Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University:
“Cotton planting is running at a high speed pretty much statewide. Cooler temperatures will create a real struggle for our planted and emerging fields. In central Alabama, we expect 4 or 5 nights in the 40s, with highs at 70-plus. Those numbers will be a little higher farther south. We would all like warmer weather, and we also need rain out of this front. We are dry.
“The cool nights will complicate our thrips control. With these temperatures, cotton won’t grow fast, so it’s more susceptible to thrips injury, even under low pressure. For south and central Alabama, the worst thrips pressure is behind us, but we are likely to see thrips damage in this slow-growing cotton.
“People continue reporting true armyworms from fields in central Alabama under heavy burndown.
“Grasshoppers are reaching the adult stage, so move to acephate and increase the rate to 0.75 lb/acre if a treatment is necessary. To decide whether the population is made up of immatures or adults, see whether they jump or fly. If they can fly, they are adults.
“When we treat grasshoppers, we are controlling risk. The risk with grasshoppers is that we never know if they are going to eat cotton.
“I’m giving an early warning about plant bugs. We are seeing plant bugs at all stages – from just-hatched immatures to adults. They are turning up in daisy fleabane, their primary host in early spring. Daisy fleabane started appearing earlier than usual due to warmer temperatures in March, so our plant bug population may develop a little earlier than normal.
“Rain in May influences their movement because vegetation on field borders remains attractive to plant bugs and holds them there. But if conditions turn dry in May, the fleabane also dries down, which prompts plant bugs to move from the natural host to cotton. So instead of mid-June movement into cotton, plant bugs could migrate into cotton in early June.
“If that’s the case, plant bugs could move into cotton fields before the crop starts squaring this year. If they can’t find pinhead squares to feed on, they’ll hit that delicate terminal. Terminal damage, in turn, can lead to the ‘crazy cotton’ growth pattern.”
Brandon Phillips, Phillips Ag Services, LLC, Fitzgerald, Georgia:
“We started planting a little on Saturday (5/2). As of Monday, both cotton and peanuts were quickly going in the ground. Probably 10% of our cotton and peanuts have been planted.
“Nobody is scared of the cool weather that’s coming. On the calendar, it’s May, so it’s time to plant. By the end of the week, we may be 20% finished. Looking at the weather forecast over the next seven days, I feel good about planting.
“I think cotton acres will be down 10% to 15% overall. Of the acres that moved out of cotton, probably 30% went to corn and the other 70 percent went to peanuts. A lot of $425-a-ton peanut contracts have been available, and peanuts pencil out so that farmers can make money.
“Peanut planting is more challenging than cotton right now. People who broke their peanut ground early are having a hard time getting back in the field because the soil is still too wet. With peanut seed quality issues, we are putting out 200 lbs/acre of seed to gain a good stand. We typically plant 160 to 170 lbs/acre.
“We are ending up with 5 to 6 plants per foot, which is roughly a 60% stand. Everybody is a little cautious about the seed quality issue this year. The seed supply is short, so good seed for replanting would be limited, as well.
“On the 2,000 acres of our cotton that’s up, we have treated every acre for thrips, no matter what treatment went out with the seed. If temperatures had been optimum, we might have treated only half of those acres. With the colder conditions, cotton can’t outgrow the thrips.
David Butcher, NC Ag Service, Inc., Pantego, North Carolina:
“We’ve planted a good deal of corn and beans, but not much cotton. Most of the corn has been planted and it’s coming up well. Plenty of beans went in earlier than normal. Overall, it hasn’t been warm enough for plants to grow very much yet.
“After this warm winter, I’m expecting heavier-than-normal insect pressure. One of the questions is whether the late-season problems we have had the last year or two in corn were due to billbugs or stink bugs.