Southwest Cotton: Moisture Plentiful, Concerns About Chemical Shortages Mount

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

    Ernst Undesser, Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Southwest Cotton, sponsored by the Southwest team of PhytoGen cottonseed.

    “The cold, the wet and the ugly” best describes most cotton ground in parts of the Upper Gulf Coast, where up to 20 inches of rain have drenched early growth. Consultant Paul Pilsner wrings out the details.

    Planting continues across the Texas Panhandle and South Plains between spotty rains, as more northern growers scramble to meet the May 31 deadline for crop insurance coverage.

    Chemical shortages aren’t mixing well in parts of Oklahoma and West Texas, and shipments of herbicides and insecticides are slow from China and other major manufacturing countries.

    Beware of worms, warns AgriLife IPM Coordinator David Kerns. Armyworms, sorghum headworms and traps with large numbers of bollworm moths spell trouble.



    Chuck Wilbur, Independent Crop Consultant, Wellington, Texas/Southeastern Panhandle/Southwestern Oklahoma: “Guys have been dodging spotty showers and getting seed in the ground. Rain counts are up to 3 to 4 inches, but it’s mostly small showers that can go a long way when bunched together. Even with the rain, irrigated fields are nearly planted and guys are working on getting the dryland planted now.

    “Most of my growers are still in XtendFlex varieties, but a few growers are in the Enlist category. With the dependence we have on ag chemicals coming out of China, there seems to be a shortage of Liberty, Roundup, dicamba and other herbicides. It’s nip and tuck. If guys didn’t lock in their herbicides and have them ready, they could be surprised in June. It’s kind of scary.

    “Fortunately, the burndown has worked well and there are more small grain cover crops to help with weeds and prevent cotton from blowing. There’s hardly any bare dirt. That’s good to see. Cotton acre numbers are close to average, but a few more growers switched acres to peanuts. There are quite a few organic peanuts. One customer has 800 organic acres. It will be a challenge with weed control and they’ll see more cultivation. But with the price three times higher than conventional peanuts, guys feel it’s worth it.”

    Todd Baughman, Oklahoma State University Institute for Agricultural Biosciences, Research Professor, Ardmore: “In between timely rains, many farmers already have fields planted. We’re planting test plots in the Ft. Cobb area today (5/24) and waiting on fields to dry up around Altus to get those plots planted.

    “Most of our guys are sticking with cotton as opposed to grain crops. They like the higher cotton price and hope it continues with an upward trend. The state ended up with a good crop in 2020, but not after nerve-wracking battles with early cool weather and lack of moisture into July. So having moisture is a good thing after the dry start to this year. Hopefully, the cotton grows better this year after rain and warmer temperatures.

    “There’s word there could be shortages of chemicals, namely herbicides and insecticides. That has guys concerned. But there’s still optimism – because planting into moisture is never a bad thing.

    “The rainfall is also helping our early peanut fields. Farmers have planted a fair amount of peanuts already. They can roll a little earlier with the large peanut seed that can handle cooler soil conditions.”

    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock: “For the most part, planting conditions in West Texas are as good as we could have wished for. There are many smiles. Soils are warm and many fields have at least enough moisture to get a dryland crop up.

    “This is not the case for everyone and was also not the case about a month ago when it was extremely dry. The main challenge, especially with rain chances in the forecast this week, will be getting this crop planted timely. For many in our northern counties, the insurance deadline is May 31. For those closer to and south of Lubbock, that deadline is June 5. We know we can get a lot of cotton in the ground rather quickly, so we’ll be watching the weather closely.

    “I want to remind everyone to stay safe out there. Pulling in those long hours with farm machinery moving day and night can be stressful. Please be extra careful.”

    Alan Seitz, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wilcox, Arizona: “Cotton looks good, but we’ve had some replants due to cooler weather. The low was 35 degrees last weekend. That’s not good for cotton. We’re struggling to get a few fields up. Our cotton acres are down more this year. It’s always tough in these higher elevations in southeastern Arizona. There’s more corn than cotton now.

    “For what cotton we have, thrips are an issue in some fields. It’s worse in fields planted near alfalfa. We’re spraying for them. Weeds are an issue as well.

    “The alfalfa looks great. The first cutting was good, and the second cutting should begin next week.”

    Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas: “It’s cold, wet and ugly in much of the Upper Coast. Skies are blue today (5/25), but it has been brutal for many fields much of this month. Parts of Jackson County had 20 inches of rain the past two weeks. Fields may be abandoned and others will need replanting. The region’s heavier soils are holding the water, while more sandy soils are in better shape.

    “Cotton that has withstood the heavy rain is at 10 to 12 nodes. We can expect much vegetative growth and the need for growth regulators to manage it. A good Pix program will be critical. We can also expect heavy weed pressure. The majority of the cotton I watch is Enlist. It does a good job of controlling waterhemp and yields well. Enlist takes out hemp better than dicamba in this area. A lot of residuals and Roundup are also needed to maintain multiple modes of action to manage weeds.

    “We expect more insect pressure after early thrips and fleahopper infestations that required spraying. Worms could be a big issue. There is already heavy armyworm pressure in milo, and they’re relentless in pastures. I’m also seeing headworms in milo, which means we must watch for bollworm pressure in cotton.

    “Corn and milo have responded well to the heavy rain and guys expect good yields. Soybeans also look good. Scouting is essential. This could be one of those years where if you don’t watch your crop, you’ll lose it.”

    David Kerns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Professor, Statewide IPM Coordinator, College Station: “Brazos Bottom cotton is covered up with thrips. Numbers are running 15 to 20 thrips per plant — high numbers. About 80% of them are tobacco thrips and the others are western flower thrips. Many growers are spraying. Seed treatments did what they could early on, but treatments are wearing off. Foliar applications of acephate are needed.

    “Bump up the acephate rate to a half pound per acre for those plants under the highest pressure. That makes a difference versus lower rates. Most cotton is nearing the stage where it’s no longer susceptible to thrips, but spraying is still needed at this time.

    “With so much rain and cool temperatures, cotton is from 2-leaf to 4-leaf. Some cotton is late and other fields have required replanting. Growers need to be on the watch for insects all season. We’re trapping a large number of bollworm moths. If that continues, we will have a big bollworm year here and further south.

    “There are already concerns with insects in sorghum. Fall armyworms are showing up, but they’re not a big issue. Spraying usually doesn’t pay. However, many growers are concerned because the armyworms can rag up the plants. Sugarcane aphids and rice stink bugs are being sprayed for down south. Pyrethroids aren’t working as well on rice stink bugs. The only decent alternative is Dimethoate. Sugarcane aphids are not being found in sorghum here just yet, but I’m seeing them in Johnsongrass, so they will be taking off.”

    Blayne Reed, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hale & Swisher Counties: “This area is 50% to 70% planted and we’re planting research trials in Hale and Swisher counties. We’re a little late, due to some strange foreign liquid that’s been falling from the sky. But after the region’s extended dry weather, we’ll welcome more rain any time it comes. Moisture counts are up to 2 inches. It’s widespread moisture for the first time in a long time.

    “Wireworms were a problem early last year and we’re scouting for them right now. If growers apply their burndown herbicides late and plant within a month, wireworms are starving to death and seek out young seedlings. They seem to follow the planter, so we need to be ready to spray for them before too much damage is done. We’re also watching for thrips. The pressure is low right now. Wheat is a major host for thrips and most wheat was droughted out.

    “Weeds could be an issue after the rain, especially where guys were late in applying their burndown and residual herbicides. The rain is needed to activate the residuals, but rain is also germinating weeds.

    “With early dry weather, corn acres are lower than normal. But the corn and sorghum we have up looks great.”

    Stu Duncan, Kansas State University Crops and Soils Specialist, Manhattan: “Overall, I’d say 20% to 25% of the cotton has been planted, which is a little behind. Growers were looking forward to a good year, but in northern areas planting has been limited because it has been so wet. They’re still waiting to get the first fields planted. Soil temperatures have been too low. There’s more going in down south toward the Oklahoma border.

    “We had good yields last year, but the quality was hurt from a cool early fall. Many growers had only 200 heat units in September when we normally get 400 to 450. That’s why we’re seeing more corn and sorghum and likely more soybeans.

    “For wheat, the state wheat tour showed good potential, but it may not be as good as the report described. The crop has come on, but stripe rust is a problem in many fields and the potential is there for Fusarium head blight. Our fingers are crossed that the disease problems don’t reduce yields and quality too much.”


    Tyler Mays, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hill County: “It remains wet in the Blacklands. It’s also cool, which is not helping young cotton. Many growers have finished planting cotton, while others who waited for moisture to plant have been able to get into the field. There are also replant issues due to wet fields.

    “What’s planted is up, but rain and cold temperatures have slowed growth. Most plants are at 2 to 4 true leaves. There is also thrips pressure. We’ve already had one application of acephate applied at a half-pound per acre. It worked well, but more spraying may be needed. Cotton acres are probably down 10%, but some guys are sticking with their cotton-corn rotations, so that’s negating part of the reduction. Preemergents are holding up well, and there are no major weed problems.

    “While the weather has been bad for cotton, it has been favorable for corn. It looks good; however, there are disease situations. The region is picking up northern corn leaf blight, but the fields I’m checking don’t require fungicide applications so far. There could be an issue for growers in a corn-after-corn system. If there is residue on the surface and they have planted hybrids susceptible to these diseases, a fungicide application may be needed.

    “Wheat is drying down. But due to wheat getting wet and then redrying over and over again, there are worries about loss of test weight. There are also concerns about sprouting in the head. Growers are ready to start wheat harvest, as long as they don’t get combines stuck in the mud.”

    Peter Dotray, Texas Tech University Weed Scientist (joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife), Lubbock: “We were blowing and going getting test plots planted yesterday (5/24) before we received good precipitation last night. We received 2 inches at the Lubbock station and 1.2 inches in other areas. That was maybe more than I wanted right after planting, but we never turn down a good rain.

    “Of course, with the rain comes weed pressure. There was already slight weed activity where folks had prewatered. Growers can expect small weed seedlings coming on after the rain and need to maintain the practice of starting clean. Many guys applied preplant yellow herbicides. Others may need a good burndown like Gramoxone on limited-till fields. A rod weeder may be needed for conventional fields.

    “Also, make sure to use a good residual herbicide program. No matter what herbicide technology is being used, dicamba, 2, 4-D or others, it is not stand-alone in providing weed control. Weeds are going to come, and guys need to be prepared.”

    Jose Mendoza, Crop Quest Consulting, Northern Texas Panhandle: “Planting has progressed well in the northern Panhandle. We’re finishing up irrigated fields after getting many acres planted before the rain this month. Rain set us back about 10 days in a few areas. Fortunately, we got most of the dryland cotton planted the first week of May after April showers. Roughly 80% to 85% of the dryland is up and early stands are approaching the first true leaf. The irrigated is just poking out of the ground.

    “There’s a flush of pigweed following the rain and will require treatments with residuals. We handled early Kochia with early residuals. We counted on a burndown (Gramoxone) and residuals (Direx and Caparol).

    “Corn started slowly due to cool temperatures, but it’s taking off with warmer weather. My biggest corn is at 3 to 4 leaves, with some stuff just now emerging. Milo also looks good. There’s significantly more milo and growers are excited about it and the good price. But we must be ready for sugarcane aphids that may migrate from fields much further downstate.”

    Patrick Kircher, New Mexico State University Extension Agent, Roosevelt County Portales: “Despite all of the rain reported in parts of eastern New Mexico and into West Texas, our county remains dry other than in spotty areas. While Portales proper received 3.5 inches recently, many areas only received 0.1 of an inch. It seems like a continuation of 2020 when we set a record for the driest year on record.

    “With the lack of rain, there’s still not enough moisture to consider dryland cotton. There could be some irrigated go out, but growers remain hesitant on cotton. A few growers are switching from cotton to milo and haygrazer. Forages will be more popular this year if rain doesn’t come quickly.”


    Thompson on Cotton: Support in Low 80s, Questions About Planted Acres  

    Weekly Cotton Market Review – USDA  

    Cleveland on Cotton: More Backing Than Filling  

    NOAA Seasonal Drought Outlook – June, July, Aug.  

    AgFax Southwest Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director. It covers cotton production in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the main cotton growing season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions. Mailing address: Farm Journal, 8725 Rosehill Rd., Suite 200, Lenexa, KS 66215
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