Cotton – Southeast – Where They Can, Farmers Are Planting Like Crazy – AgFax

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    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.


    Temperatures will dip over the weekend, which likely will put planting on hold in the upper Southeast. Conditions are more conducive for planting in the lower portions of our coverage area, and farmers there are racing to plant while they still have moisture. In places, farmers would welcome rain.

    As plant growth stalls in cooler conditions, thrips become a bigger threat to emerging cotton and small, vulnerable plants. The sentiment leans towards more spraying.



    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.


    “Historically, a significant portion of corn isn’t scouted here. This year, we will scout early for stink bugs. Some people plan to proactively make an application about three weeks after planting to see if that helps. Farmers also are wondering whether it would be more helpful to add another crop to the rotation.

    “We typically go with corn and beans, which might not be enough. If we put cotton back in the rotation, we would plant corn every third year instead of every other year.”

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

    “Moisture is going to drive planting decisions at this point. Planters are rolling, and farmers are trying to take advantage of the soil moisture that we have right now. It’s already turning dry in the southern portion of the state. It’s crazy – we’re either wet or dry, and it doesn’t seem like there’s an in-between.

    “I planted a trial into good moisture last week, but it hasn’t rained on those plots since then. I imagine a lot of our growers are in the same boat. We need a little moisture to activate pre-emerge herbicides and gain a good stand. Cotton is very forgiving once it’s out of the ground. The challenge right now is simply getting it up.

    “Once you have a cotton stand, you can’t be too early with a thrips application, but you certainly can spray too late. Our research has shown that you can’t be too early when you can see most of the plants emerged.

    “In fields that are under pressure from grasshoppers, false chinch bugs or cutworms, go with acephate if thrips are an issue, too. That also will help with grasshoppers at the heavier ‘grasshopper’ rate.

    “Pyrethroids at planting or at emergence will control those other insects but won’t touch thrips. So, if grasshoppers and thrips are an issue in fields that already are up, consider heavier rates of acephate for grasshoppers and thrips as newly planted cotton emerges in subsequent fields.”

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

    “Planting has been slow and frustrating, and we aren’t recommending any cotton planting this week. It is without question a bad time to plant. Lows will run in the 40s for several nights in a row, and DD-60s will be negative. Based on current weather forecasts, it will be the early to middle part of next week before we’d even consider planting cotton.

    “Growers who planted cotton last Saturday (5/2) have the best chance of gaining a stand. Where cotton was planted on Sunday, making a stand looks a bit iffy. Anything planted Monday (5/4) will probably have to be replanted. Pay close attention to planting forecasts. It doesn’t make sense to plant when the odds at that point favor to replanting.

    “Right now, we aren’t behind. In 7 to 10 days, we will be behind, but we also have been through worse than this in terms of late planting.”

    Eddie McGriff, Regional Extension Agronomist, Northeast Alabama:

    “We have been planting cotton for about a week. Everybody is going hard, and growers have planted 10% to 20% of our expected cotton. With the forecast showing temperatures down in the low 40s – and maybe as low as 39 — people are nervous. Do they continue planting or hold off a bit?

    “Of course, they also worry about conditions turning dry, which would complicate trying to plant later. Most farmers will likely keep planting, but they might go a little slower.


    “Soybeans will be the last crop planted. When farmers wanted to plant early soybeans, it was too wet in most cases, and only a few growers were able to cover any acres at that point.

    “Certain growers always have problems with grasshoppers, and it seems to be in the same fields every year. But I’m not hearing about insect issues yet.”

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

    “Farmers in lower Alabama have been planting wide open for a while now. It’s a race to plant down there – temperatures are warming up, but moisture is fleeing – and we’ll need rain soon.

    “The forecast calls for cooler conditions in north Alabama, and that’s a concern there. Temperatures over the weekend could drop into the low 40s in places, maybe even into the high 30s.

    “If I were looking at that forecast, I wouldn’t be too anxious to plant. We aren’t behind yet, and we have time right now to wait out this cold spell. A lot of farmers in north Alabama have tremendous planting capacity, so they can quickly cover plenty of ground. Hopefully, next week, north Alabama will turn the corner from spring to summer conditions.”

    Steve Bullard, CCA, BCT Gin Co., Quitman, Georgia:

    “We are rolling hard down here, planting and replanting. Some growers jumped out early, mostly trying 50 or 100 acres – and not knowing that 6 to 8 inches of rain would follow. All of that will have to be replanted. The stands started out okay, but seedling disease jumped on a lot of that cotton. When that happens, a decent stand goes downhill fast.

    “We also replanted some peanuts. We had peanut seed with good germination, but the conditions were not conducive for making a stand.

    “Most growers hesitated about starting before this week, and they made the right choice. Even though we have cool nights coming, we can get by with planting as long as the days stay warm. Overall, we don’t have a lot planted for it to be May 6, but with the equipment folks run today, they can cover a good deal of ground.

    “With the cotton market where it’s at, they’re not real excited about planting cotton to start with. When we throw these weather complications on top of that, everyone becomes a bit frustrated.

    “Even though cotton prices aren’t good, most of our guys will try to stay close to their rotation. They may vary their crop mix a little, but they aren’t straying too far from a three-year rotation.”


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    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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