Cotton – Southwest – Dry Weather; Insect Pressure Begins – AgFax

    Emerged cotton seedling. Photo: Orlando Flores, El Paso County, Texas AgriLife

    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.


    Where’s the rain? Dry weather and cool temperatures in some areas have slowed planting and put a watch on emerging seedlings as May kicks in. Meanwhile, growers in El Paso County are “knocking on wood” as the crop gets off to a great start.  

    Thrips sprays are going out this week. A run of fleahoppers and aphids came into Paul Pilsner’s fields but rainfall moved them out, for now. Blayne Reed is concerned about wireworms where a wheat cover crop was used.

    Cotton growers in Kansas have a fair amount of moisture, and Rex Friesen says there might be a potential to make a little profit this year.



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

    “With recent temperatures in the high 80s and 90s, a few folks started planting in Southwestern Oklahoma. But we remain dry. It’s not a critical situation, but rain wouldn’t hurt anyone. With the dry weather and high winds, there could be early stand damage from blowing dust.

    “We are watching soil and above-ground temperatures. The forecast is for several days with lows in the 40s and 50s this week in the panhandle. Soil temperatures that had been above 60 degrees could drop quickly and put pressure on seed. Plants that have emerged should handle the cooler temperatures. If seed is still in the ground, it will need enough fuel to push plants along. We typically need at least 5 to 7 days of good weather after planting.

    “It’s not just the cold overnight lows, but how long the soil temperatures remain below 60. Again, if you’re above ground, you’re probably fine. However, guys need to monitor those fields for thrips and be ready to make insecticide applications if needed. We don’t want any pressure from thrips.

    “We’re concerned about freeze damage on wheat from cold nights in mid-April. Guys are deciding whether to cut it, bale it, or terminate it and follow up with cotton.”


    Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas:

    “Most guys finished planting cotton last week, and it’s coming up nicely in the central Blacklands. With our hot temperatures, it could use a half-inch to 1-inch rain. In the Brazos Bottom, there is 2- to 4-leaf cotton. Thrips are showing up there and we’ll be treating for those.

    “We’re getting weeds wrapped up with herbicide applications. When we were dodging rains, guys planted straight into weeds. It was a little more trouble to get them under control.

    “Corn is waist high with good moisture down deep. Side-dressing fertilizer has gone out. Urea and Aflaguard, a product that helps control aflatoxin, applications will start soon. I’m treating more sorghum than I planned on because guys couldn’t get corn planted. It is 6 to 8 inches tall. Wheat is maturing fast and we’ll be harvesting before long.” 


    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock:

    “We’re much cooler this week after warm weather last week. With highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s and 50s, conditions don’t look good for planting. Hopefully, guys will hold off on heavy planting to avoid damage to seed or stands.

    “There’s a little rain in the forecast, which is exciting. The area has been dry, so it might be a planting rain.

    “The pandemic has caused much anxiety. But for farmers, there’s not a whole lot of change. They’re going to get their crops planted. Agriculture is an essential industry, and planting preparation hasn’t stopped. I still haven’t heard of any retailer problems. Fields are clean and prepped, and burndowns are going down. Guys are ready to roll.”


    Blayne Reed, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hale, Floyd & Swisher Counties:

    “Guys are chomping at the bit to start planting. Temperatures look okay, but we need rain. We’ve only had 2 inches of moisture since last October. A few growers planted dryland acres to get the rust knocked off, but we’re mostly relying on irrigation to get things established.

    “There is concern about low temperatures in the 40s this week. But as dry as it is, we don’t have enough soil moisture to germinate seed. As long as soil moisture doesn’t hit it, seed is as safe in the ground as it is in the bag.

    “Our biggest concern is the potential for wireworms. Much of the wheat used for a cover crop is rougher and ranker, which often creates a wireworm problem. Seed treatments have good efficiency against insect damage, but wireworms can overcome these treatments and take out a stand. Guys need to have an insecticide program ready to go.

    “Weed control looks good. Growers have jumped on them, but I’d like to see residual herbicides applied quicker to maintain solid control. 

    “Most corn has gone in, as has early-planted sorghum. But the only thing that will turn green is under irrigation. Our overall irrigated acres are shrinking as the Ogallala aquifer depletes. That problem is another story.”

    Orlando Flores, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, El Paso County:

    “I’m not going to lie – it’s looking good. We planted our Pima varieties a couple of weeks ago, and emergence is strong on everything. I have a small family farm, and my cotton has emerged well. This hot weather is great for cotton.

    “We’re planting upland trials tomorrow (5/5), and we’re also planting fusarium wilt FOV4 research plots. That research is partially funded by Cotton Inc., in conjunction with Texas A&M, New Mexico State and USDA. We need to find resistance to that disease.

    “There is good weed control. After fusarium wilt FOV4 came in, most guys got away from conventional varieties. We’ll have to watch for weed outbreaks once we begin irrigating. We have virtually a full allotment of water available to our irrigation district. All looks good at this point – knock on wood.”



    Robert Flynn, New Mexico State University Extension Soils/Agronomist, Artesia:

    “Cotton is up around Artesia and in southeastern New Mexico. With warmer temperatures, guys planted a little early. Most cotton is in the 2-leaf stage. We still have one more test trial to plant for breeding research.

    “Growers have done a good job with their early weed control programs and fields look clean so far. We could use rain to help the young plants and supplement irrigation.”


    Danielle Sekula Ortiz, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Lower Rio Grande Valley:

    “The Valley is still extremely dry. The Boll Weevil Eradication Program estimated our cotton plantings at about 166,000 acres. Of those, about 30,000 have already been failed-out due to lack of moisture.

    “Most remaining cotton is squaring. Thankfully, only a handful of fields have fleahoppers, and there’s no significant damage. I’m seeing whitefly adults in a few areas, as well as moderate populations of cotton aphids. Weeds are not a problem. That’s likely why we don’t have many fleahoppers, which need host plants.

    “There is an increase in sugarcane aphid in sorghum, but I have noticed plenty of predators to help hold down populations. There are a few headworms, but nothing worth spraying.”


    Rex Friesen, Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Co-op, Winfield:

    “It’s still early for many to be planting up here. However, someone texted me last week when it was warmer and said, ‘right or wrong, I planted’. We’ll see how that fares. There is moisture in our area, so if they’re planting, they’re planting into a good soil profile. Let’s hope cold temperatures in the forecast don’t cause problems.

    “I think people are budgeting for loan-rate cotton. They feel there’s a chance for that to make money. We average 800 to 1,000 pounds on dryland. If growers can pull off a 1,000-pound dryland yield with 55-cent cotton, they might make a little money.” 


    Peter Dotray, Texas Tech University Weed Scientist (joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife), Lubbock:

    “Growers are ready to get started – and most will be planting into clean fields. From what I’ve seen in fields after rain or irrigation, the benefits of applying a yellow herbicide remain strong. They are holding back early emerging Palmer amaranth. It’s that good old practice of starting with clean fields.

    “There are a few patches of perennial weeds such as field bindweed. Growers are encouraged to use at-plant herbicides to help broaden the spectrum of weed control and help extend that residual herbicide activity several weeks into the growing season. They need to be ready after cotton emerges. Once it comes out of the ground, be looking for escaped weeds and hit them when they are small.

    “Make sure to apply herbicide technologies under the right conditions. We need to know the herbicide technology and our surrounding environment. There are lots of good technologies to control weeds. They just need to be used according to their labels.”


    Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas:

    “We are blessed on the Upper Coast. There was good rain last week, and crops look spectacular. Cotton looks exceptional. Its growth ranges from just now planted, to plants with 13 nodes. It is amazing. I’d rate it excellent overall.

    “We had a run of fleahoppers and aphids last week, but rainfall disrupted them. You can hardly find one fleahopper, but we know there will be another migration. This week we’re spraying for thrips.

    “Weed control has been a challenge due to flushes after rain, and wind that can limit when herbicide can be applied. They have to be ready to spray. Most of my guys are using Enlist cotton and are pleased with it. Growers are very proactive. They don’t hurt the neighbors with drift, and their neighbors don’t hurt them. 

    “Other crops are also off to a good start. Corn received rainfall a little late but should be fine. Sorghum looks excellent. So do soybeans.”


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

    “It’s 105 today (5/5), good cotton planting weather. We’ll have 98% of our research plots finished by week’s end. Statewide, the crop is 80 to 90% planted. From what I’ve seen, there are good stands across the state. The furthest along is around Yuma at pinhead square with 5 to 7 nodes. Most fields in central and southeastern Arizona are at 1 to 2 leaves.

    “There are reports of thrips injury around Yuma, but nothing that’s a cause for concern. There is also armyworm pressure on non-Bt cotton. 

    “I’ve had several conversations with growers who are concerned about glyphosate-resistant weeds and their plans for this year. More growers are using residual herbicides to knock back the pigweed populations. More are switching to Dicamba herbicide technology. A few are going with Enlist cotton.”


    John Thobe, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Bailey County:

    “With warm ground temperatures, many guys are getting ready to plant cotton and corn, and we’re putting out cotton trials. But if guys have sufficient irrigation water, we may see more silage acres due to low cotton prices. Wheatlage that’s coming off looks good, and there’s a better market for silages at regional dairies and feedyards.

    “Growers are on top of weed control, and field preparation looks outstanding. With COVID-19 self-isolation, growers had time on their hands to get things done.

    “There is some pressure from alfalfa weevil. I don’t expect them to move into late summer crops. We may watch for aphids coming out of wheat, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

    AgFax News Links

    Texas LRGV: Hot, Dry Conditions Hurting Crops 5-5

    Dicamba: Request to Ban Post Emergence Use – DTN   5-4

    Cleveland On Cotton: A Tipping Point In India?   5-1

    Weekly Cotton Market Review – USDA   5-1   

    Texas Blacklands: Fusarium Head Blight Concerns; Cotton Planting Begins 4-30

    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.
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