Cotton – Southeast – The Crop Eases Into A Better Gear, Finally – AgFax

    Cotton bloom near Halfway, Texas. Photo: Larry Stalcup, AgFax Media

    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.


    After a rough start, most of the Southeast’s 2020 cotton crop has eased into a better gear.

    Pest pressure remains mostly muted, although applications have been going out on a localized basis. Depending on the area, the mix might include spider mites or whitefly. Some growers and crop advisors may hold back on treating aphids or plant bugs for fear of flaring mites or whiteflies.



    Ron Smith, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University

    “The biggest issue is an emerging problem with spider mites. The first reports are coming out of central Alabama, but mites could be in other areas and just haven’t been noticed yet. This week we saw places where spider mites killed plants in the middle of the field. When they kill the plants, they have been present for a long time.

    “I won’t be surprised to see them down in south Alabama, like in Geneva, Covington and Escambia Counties. They’re probably there in low numbers and will build and be noticed if it gets dry. Growers who want to consult on treatment options can call me at 334-332-9501.

    “Thrips shouldn’t be a problem on this late-planted cotton. We can find damage in fields with 1 to 3 true leaves. But a treatment could aggravate that spider mite situation, so just try to ride through it.

    “We expect plant bugs to move from daisy fleabane into cotton around June 22 to June 25 in southeast Alabama. We’re concerned about this plant bug movement, which could be significant, because we now have pinhead squares on at least three fruiting sites on those plants.”


    Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia

    “We’re hearing spotty reports of poor square retention on early-April cotton due to tarnished plant bugs. This is happening in a small percentage of fields. With 25% to 30% of our cotton squaring, we need to closely scout and confirm we have a problem before we treat. For those who have sweep nets, it’s a good idea to get out there. Trigger sprays only if square retention is below 80% and you observe plant bugs in a field.

    “Hopefully, the plant bug situation will follow suit as in other years and go away as more cotton moves into squaring.

    “Aphids are starting slower than in previous years. We do see hot spots in most fields, and the infested areas are growing larger. Aphids eventually infest every field, but we’re certainly watching them more closely than in the past because they transfer cotton leafroll dwarf virus. We’re just hoping that the naturally occurring aphid fungus takes them out before it’s necessary to treat.

    “We are picking up low but detectable numbers of whiteflies in the areas where they historically build. We went through a very mild winter, so we are monitoring populations closely. A dry June or July will favor whitefly development. Rain will help keep these populations down.

    “It’s critical to preserve beneficial insects so that they will help us control whiteflies. And when we make a treatment decision, whiteflies must be part of the equation. Do I need to treat, or can I hold off? And, what product should I use? For instance, if plant bugs are nearing threshold and you have whiteflies in the field, should you treat? That answer is no. Wait until you reach threshold.

    “I still believe we are off to a positive start. At least from the road, stands look good overall.”


    Chad Savery, Anchor Ag Solutions LLC, Fairhope, Alabama

    “We just started seeing aphids this week. They are on all ages of cotton, and it’s just that time period for aphids. When we begin sweeping ants into the net, we know the aphids are there. Will we treat them? We won’t spray right now, but we will watch them closely.


    “Plant bug sprays are going out on 10% to 15% of our cotton acreage, so that will help knock back aphids.

    “We’re concerned about nematode symptoms, and their effect on cotton seems to get worse every year. Our biggest problem is the reniform nematode, and we are limited in what we can do to control them, especially in-season. Ideally, we stretch out the rotation, but crop options are limited in a dryland system. We hope to see some cotton varieties that offer strong resistance to reniform nematodes.

    “Most of the cotton is around 6 to 8 nodes, but this crop stretches from 2 leaves to 11 nodes. In the bigger cotton, we are initiating plant growth regulator applications.”


    Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina

    “I can easily find tarnished plant bugs. Plant bugs most years are a real problem in only 10% to 20% of our fields, so we have to look at 100% of our fields to figure out which ones have a population that could be a problem. We want to maintain 75% to 80% square retention and delay treatments unless we see 8 to 10 plant bugs per 100 sweeps. The key here is to look at both factors. And we don’t need to confuse physiological shed with insect damage.

    “Aphids are starting to show up in growers’ fields, but we don’t need to worry about them and the cotton leafroll dwarf virus they transmit. I haven’t seen any widespread problem with yields related to the virus, so let’s don’t panic and treat aphids to prevent it. We are still learning about the virus and vector combinations to determine whether it will hurt yields.

    “Enough rain has fallen to keep spider mite populations low.”


    Jack Royal, Royal’s Agricultural Consulting Co., Inc., Leary, Georgia

    “Weed control is the pressing issue in peanuts. We’ve already applied a lot of herbicide and we’re still applying it, depending on the age of the peanuts. Fungicide applications are starting and will gain momentum next week.

    “In cotton, we are sidedressing nitrogen and applying plant growth regulators. We’ll start layby for weed control at the end of this week, or early next week. Plant bug pressure is light. The older cotton is squaring and retention is running 96% and higher.

    “We treated all of our corn with a fungicide, and before that we sprayed for stink bugs. The corn is excellent, and pollination worked out well. We received a good bit of supplemental rainfall to help save on irrigation costs. We just turned on the pivots again late last week after leaving them off for several weeks.

    “All in all, everything is going smoothly. Knock on wood.”


    Richard Davis, Davis Ag Consulting, Montgomery, Alabama

    “We are in good shape with moisture, and I hope we can continue to get some rain through the end of June and on into July. Our older cotton has 8 to 10 nodes and it’s starting to square good. Square retention today was approaching 100%. I’m doing some sweeping now and the highest count so far is about 5 tarnished plant bugs per 100 sweeps.

    “Thrips are mostly out of the picture. Plant bugs will likely move into cotton in the next week or so. We are cleaning up weeds again, mainly grasses.

    “We’re off to a good start.”


    Ethan Carter, Regional Crop IPM, Marianna, Florida

    “A dry weekend followed 7 to 10 days of soaking rain. It dried up enough to get back in the field early this week. The bulk of cotton in my county is averaging 3 to 4 true leaves. The primary focus now is early-season post-emergence weed control. We need to protect this young crop. In the next two weeks, most people will start considering plant growth regulator applications.

    “Most of our peanut crop is within a week or two of its first fungicide application. A herbicide application went out on some peanut fields, but the younger fields are just coming into the timing for those first weed control application.”


    Steve Brown, Extension Cotton Agronomist, Auburn University, Alabama

    “I think the crop is starting to look pretty good. Temperatures are fairly moderate. Cool nighttime weather is good for people and good for cotton, too. We’re setting up to have a nice crop if we can maintain moisture. The weather guy is talking about rainfall next week, and we hope he’s right. Getting a little rain all along goes a long way.

    “We are aggressively looking for aphids. Aphid pressure likely will build over the next couple of weeks, but it’s currently light. The virus is out there, but we’re only finding it because we’re focused on virus research.

    “Cotton stages are all over the board. Some fields are in the second week of squaring and maybe beyond that. Most fields will at least enter the squaring stage late this week or next.

    “A lot of sidedress nitrogen is going out. This crop is taking shape and looks like cotton now, and we have pushed past a lot of the ragged cotton caused by thrips.”


    Sally Taylor, Virginia Tech Extension Entomologist, Tidewater REC

    “We are counting over 150 thrips per 5 seedlings in some of our cotton planted in Suffolk. This cotton was planted with only a seed treatment. It is unlikely that any sprays will be made this week because of heavy rains. To assess fields for thrips injury, check new buds for wrinkling and deformity.

    “You will likely benefit from a foliar spray if you used seed treatments alone, if plants show injury and if active populations are in the field. In-furrow treatments tend to show less injury and are less likely to need sprays. The North Carolina State University Thrips Infestation Predictor for Cotton predicts that the peak of thrips dispersal in our area will come at the end of June.


    “Hopefully, we’ll soon move into conditions that favor rapid plant growth. Cotton can be considered safe from economic damage from thrips at the 3- to 4-true leaf stage.

    “Peanuts can tolerate more thrips injury, but thrips can cause yield loss and maturity delays. I recommend spraying peanuts when 25% to 30% of leaves show injury and/or when new terminals are brown and deformed. Peanut plants that have been through high stress like herbicide injury are more susceptible to yield loss.”


    Scott Graham, Extension Entomologist, Auburn

    “Spider mites are building in the central part of the state. We didn’t get quite enough rain to beat them back, and we need to pay attention. With spider mites, we’re not necessarily scouting for them every time we go into the field. But, be aware of spider mites while we’re scouting for our major pests.  Look for whitish stippling that starts on the leaves and then causes reddening and purpling along the leaf veins.

    “Abamectin is the most cost-effective treatment. At this early growth stage, the mid labeled rate can be used.

    “Square retention looked good in the fields I scouted in central Alabama. Depending on rainfall, daisy fleabane resurged in some areas. We expect tarnished plant bugs in those locations to start moving off the fleabane in about a week in the southern part of the state. If that happens, they will move just when cotton is squaring well. They could start getting into our pinhead squares and causing issues there.

    “Square retention is our best indicator of plant bug pressure. Of course, weather can affect square retention, too, so get in the field with a sweep net. The threshold for tarnished plant bugs is 8 adults per 100 sweeps or 80% square retention.”


    Trey Bullock, Bullock’s Ag Consulting, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

    “I wish we were totally done planting cotton, but one guy is still going (as of 6/15). The rest of my clients have finished. Our cotton now ranges from the three-leaf stage up to the twelfth- or thirteenth node. It’s in really good shape. We’ve been able to apply our PGRs and we haven’t run into any major issues.

    “In the last week, a few plant bugs popped up and we also found a few today. We treated certain fields, but it really hasn’t been a large issue so far. Our cotton is growing a little too fast and trying to throw off some fruit, but even that hasn’t been as big of a problem as it could be.

    “I suspect we will see blooms on our oldest cotton by the end of next week. At this point, I think the cotton looks as good as it possibly can.

    “Our peanuts are 30 to 55 days old. We’ve been applying fungicides this week.

    “Down here, we really don’t like seeing a dry 10-day forecast, but that’s the prediction right now. I think we’re in good shape to handle it because it did rain over the weekend (6/13-14).”

    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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