Cotton – Midsouth – With Pests, Is This The Calm Before The Storm?

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

    Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

    Owen Taylor, Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton, sponsored by the Midsouth Cotton Team of Amvac Chemical Corporation.


    Blooms are appearing in a few early-planted fields in the mid Delta. But with a significant portion of the crop, any flowering won’t commence for another week or more.

    With pests, we may be in the calm before the storm as July starts. Populations are developing but on a somewhat delayed basis.

    Plant bug applications continue, mainly where cotton adjoins corn. As our contacts continue to observe, rainy conditions through much of June kept wild hosts blooming, and those still-lush plants are holding the insect out of cotton to some degree. In places, a couple of applications have been necessary – again, mostly in cotton next to corn.

    Bollworm moths are moving out of corn in the lower Midsouth. Aphids are around, and localized treatments have been made.

    Spider mites are becoming more generalized in places, but pressure and damage remain mostly limited. Thunderstorms have helped beat back mites. Plus, Liberty herbicide has been going out, and that chemistry incidentally suppresses mites. All that may help explain these thinner populations.

    People in the field continue telling us that more weeds and grasses have been slipping through standard herbicide programs.



    Bob Griffin, Griffin Ag Consulting, Jonesboro, Arkansas

    “We found our first bloom on cotton today (7/1). We’ve been making a few plant bug applications, although the insect is still mostly in other hosts. The corn silks haven’t dried up yet. Also, it’s rained every four to five days, so wild hosts are still attractive, and the road ditches still have quite a bit of flowers to hold plant bugs. The forecast calls for some chance of rain every day this week.

    “We’re not contending with aphids in cotton yet. We don’t use acephate before bloom, and I think that keeps them from become a problem.

    “A lot of guys are still putting out herbicides, but I would actually say we’re the cleanest we have been in a long time, although pigweeds have been relentless this year. We’re having to apply a residual every two weeks to keep the pigweeds down. In the past, we have gone 2.5 or 3 weeks between applications.

    “Along with that, Roundup isn’t doing as much as we need on grasses, and we’re having to use clethodim to handle grass. Clethodim still works, but even it doesn’t perform as well as in the past. The days of using Roundup to control grasses are over.

    “Pix applications are going out to prevent cotton from being growthy, and we’re trying to really stay ahead of the curve. For the most part, cotton looks good.

    “We’re seeing more Enlist drift, and I suspect that it’s from applications made when it was too windy, not volatization. Compared to dicamba, Enlist is supposed to be less volatile. But what we’re finding are likely cases where wind speeds exceeded label recommendations. I’m not sure that everyone is clear on exactly what volatilization means, and some people might think they can spray Enlist in windier conditions.

    “Soybeans are at V1 to V2 – just out of the ground – to the oldest at R3. As they reach R3.5, we’ll apply a fungicide on every single acre. Some people will argue against that approach, but the testing we’ve done multiple times shows it pays off in the end.

    “We have found that we make an extra 4 to 5 bushels like that, whether disease is present or not. At $11 or $12 soybeans, this was a no-brainer. But even now when beans are bringing $8 a bushel, that’s potentially an extra $10 per acre profit, even though it costs $20 to $25 per acre to spray. We have made up to 11 bushels extra because of the fungicide we applied.

    “Corn is in the second week of silking, and I haven’t seen any issues in the crop so far. It looks phenomenal, although certain fields are later than normal.”


    Andy Graves, Graves Agronomy Service, Clarksdale, Mississippi

    “I have one field that is at the three-leaf stage, and we had to make an application on that cotton this week due to heavy thrips and aphid pressure. Most of my cotton, though, ranges from the third week of squaring to bloom.

    “Plant bug pressure was light and spotty until this week. We have seen an increase in plant bug numbers but nothing terrible yet except around corn. We’ve already treated some fields twice.

    “We’ve received a lot of rain and are fighting weeds pretty fiercely. We started off behind this year in terms of getting things cleaned up and we’re still behind. The herbicides are just not working like we want on pigweed or grasses. We’re mixing Roundup with other herbicides to try to kill johnsongrass, barnyard grass and other grasses. I’ve tried a number of combinations and split applications. Nothing is really doing it, and we’ll have grass in places.

    “I noticed a little spider mite damage yesterday (6/29), but mites haven’t been very active. We’re applying a lot of Liberty, and it provides some control.

    “A third of my soybean acres are late – at V2 or less. So far, I’ve only seen two redbanded stink bugs (RBSB), but I know I’ll have to deal with them later since so much of the crop went in late. In 2017, we had to treat some fields a couple of times, but our crop was early enough that we didn’t have an overwhelming issue.

    “This year, though, a good deal of the crop will be later, and that could set us up for RBSB pressure. I have farmers who are still planting soybeans, and I’ve got to believe we’ll have to make multiple RBSB treatments before it’s all over. I’m begging them to stop. When you factor in RBSB, I don’t see a good way you can come out okay financially with late beans this year.”


    Angus Catchot, Mississippi Extension Entomologist

    “My number one call this week is from people wanting to know if anyone is finding insects in the cotton. When I tell them that they’re not, the person calling will say, ‘I’m not finding much either.’

    “Plant bug numbers remain relatively low, as are aphids. Spider mites are very isolated, nothing at all widespread. For it to be the first week of July, this is about as quiet in cotton as I can remember in a long time.

    “I expect the call volume to pick up as the first bollworm moths begin flying and their egg laying starts.

    “Several consultants said that even some of their oldest-planted cotton hasn’t required a single treatment yet for insects. Yes, people have had to deal with pests in a few areas, but as a whole, cotton and soybeans have been pretty quiet. Again, I expect bollworm numbers to pick up as the moths come out of the earliest-planted corn. Historically the first reports start about July 4th and pick up from there.”


    Blake Foust, Consultant, Southern Heritage Cotton, LLC, Forrest City, Arkansas

    “In cotton, we’re applying herbicides in places and are starting some layby. We are spraying a few plant bugs around the area, but it’s nothing widespread. Quite a bit of Pix is going out, as well.

    “We found one field with some blooms on Sunday (6/28) but haven’t come across any more since then (as of 7/1), although I expect that we will see more blooms by this weekend.


    “Our oldest soybeans are at R4. Luckily, there are really no issues to report in beans. Some soybeans were just planted, so there’s quite a range in age. Insect pressure has been pretty light in beans. Mainly now, we’re just trying to clean up a few weeds.

    “Our oldest peanuts have started pegging, and most of them are blooming really well. We are in the middle of applying a fungicide, plus another residual herbicide. A little chopping was necessary, but our peanuts look surprisingly clean overall.”


    Ty Edwards, Edwards Ag Consulting, LLC, Water Valley, Mississippi

    “A lot of cotton has been stunted by too much moisture, and it has been fairly wet in my area all year. We had that little dry spell, which was a saving grace from the excess moisture that we had early on. We got about 10 good days of drying that allowed out root systems to get some much-needed oxygen. Without that break in the weather, I think we would be in worse shape.

    “This is maybe the third year in a row when conditions have been overly wet. It’s also the third year that it’s been too wet to farm some of the land in the backwaters of Enid Lake and Grenada Lake. Farmers lease that land from the Corps of Engineers, and among my clients this year, about 3,000 acres couldn’t be worked or planted.

    “We’re beginning to put out a good amount of Pix across a considerable number of acres, and we made a few plant bug applications. The plant bugs aren’t bad yet. I’m beginning to see widespread low numbers of aphids.”


    Sebe Brown, Louisiana Extension Field Crops Entomologist

    “Cotton is moving along. Plant bugs are becoming more evident and widespread. A lot of guys are going out with applications, which is to be expected as we move closer to bloom in more cotton.

    “Bollworm trap catches are increasing, as well. We are expecting the annual Fourth of July flight, so the population is at a normal level for this time of the year. This also coincides with the level of worms we found in corn over the past week. Those worms turned into the moths we’re now collecting in our traps.

    “I’m hearing reports from the far northeastern part of the state that trap catches are getting heavy and that people also are picking up a pretty heavy egg lay in their cotton. That’s on the Arkansas line.

    “In soybeans, we’re finding limited redbanded stink bug (RBSB) numbers. I haven’t heard of any large upswings in counts, but RBSB treatments are going out in places.

    “The first desiccation application is going out in soybeans this week in St. Mary Parish in south Louisiana. Those beans were planted early and will be harvested early to allow growers to plant sugarcane. Those beans should be harvested in two weeks.”


    Scott Stewart, Extension Entomologist, Jackson, Tennessee

    “We received four inches of rain here and three inches at Milan. Most everyone is sitting out today because it is just too wet to get in the fields. It was more rain than a lot of people probably wanted, but conditions had turned dry and all the corn is starting to tassel, so it definitely needs moisture. Overall, it was a well-timed rain.

    “Herbicide applications are still going out, and we have been fighting pigweed for a while now. The rain delayed some herbicide applications, but I haven’t heard anyone wishing the rain away.

    “Plant bugs remain pretty light, with just sporadic applications. I’m expecting more plant bugs to move in over the next week or two. With all this rain, we’re lucky plant bug pressure is light. We would have a hard time getting into the fields to spray, aside from the chance that it might rain right away and wash off the treatment.

    “We’re just waiting to see what the bollworm flight does, although it’s still a little too early for them quite yet. Based on my observations and what colleagues to the south report, I’m expecting a slightly bigger-than-usual bollworm flight this year. But we really won’t get a good feel for that for at least a couple of weeks.”


    Ashley Peters, Peters Crop Consulting, Crowville, Louisiana

    “A lot of our cotton started blooming over the past couple of weeks, and there is still a lot blooming now (6/30). I would say it looks really good so far, with a nice square set and good retention.

    “Plant bugs have been moderate so far. We have treated 25% to 30% of our acres for plant bugs, but some of the oldest cotton is about to get a second treatment. We treated it the first time a couple of weeks ago, and we are preparing to do it again soon.

    “We did kill some aphids when we sprayed for plant bugs. There weren’t enough aphids to treat by themselves. But combined with the plant bug population, it was a good clean up shot.

    “Knock on wood, mites have not been an issue yet. We have had scattered showers, but I think we have dodged that bullet so far by missing mites.

    I haven’t received any calls about diseases either. Even where we are spraying for plant bugs ,retention and numbers still look really good.

    “We saw a very few moths late last week and yesterday (6/29). Judging by the worms in corn I looked at, I think the flight may be a little later this year than we usually see it.

    “The bulk of our corn is dented or will be by this time next week. We have sprayed a few spots with fungicides, but nothing widespread. It’s been on a field-by-field basis. We’re cleaning up anything that has been continuously corn or a similar situation.

    “I have soybeans that have just come out of the ground all the way up to way past R5. We have a lot in the blooming stage – R2 or R3. We’ve also planted a fair amount in June. We hit delays due to too much rain or other priorities took over.

    “We’re only spraying a couple fields for redbanded stink bugs (RBSB). A lot of my beans just aren’t to the stage of seeing a large number of RBSB yet.”


    Scott Gifford, Gifford Crop Consulting, Manila, Arkansas

    “Plant bugs are picking up, and we’re including Pix with our plant bug materials. We’re beginning to find more spider mites and they’re more widespread than they have been. At first, they were pretty much confined to borders, but now they’re into the fields.

    “The cotton looks good. All of the fertilizer went out, then we received three-quarters of an inch of rain just behind it.


    “We’re probably within 10 days of seeing our first bloom (as of 7/1). That’s about the same timing we’ve had in the last couple of years. Usually, we’d see that first bloom around the Fourth of July or a little later. So, we’re not real late. If anything, the 2019 crop was later.

    “Insects have been very light in soybeans up until this week. We’re now finding loopers. They’re not bad but we’re seeing them on a widespread basis in all plant stages. Some of our dryland corn caught every rain that came through, and dryland corn looks excellent in places.”


    Steve Schutz, Ind. Consultant, Coushatta, Louisiana

    “We saw our first blooms in cotton on Saturday (6/27). That’s ten days later than we would like, but at least blooms are here now. We had a late crop last year, as well, and it did alright.

    “We’re having issues making applications between showers and need to spray plant bugs. No one can use the plane right now (6/29) because the wind is blowing at 15 mph, and that’s in the forecast for least the next 36 hours. The biggest issue with plant bugs is in younger cotton that is just reaching pinhead.

    “And if it isn’t plant bugs, it’s fleahoppers. We don’t have a heavy infestation, but the insects are there. We’re going with imidacloprid. I really don’t want to use it twice in a row, but the acephate has an eight-hour rain fastness, and we have no guarantee right now that it won’t rain during any given eight-hour period. With this weather, we’re increasing our rates and hoping it holds.

    “We aren’t finding a lot of black pinhead squares when we examine plants, but those pinheads are in the nets when we sweep. Retention is good on most fields except that younger cotton. We desperately need to get Pix out, but the weather just isn’t cooperating.

    “We’re in a pattern with cloudy and misty weather, and I honestly think that it’s making the cotton grow too well, and we’re finding a lot of young, tender and fast growth. We can’t apply Pix, so we’re concerned about losing fruit production. We do have a few shots going out today.

    “So far, disease isn’t turning up in cotton. We haven’t seen anything like last year when bacterial blight and target spot built. But because we can’t apply Pix right away, plants will put on more growth, which could increase susceptible to those diseases again this year.

    “In soybeans, we have been sweeping up a lot of bollworms. They worry me because they can get past you quickly if you’re not careful. We haven’t really had the numbers to start treating, but I’m checking pretty often to stay on top of them.

    “We are also finding hotspots of redbanded stink bugs (RBSB) in fields that have grassy edges. We’re going to spray 100 to 200 acres that are about at R3, which is earlier than I wanted to start treating RBSB. We don’t want to prolong spraying them due to all the evidence that they predispose soybeans to green bean syndrome.

    “No one really likes to talk about this, but we’re only allowed a specific number of applications with a couple of key RBSB chemistries. Reading and understanding the labels is important and keeping good records may come in handy in the future.

    “In soybeans, I also found a little aerial blight. As it happens, that producer will spray a fungicide, regardless of the presence or absence of disease, and he’ll make that treatment as soon as the weather allows.”


    Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist

    “Plant bug numbers are definitely on an uptick, but they only seem to be bad in cotton fields that adjoin corn on one or more sizes. Silks are turning dark now in that corn, and plant bug movement is underway into cotton in those cases. We’re finding hot spots here and there, aside from the effect from corn, and treatments are going out in those situations. Otherwise, plant bugs are pretty light.

    “The bollworm moth flight is taking shape, and we found a pretty good count on Monday (6/29). But how much these numbers build right away is an open question. Plenty of corn has just hit the point when silks are coming out, and we have a good deal of that late-planted corn. When this flight begins coming out of corn, a portion of those moths may simply move into those later corn fields.

    “It will be a pretty good flight, though, and I’m sure that moths will go into some cotton and soybeans. Right now, though, no one has found anything worth spraying.

    “A little aphid activity has started here and there, but I’m already detecting a lot of the aphid fungus, plus the predators and parasites are keeping aphids at bay in most cases. You can find scattered hot spots but nothing really bad. These popup showers are likely keeping spider mite populations in check.

    “In soybeans, we’re finding worms at really low numbers but are still detecting an increase in redbanded stink bugs in R2 and R3 beans. I think that will continue this season from here on out. A significant portion of our soybeans were planted late, and it’s concerning to see RBSB this early.”

    AgFax Midsouth 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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