Texas Plains Cotton: Beneficial Rains, Insects Creeping Up

    Photo: Kate Harrell, Texas AgriLife Extension

    General Status

    A very hot one from mid-week on and into the forecast. And the area finally received some beneficial rainfall last weekend/early this week. It seems amounts varied by location from 0.3-inches up to about 2.5-inches with most fields receiving about a 0.5-inch. In many cases it took 2 or 3 showers to reach this total but there were no major damaging weather events I am aware of.

    Combined with some calmer, less windy days, and decent water availability our surviving crops are making solid progress. This is coming at the expense of soil moisture use at a very high rate.

    This week, insect pests continued to creep up in intensity to cross the line in a few rare cases while weeds remained in your face and often indifferent to control measures.


    Our scouting program cotton ranged from a wildcat cotton 4th true leaf stage up to an inconsistent 1st bloom. Most fields came in between 1/3 and 3/4 grown square stage with solid chances to be at a legitimate 1st bloom by next week. This paces most of our fields for a good 4 to 6-week effective blooming period, if water needs can continue to be met. This will become of paramount importance as fields reach the 5 NAWF (nodes above white flower) and peak water use.

    Thrips were almost completely absent from our youngest cotton. The fleahopper population increased in almost all fields with over 90% having at least some level of pressure. Only 1 field reached economic levels with a population that increased rapidly from 1 fleahopper per 32 row feet last week to 1 fleahopper per 1.4 row feet while the fruit drop increased from 6.58% up to 16.39%.

    A handful more fields were a growing fleahopper concern with 1 fleahopper to 3 row feet or so with 8 to 12% fruit drop, but not economic yet with beneficial populations having a good chance of preventing a treatment. Most fields remained safe from fleahoppers this week with 1 fleahopper per 10 row feet or fewer and fruit drop holding below 10% consistently.

    A few more Lygus were found in a few fields, but largely remained a non-issue so far. As a note, several area alfalfa fields, the Lygus most preferred host plant, were cut late this week. This could cause an exodus of Lygus that would be looking for a suitable host soon. We also picked up a few foliage feeders this week, but the highest population we found were beet armyworms only up to 680 worms per acre, far below the 50,000 per acre threshold.

    Corn and Sorghum

    Our corn and sorghum ranged in overall stage from V1 to green silk with the vast majority somewhere in the whorl stages. Our youngest corn came in this week at V6 and our oldest sorghum came in at an inconsistent flag leaf/VX. Most pests still remain very light to absent, as do most diseases.

    AgFax Weed Solutions

    We noted the heaviest pressure from fall armyworms in the whorl stage sorghum, but even this pressure was far below ET of 30-35% foliage loss. Our fields were a fairly consistent 1-2% foliage loss with only about 5-10% of the plants showing any damage at all.

    Spider mites remain strangely absent considering the heat. Only about 20% of our corn fields had any level of detectable mites so far. I do expect that once these fields move into or farther into reproductive modes, the mites will increase rapidly in this environment.

    We also have no sign of the sugarcane aphid in our fields, but a very light level of yellow sugarcane aphid feeding damage can be noted in most sorghum fields.

    Odd Insect Year

    I have noted a lot of ‘odd’ insects about the area this season. While none of these are invasive species, they are not all that common in the area or seem to have a higher population this year. My hypothesis is that the high winds from this spring and early summer blew some of these insects into the area in numbers or it has been dry enough to make a fairly robust population looking for ‘greener’ pastures.

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