Southwest Cotton: Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    N deficiencies are apparent in the Upper Gulf Coast, where deluge after deluge has kept many fields flooded. The southern Blacklands are also seeing excessive rain, as is the Coastal Bend. But cotton is resilient and can often handle more water pressure than other crops, notes Ben McKnight, College Station-based AgriLife cotton specialist.

    Many Panhandle growers made planting deadlines, but farmers further south toward Lubbock are trying to get from behind the eight ball, as wet conditions still have planters parked and a June 5 insurance deadline fast approaching.

    Minimal insect pressure is a positive for southern Texas fields. But don’t get complacent. Kate Crumley has the latest on scouting for thrips, fleahoppers and cotton aphids.



    Randy Boman, Windstar Cotton Agronomics Manager, Edmonson, Texas: 

    “I have variety trials in Western Oklahoma that just received over 2 inches of rain. That was good, but overall the rain is a little untimely for that area and into the Texas Panhandle and parts of the South Plains. Many growers couldn’t buy a rain south and southwest of Amarillo this spring. Now, they can’t get the crop completely planted due to excessive rainfall.

    “With the rain and cool weather, much cotton will be late. Guys from down near Plainview up to Dawn and the Top of Texas Gin kept missing rain early. They are in a squeeze, first hoping for rain and now trying to get their crop in the ground. In the northern Panhandle toward Sunray, planting was completed on time for many growers. Earlier fields are seeing plants up to nearly the first true leaf. Those plants need to be managed well.

    “They should be monitored for thrips to prevent any crop damage, especially that far north. Seed treatments start fizzling out on fields planted early. Plants need to be healthy to capture heat units before fall weather hits them.

    “Warmer weather is the key heading into June. It’s needed to crank up the cotton. We’re seeing strong cotton prices – but we need something to sell.”

    Rex Friesen, Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Co-op, Winfield: 

    “With the wet, cool weather on top of higher grain prices, Kansas cotton acres will likely be down dramatically. We could see close to 40% fewer cotton acres than last year. Several weeks of rain and cool temperatures have prevented most growers from planting cotton. People who planted in narrow windows have a good stand. Now they wonder how good the crop will be down the road.

    “Several weeks ago, growers in southwest Kansas were praying for rain after wheat was drying up and it was too dry to plant summer crops. Then they started catching rain and many got more than they bargained for. Cotton growers who own large bale harvesting equipment will likely still plant cotton if they can, but those without cotton equipment are looking more at corn or milo. We’ll know more in several weeks. Warm, dry weather would help everyone.”

    Kate Crumley, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Jackson, Wharton and Matagorda Counties: 

    “Since it has been so wet, areas of Upper Coast cotton are exhibiting nitrogen deficiency symptoms. Waterlogged conditions can also delay plant maturity. I’ve received a few questions on PGR considerations with our recent rainfall. Likely the best approach with our current conditions is to apply a PGR at moderate rates once fields have dried. Decisions should be made on a field-by-field basis.

    “Insect pressure has been minimal. However, if you have younger cotton, thrips are still out there. Cotton fleahoppers are also still around. Fleahopper feeding causes squares to drop. The threshold for fleahoppers is 15 to 25 per 100 plants. Plants can recover from and compensate for square loss, but catching fleahoppers early can prevent heavy damage.

    “Check for fleahoppers by inspecting the plant terminals once they start squaring. I look at 25 plants per stop in the field and usually check 100 plants total in an 80-to-100-acre field. Check more if the field is larger. Many fleahoppers are nymphs, near the size of aphids, but look like smaller versions of the adults without wings. They are more mobile than aphids.

    “The threshold for cotton aphids is 50 per leaf. If you see aphid mummies in the field that’s a good thing. Parasitoid wasps lay eggs in the aphids. The aphid forms a mummy while the wasp larvae is pupating inside. These beneficial wasps, lady beetles and lacewings, can knock back aphid populations. Treatment for aphids is rarely justified, but if you do decide to treat for aphids, do not use a pyrethroid. Pyrethroids kill beneficial insects as well as your target insect, but pests such as aphids bounce back much quicker than their predators. Their high reproductive rate will allow their numbers to soar after a broad-spectrum insecticide application kills all their predators.

    “For other crops, there are armyworms in pastures and sorghum. With the rain we’ve gotten I’m not sure any control measures have been made. Fungicide applications have been going out against northern leaf blight and southern rust in corn the past couple weeks.”

    Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Area Agronomist, Vernon: 

    “It is the same story here as in many other cotton areas where there has been so much untimely rain. Producers haven’t been able to plant much at all. They had about 6 inches of rain in the Haskell and Munday areas and more is expected on the northern Rolling Plains.

    “It is hurting irrigated producers the most because they need to get the crop in. Dryland producers typically plant later to take advantage of good soil moisture. I haven’t seen much cotton up. Peanuts are also late in getting planted.

    “Wheat is nearly ready for harvest but it is too muddy for combines to get into the field. If it keeps raining my next concern is sprouting in the head. Cooler weather helped to boost yield potential, but we need drier weather to harvest.”

    Suhas Vyavhare, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Entomologist, Lubbock: 

    “With the excessive rain and cool weather, planting has been slow. As a result, things are quiet insect-wise. Thrips are not yet a problem. If cotton is up, rain is likely washing them off. But growers still need to be on the lookout for thrips and wireworms. If there are wireworms, growers might need to replant.

    “Thrips can infest the plant as soon as they come out of the ground. If immature thrips are apparent on very young plants that indicates seed treatments are not doing their jobs. If growers must spray, they should make applications at about the first true leaf. That’s the ideal time.”

    Ben McKnight, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, College Station:

    “It’s very wet and another system blew through last night. There are reports of 2 inches and maybe more. There have been more than 6 inches of rain in recent weeks.

    I’ve had many questions on how long cotton can handle flooded conditions. Cotton is fairly resilient compared to other crops. It can handle flooded fields for about seven days, depending on how much of the plant is underwater. There is a natural urge to hit it with a growth regulator, but make sure that’s a prudent decision. Cotton is just sitting there in a lag phase. It will take a while for it to vigorously start normal growth patterns. If PGRs are applied too soon when plants are in early maturity, it could hurt yields. Be cautious when applying PGRs early.

    “I’m driving through the Brazos Bottom this morning (June 1). I’ve noticed earlier planted cotton is performing better than later planted fields. Guys were able to get their residual herbicides out and weed control is better than the later stuff. I saw one field of later cotton that had pigweed about 1.5 feet tall. I’m afraid that will require some hoe work.

    “There are also thrips in the later cotton that’s at 2 to 3 leaves. Seed treatments are typically broken down by that time, so spraying will be needed in those situations.”

    Tim Ballinger, Ballinger Innovative Agronomics, Dumas, Texas: 

    “Northern Panhandle growers had a good weather window to get their cotton planted before the May 31 insurance deadline. But a recent line of rain and cool temperatures slowed emergence. Early cotton was stunted from cool weather before we saw the 80s last week. Then a continued period of thunderstorms and rain accompanied by low temps has slowed growth. Most cotton is either just emerging or at cotyledon. Much took 14 days to emerge. We’re due to warm up this week but it isn’t pegged to reach the 80s until Friday. We should see cotton at first true leaf by then.

    “As growth continues, we’ll begin treatments for thrips. Herbicide applications will also be considered, as a few Kochia weeds escaped burndown applications in March and April. Pigweed escapes are also showing up. Most pre-emerge treatments are holding off pigweed, but escapes will require spraying. When we treat for thrips, we’ll also apply either glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides to control the weeds.

    “A few farmers halted corn planting to get cotton in the ground. Corn that’s up is yellow due to the cool, wet weather. We only got started on conventional and seed milo planting about May 20.

    “Wheat is enjoying the nice rain and slow grain filling. Much dryland wheat is at half grain fill to the soft dough stage. Both the irrigated and dryland wheat looks good and guys are carrying it to harvest due to strong grain prices. That’s even with many dairies from Dumas to Dalhart trying to buy wheat silage for their forage needs.”

    Murilo Maeda, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock: 

    “When I first moved here folks told me we don’t complain about rain — and I am not. But we need to dry out to finish planting. Most of our region has seen significant rainfall the past few weeks. Areas along Hwy 84 from Muleshoe to Sweetwater through Lubbock received 2.5 to 3.5 inches of rain in the past five days. With our first insurance deadline of May 31 passed for the northern counties, our focus is now on the June 5 deadline for folks around Lubbock.

    “Quite a few planters have been running, but many are parked due to wet fields. Rain continues to be in the forecast and our challenge is to get this crop planted on time. While southern counties can plant through June 10, growers in the Lubbock region should consider shorter maturity varieties if planting practices extend much from here.

    “Along with the rain, strong winds and hail have been reported, so it may be later this week before we have a full picture of what damage to the early crop looks like.”


    David Drake, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Northeast Texas:

    “We are wet and have only about 25% of our cotton planted. We have another week to finish but received another 4 inches of rain yesterday (May 31). Cotton that’s up looks good in higher elevated spots, but not so well in lower areas.

    “We expect to see high thrips numbers. Growers need to watch closely for them because there are lots of grasses and weeds that are hosts for thrips and other bugs. I suspect we’ll also see fleahoppers when cotton begins squaring. Worms aren’t in the picture yet, but we know there are areas south of us with worms.

    “Wheat is ready for harvest if growers could get in and get it out. Some fields were hurt by the freeze, which will cost them yield damage. Spotty hail also hurt some wheat production. Corn looks good if growers got their nitrogen and herbicides applied on a timely basis. The same goes for soybeans and sorghum. They’re a mix of excellent to poor.”

    Justin Chopelas, JWC Consulting, Odem, Texas/Coastal Bend: 

    “We just finished the wettest May on record and it’s raining the first day of June. In over 20 years of crop consulting, I can’t remember this long a duration of wet fields. The crop is 95% bloomed. But it’s so waterlogged we’re doing all we can to keep it from growing away. We’re flying on Pix applications, and I see the need for further PGR treatments as the crop progresses.

    “It’s a problem getting caught up on everything. We couldn’t sidedress and couldn’t get herbicide work done. Yields could be limited to about 900 pounds per acre if the rain continues. However, right now there’s a hell of a corn and grain crop. Corn could hit 150 bushels per acre, which is strong for the Coastal Bend. Sorghum could hit 7,000 bushels. So, there is a bright side, but we still need warm, dry weather to help the cotton.”

    Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist, Safford: 

    “We’re planting our last cotton trial right now (June 1). It’s all cotton-following grains, so it’s later than usual. Overall, about 99% of the state’s cotton is planted. We have cotton in first bloom around Yuma and some still just coming up elsewhere. So far things look good, although there has been some replanting. Spring has been a little cooler than usual, with fewer days over 100 degrees. But the 100s are common now in the lower desert growing areas.

    “Water is a concern. While areas in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas are seeing much rain, we’re dry, even for Arizona. There’s hope for summer monsoons. Weather forecasters are predicting it. We hope those forecasts are accurate.”

    Jaime Lopez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, Frio County: 

    “Cotton is at about the 4-leaf stage. It’s coming along but it’s late. Many farmers waited because we were pretty dry up until May. I’ve not heard of any thrips so far but guys are scouting for them. They will also need to watch for fleahoppers as plants get ready to square. There is no disease pressure in cotton.

    “Right now, we’re in the middle of planting peanuts after just finishing wheat harvest. Wheat yields were poor. We will be good to get 25 to 30 bushels per acre compared to a normal of 40 bushels. The freak snowstorm and cold temperatures got us.

    “Corn looks good, and sorghum is just heading. We’re harvesting sweet corn right now.”


    USDA Announces June Lending Rates for Ag Producers 

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    Cleveland on Cotton: Less Backing and Less Filling 

    Weekly Cotton Market Review – USDA

    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:
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