thrips damage, albeit sometimes with help from that thrips overspray. 

    “When temperatures warm up, cotton will emerge in 4 or 5 days instead of a week or so.

    “With prices where they are, we might see a slight decrease in cotton acres. It’s hard to say for sure because this is such a tumultuous time — both in terms of the economy and in our personal lives.

    “The corn weather has been so bad that farmers backed off corn, but soybean prices don’t look good, either. It’s a survival year. The only thing that might lure some acres to soybean is that we don’t have to spend as much to plant them.”


    Brandon Dillard, Seed Certification Associate, Alabama Crop Improvement:

    “Anywhere from 4 to 7 inches of rain fell on our fields last week. Planters started back to work on Tuesday and, with more rain expected, they likely will stop again today (Wednesday, 4/29).

    “Since we had a long thrips season last year – then followed by a mild winter – we expect high thrips pressure this year. We need to do whatever possible to control thrips – whether it’s in-furrow, hopper boxes, oversprays – just to stay on top of them.

    “We already see grasshoppers. Remember that the smaller they are, the easier they are to control.

    “In corn, post-emergence herbicides and fertilizer are going out. Rainfall has been perfect for corn, and some older corn is touching.

    “Most everybody is focusing on planting peanuts and cotton. A few folks have switched some cotton acres to peanuts. A fellow once told me that if I can’t make it in the short-term, I can’t make it in the long-term. So, if you can, stay on your rotation.

    “Switching less than 10% of your acreage out of rotation might make sense, but you don’t want to wreck your rotation for price. You also have to think about harvest. If you move heavily into one commodity, do you have enough equipment to harvest all those extra acres this fall?”


    Johnny Parker, Agronomist, Commonwealth Gin, Windsor, Virginia:

    “Planting season is upon us, although it will certainly be a different season than we have experienced in recent years. We hope Tuesday (4/28) was the last day with temperatures below 40 degrees, although we’re still not going directly into summer.

    “Early May’s forecast says that temperatures will remain below normal, although still adequately warm enough to begin planting.

    “When temperatures every day are above 80 degrees, planting is easy and fast – and every variety looks good and every strategy works. Last year was like that, and cotton came up the same week that you planted it. This year, I expect early-planted cotton will need a couple of weeks to emerge.


    “Most of the seed-treatment pest protection strategies will last 2 to 3 weeks, and last year cotton had a few leaves by then. This year, cotton will just be making a good stand during that initial two to three weeks.

    “Overall, I’m comfortable with the start, provided we have high seed quality with 65% cool germ or higher. That said, this might be a good year to push seed population over 43,000 per acre. Cotton isn’t going to grow fast for the first month, but that’s okay. We also probably won’t see blooming too early, which also is okay. June blooms add a risk of forcing cotton into premature cutout if July is dry.”


    Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina:

    “We caught a few narrow windows for fieldwork, but conditions generally delayed everything we needed to do. I’m hoping after the round of rain today (Wednesday, 4/29) that folks can make a good start. We are expecting more rain next week. But starting on Friday, we can do plenty before it rains again.

    “All of our corn was pretty much planted during an open period from April 3 to April 10. Some growers planted all of their intended corn. With others, it ranged from as little as 30% to about 70%. Among farmers who didn’t finish, some have walked away from more corn, while others are still trying to finish their intended acres.

    “What those unplanted acres move to now depends on the grower. Some will shift to soybean, but others will go to cotton.

    “Our cotton acres may be off 10%, conservatively speaking. We do have some soybeans planted – just a few fields. Overall, we could see a bump in soybean acres as people move away from corn or cotton to soybeans.

    “We need to closely watch the thrips prediction model and respond accordingly. The model has helped us manage that risk in recent years.

    “We planted less wheat than normal. Growers with wheat have been able to work in their herbicide and fungicide applications, even though they only had about five days this season when they could be in the field.

    “A lot of people ask about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting our work. We’re practicing social distancing and can still work with growers as long as we stay within guidelines. Like our growers, the weather has hampered us more than anything else.”

    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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