Midsouth Cotton: Cool May Temps Could Mean Delayed Cotton and Thrips

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    Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

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

    Hank Jones, RHJ Ag Services, Winnsboro, Louisiana:

    “Our cotton ranges from pinhead square to just coming out of the ground. We had a decent run of thrips the last week of May. Cool weather slowed down the cotton, and the cotton planted the first week of May really struggled early on to make a stand. Rain plus the cool nights did not serve the cotton well. With all the rain we had, I think it leached out some of the seed treatments, and we didn’t get as much benefit out of them as we could have. With all that said, we had to make quite a few sprays for thrips. Thankfully, we are starting to see a lot more progress in the cotton now.

    “Cotton aphids are starting to pop up in a few spots, but I see these as native populations. As we kill weeds, they jump into the cotton.

    “Most of our corn is starting to tassel or will be within the next week. Overall, the corn is in good shape. We’re not seeing any disease pressure yet, which is great. We just started irrigating a little corn moving into tassel late last week into this week, but hopefully irrigation will stop with these rains this week. This is probably the latest I’ve ever seen irrigation start. A lot of growers did not have to water prior to tassel, which is great for us.

    “The earliest planted corn on sand struggled, but it is coming around now. It has been one of the longest planting periods I’ve seen. Thankfully, we got the corn in, and prices are high.

    “Soybeans range from almost R3 to just coming up. I think I still have beans being planted today (June 1), so that’s almost an eight-week planting period. A lot of the beans didn’t look good until they started blooming, but we’re in good shape now.

    “The biggest issue in soybeans is weed pressure. We didn’t have the spring to do a lot of burndowns, so we have had to apply several thousand acres of dicamba products to control these weeds. And we’re still not out of the woods yet.

    “All of my rice this year is row rice. We are starting to pump water on some of it, and I anticipate it will be at green ring next week. Some rice is coming up to the two-leaf stage. Weed pressure is also an issue in the rice – especially pigweed.


    “Cotton acres are down, but rice, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum acres are higher than past years. Corn and soybean acres are certainty higher this year.

    “The last 10 days have been very productive. We have gotten sprays out, fertilizer to the rice and corn, sidedressing cotton and just general cleaning up fields at various stages. Without the last dry 10 days, this was going to be an incredibly late crop.

    “Although we are making up for some lost time earlier in the season, we are still behind in DD50s and DD60s compared to this time in previous years. This has been a stressful crop until now, but we are in a pretty good place at this point.

    “It appears the crops planted behind corn last year (corn or soybeans) had a rougher start early on. We saw a lot of pale color in the corn and beans and lacked vigor. A lot of those fields did not break down the corn stubble. We had a dry, cooler than average winter. We have a lot of corn debris left on the ground, and I think that tied up a lot of nutrients, which kept the corn and beans this year sluggish in the early part of the year.

    “We are really starting to turn the corner now. Everything is starting to shore up and look better, thankfully. Hopefully we can get a couple inches out of this rain, and we will be in a great place moving into June.”

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

    “It’s raining today (June 2), and we needed it pretty bad. It was to the point we had to stop planting because it was too dry, but earlier in the season it was too wet to plant.

    “We’re still only 60% to 70% planted. If we can get enough moisture, it won’t take long at all to finish planting.

    “The west side of my area got cotton in the ground a little earlier. It ranges from 2- to 3-leaf to pinhead square. In the area around Hattiesburg, we might be 50% planted, which is unreal for this time of the year.

    “So far, we haven’t had to spray a single acre for thrips. I hate to say it, but everything has been pretty easy so far. We’ve stayed on top of weeds. The Mississippi River side of my area is full of resistant pigweed, but the fields look good so far.

    “Our cotton acres are down from predicted acres due to too much rain and being late in the season. They have shifted to beans for the most part, but other areas are very similar to previous years for cotton acres. Every year my growers’ plant one-third of their acres in peanuts and the rest in cotton, so my acres stay pretty flat most years.

    “I talked to a grower yesterday (June 1) who reported deer destroying pretty good-sized cotton fields. I haven’t looked at it yet, but he acts like he’s going to have to plant beans behind the deer damage on cotton. It’s just one thing after the other. Deer are our major pest right now in the cotton, and pigs are the issue in peanuts.

    “The peanuts are looking good. I have some fields bumping 30 days old, other fields have yet to come up and we still have a couple hundred acres to plant.

    “Everyone has been pretty stressed here due to the timeline. However, in the past, we have planted cotton into the middle of June. Being in south Mississippi, we tend to plant later as early cotton gets hit by hurricanes pretty bad.

    “I hardly have any corn acres this year. I think I would have had more, but the rain just wouldn’t allow it. What I do have, looks really good and is silking.

    “This is the least busy I’ve been this time of the year in my 25 years of checking crops. Most of the planting took place from last Friday (May 28) to yesterday (June 1), so we’re still waiting on most of it to come up. We haven’t even got on a schedule yet.”

    Bill Robertson, Arkansas Extension Cotton Specialist:

    “We started planting cotton really late. We got to plant very few days in April, but our earliest cotton came up, acquired several heat units and looked very good. When we got toward the end of the first week in May, it turned cold. By the middle of May (our goal to be done planting) we were barely 50% planted. The National Agricultural Statistics Service update showed Arkansas as 92% planted yesterday (June 1).

    “Our cotton went in the ground in a very short amount of time. I think most of it was planted in two weekends in May around the rain showers. At this point, I think all the cotton that is going to get planted is planted. On the east side of the state, most of the planned cotton acres got planted, and there were very few replants. The replants were mostly due to herbicide injury from the cold temperatures in mid-May. In southwest Arkansas, I’ve talked to one grower who has had one good day to get a cotton planter in the field due to rain. This area has been experiencing this weather scenario for the past few years, but they have a really tough road ahead of them this year.

    “Two or three days in mid-May we gained zero heat units after we planted tests, and seeds did struggle a little. However, when weather conditions were ideal, seeds jumped out of the ground. When it was put to the test like in mid-May, it took a little longer and struggled to make a stand.

    “I’m concerned about the temperatures we had over Memorial Day. It got down in the high 40s, and cotton doesn’t grow below 60 degrees. It is unfortunately not like flipping a light switch. It doesn’t just start growing again once it rises above 60 degrees — it takes several days to start back up.

    “I looked at cotton yesterday (June 1) that I had looked at late last week, and it hasn’t grown at all. It’s just sitting there. What really scares me is weed and insect populations are still growing even if the cotton is not. Thrips are growing. The younger cotton that is growing a little slower is right at cotyledon stage, and I’m afraid thrips will sneak up on us. I looked at some cotton and the first true leaf was about the size of a mouse ear, and I’m afraid the second true leaf will show thrips damage because our seed chemistry will have run its course. We’re losing growing days, but the chemistry clock is continuously ticking. I’m afraid our chemistry will run out before the plant is big enough to outrun the thrips.

    “Being late planted, we can’t afford to give up days. At this point, I think we have lost the equivalent of 7 to 10 days. In the middle of May, we are usually collecting a lot of heat units. We then typically get to squaring in 30 days (despite our target being 35 days), which would be around the middle of June. The first flower is usually around July 6 or 25 days of squaring. If we lose 10 days, we don’t see flowers until July 17. That is way too late and very scary.

    It’s too wet to spray right now, so once it dries up people are going to want to do a tank mix to spray for this and that on cotton that isn’t growing, and we are going to make the cotton sick, sick, sick. Single applications cost growers more time, but I think we can give up more time than this cotton can. The cotton has already given up too much time. We can’t slow it down anymore.

    “I think this could be the latest start I’ve seen since being in Arkansas, and the plant still hasn’t kicked it back in gear. Yesterday (June 1) we didn’t get any sun and the high was 66. Cotton needs to be in high gear right now, but it’s not even in gear. It’s going to take a perfect August and September for us to make a crop because we are so far behind. Until you think about these dates and what the crop is not doing, you don’t realize how scary it is. We can’t give up this many days and make a good crop this far north in the cotton belt.

    “I’ve seen a lot of Brake going out, and we’re getting really good weed control with that. A lot of people thought they were going to be able to use dicamba until the end of June, but the temporary restraining order suddenly put the previous deadline of May 25 in place again. With so much pressure on planting, spraying wasn’t a priority for some due to the thought of having the extended deadline of June 30 to apply dicamba. This is coming back to haunt growers due to the weather now. We had days that were dry enough to spray but the wind wouldn’t die down enough to put a sprayer in a field. Agriculture never looks like the picture in the book.

    “Cotton acres are down from last year. USDA reports we’re down 7%, but I think we might be down as much as 15% from last year. With weather, the timeline and bean prices, cotton just couldn’t compete. We are so fortunate in Arkansas to have all the crop options we do have, but we’re even late for beans to the point we’re giving up a little yield.”


    Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi: 

    “We just finished planting yesterday (June 1), and our oldest cotton is at 2- to 3-leaf stage. It’s a young crop, and we’re about three weeks behind where we usually are. We are typically sweeping for plant bugs at this point in the year, but we’ve just had too much rain early in the season.

    “We also had to replant some fields because of a 3-inch rain mid-May. Guys had to replant anywhere from 250 to 1,000 acres. I remember the rain. It was a Tuesday night, and it wrecked several fields.

    “With that cool snap on Memorial Day weekend, we’re starting to have thrips jumping on it. We got a half inch to 1.5 inches of rain last night, but once it dries up, we’ll be spraying for thrips and weeds. Weeds are not any worse than a normal year at this point.

    “Soybeans are being planted now (June 2), and probably will be for the next week. We do have some beans coming up now, and they look good so far.”

    Lee Rogers, Rogers Entomological Service, Steele, Missouri:  

    “We just got a big rain yesterday into today (June 2). I haven’t seen an exact amount, but I’ve heard we got over 3 inches. We did need a good rain – maybe an inch to 1.5 inches. But we got that plus some, and there is still a chance of rain for this afternoon (June 2). Different areas really varied in how much rain was needed.

    “Everyone is done planting cotton here, and it ranges from 5-leaf stage to just popping out of the ground.

    “We are seeing some thrips on the cotton, but we’re treating that as we go. There is a lot of wheat around us and a lot of wheat strips in the cotton in addition to vegetation around the fields. It seems like a big year for thrips so far.

    “As of now, everyone has weeds under control, but we will see how things look after this rain. Soybean and cotton acres are up for me. All the markets are up, but they are not up as much as I thought (or hoped) they would be. It really depends on the grower. Some of my guys planted more beans, corn or peanuts, but I have others who planted more cotton than anything else.

    “We’re almost done planting soybeans. I’d say 75% have been planted so far, and we’re not seeing any issues in the beans yet.

    “It’s June, so it’s time to bear down to get a good crop this year, and everyone be happy!”

    Tyson Raper, Cotton and Small Grain Specialist, University of Tennessee: 

    “It’s been an interesting spring to say the least. May didn’t give us any windows to establish the crop until May 15. I would say maybe 1% to 2% early planted, and from May 15-23 we put in a tremendous number of acres. When the weather cooperates, it’s amazing how many acres we can get planted in a day. It’s truly been a May like no other. We had one of the coolest Memorial Day weekends on record with temperatures in the 40s.

    “It could still change a little, but I suspect we’re going to have around 275,000 acres of cotton, which is lower than what was predicted. There is a lot of interest right now in soybeans and the challenges of the late cotton planting window caused some growers to cut back on cotton acres. We didn’t have the opportunity to plant cotton in early May, which is generally associated with our highest cotton yields.

    “We are seeing fairly intense thrips pressure in spots. I think this is from slow growth, cloudy conditions and cool temperatures over the weekend. Hopefully this rain will break, and we will be able to outrun the thrips as the temperatures start climbing.

    “Right now, we have a little bit of cotton at the 2- to 3-leaf stage, but most of it is at cotyledon to first true leaf — right at the point thrips need to be addressed. As expected, this is coinciding with wheat drying down. Everyone should be checking and making those applications as appropriate – especially in fields adjacent to wheat acres.

    “We saw a little flush of weeds come up in a dry planting window before we could get the pres activated, but I think everything will be in check in the next week.

    “A lot of us were very concerned going into May 15, but we’re in a good place now. If we can get some warmer temperatures, we will be headed in the right direction.

    “We’re seeing a lot of movement toward three-gene BT technology, but we do still have a few two-gene acres. Low seedling vigor is a major concern, and this becomes even more important when we have temperatures like we’ve seen this May.

    “I want to mention a great opportunity coming up. Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee Extension weed specialist, is leading a weed tour at our Jackson location on June 16. I encourage anyone in the area interested in weed control in any of our major row crops to attend if possible.”

    AgFax Midsouth Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director.
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