Midsouth Cotton: Rain Continues – And It Might Be One of the Worst Years for Thrips

Thrips damaged cotton. Photo: University of Tennessee

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Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

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

Tucker Miller, Crop Consultant, Drew, Mississippi: 

“We had a tough start with the cold weather and the rain. We lost a little early cotton, but we finally got everything planted and everything is up now. We’re in OK shape for the most part. However, the area around Coahoma got 12 inches of rain in the last 12 hours (June 8). I haven’t seen the cotton yet, but I’m getting a lot of calls from my growers. The calls started with reports of 8 inches, then 10 inches and the last I heard was 12 inches of rain. I’m going to see it tomorrow (June 9), but I’m sure we’ll lose a lot of crops – cotton and everything else. We needed some rain but not 12 inches at once.

“On the other hand, all the cotton south of here (Drew, Miss.) is doing really good. It ranges from pinhead squares, which we found yesterday (June 7), to three-leaf cotton. We’ve started weed control, and it’s all looking pretty good.

“Over the past couple weeks, we did see a little thrips pressure on the younger cotton that required several sprays. We got that under control now though.

“We saw quite a bit of weed pressure early on. We spray Gramoxone and a pre-emerge behind the planters, but a lot of people faced high winds during planting to the point they couldn’t spray. After the winds, it rained and the cotton came up before growers could get it sprayed, so they had to wait for it to dry out and go in with dicamba on some sizeable weeds.

“My cotton acres are down about 40%. Several people cut cotton acres way back and chose to plant corn and soybeans. I kept hoping cotton prices would come up before they made decisions, but some growers didn’t plant any cotton this year. I do think the price is going to come up in the next month though.

“Corn really looks good. I’d say half of it is tasseling, and the rest isn’t far behind. We have everything sprayed for weeds and fertilizer put out. We are seeing very little insect or disease issues in corn. Everything looks good, but we’ll see how much fertilizer we lose from the 12 inches of rain.

“Peanuts are about 30 days old, and no insect issues to report yet. Applications of Cadre, the first shot of boron and 2,4-DB will be going out as soon as it dries up.”

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Larry Walker, Walker Cotton Technical Services, Flintville, Tennessee:  

“Cotton acres are up a little because of crop rotations. The cotton crop has gotten off to a slow start. The past seven days (from June 8) have been full of rain, and the three weeks before that were incredibly dry. We would like to see a dry forecast for the next three days, but forecast predictions show it raining through Friday (June 11). We really need things to dry up to make insecticide and herbicide applications, so this weekend will be busy if the rain lets up.

“Dr. Will McCarty always said, “Average is just the mean of the extremes.” So, we’ve had ‘average’ rainfall over the past five weeks. We didn’t see hardly any rain for three to four weeks, but it’s rained consistently the last 7 to 10 days.

“With the size and ability of cotton planters to cover a large number of acres, a lot of the cotton was planted in dry conditions. We did see good germination rates in those plants.

“Our concern now is 80% to 90% of the cotton is at the two-leaf stage and some is just cotyledon that came up from the last week of rain. If we don’t reduce our thrips threshold a little, thrips will begin to move from the bigger cotton to the more tender cotyledon plants. We aren’t seeing a large thrips population yet, but we really want to protect the young cotton at this point in the season. When the cotton blooms the first week in June, we really start looking at the future timeline. At this point, we’re going to need a lot of August rains, so we don’t want to slow down the cotton anymore at this point in the season.

“Compared to last year, we are behind. One huge difference last year was the amount of rainfall in August. Typically, we get around 3 inches of rain in August, but we got 6 inches during August in 2020. We did use a lot of Pix in that situation to make it work, but that’s the unique thing about cotton. No two years are on the same timeline, and you deal with the crop that is in front of you rather than stressing about if you’re on the same path as last year.

“We have decided to put out post-residual herbicides earlier. In 2020, we were unable to kill a few pigweeds with dicamba, but Liberty continues to work well. However, we don’t want to put all the pressure on Liberty to control weeds. We do have dual metolachlor going on three to four leaf cotton now.

“We planted some MG III beans early because it was the driest April in 5 years. They were just emerging to cotyledon size when the big freeze came, but those beans did not freeze. Those beans are now blooming (June 8), and growers are looking at a good price for end of August harvest.

“We used a residual during burndown with the beans and applied an over-the-top herbicide. We don’t anticipate needing to hit them with dicamba again, which is good news for us to take pressure off the dicamba a little.

“The corn crop survived the dry period, and it has really responded to the past week of rain. It varies by the area, but I’ve heard ranges from 3 inches of rain up to 4½ inches.”

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

“Everyone got finished planting in May. Our cotton acres are down about 20%. It ranges from between cotyledon and first leaf to our oldest at seven nodes.

“The weather has not been working with us this year. We finally started planting and temperatures dropped. Some growers held off planting until after that cold snap, and those acres seem to be growing off better now. The cold weather caused several replants. Replants were mostly in flat planted beds, but cotton planted behind cotton seems to be doing best. It’s just been a constant battle of needing rain to needing heat and sunshine. Right now, we could really use some heat and sun.

“We’re spraying a lot of thrips, especially where herbicides have gone out. The cool weather has caused the cotton to slow down a little, which is contributing to the thrips too.

“The beans are in pretty good shape. Some acres have yet to be planted and the oldest beans are at R3. They look really good right now. Some growers are struggling to get the sprayer in the field, but overall soybeans are doing good.

“Corn has been doing great. A storm come through Lee County last night (June 7), and a lot of corn is leaning this morning. One good thing about the ground being wet is most of the corn didn’t snap. Our oldest corn is just starting to tassel, and the youngest is around V2 or V3. The youngest corn was planted around May 28.

“Rice has been the challenge. Most of our rice is on heavy ground, and a lot of that grass is nearly impossible to kill. A lot of it is getting Regiment applications and some combinations, which has done a pretty good job. We got a couple inches of rain today (June 8), but we need to put out fertilizer and get it to flood. We’re getting to the point we will have to fertilize in the mud.

“Our row rice acres are down this year, but we still have 30% row rice.

“Peanuts took forever to make a stand this year, but we’re not quite to bloom. Everyone has done a pretty good job with herbicide programs for the most part. A lot of growers were able to get another herbicide application out before this rain. The peanuts are in pretty good shape.”

Richard Griffing, Griffing Consulting, LLC, Monterey, Louisiana:

“This year has been awful – the worst start I’ve seen. We are wet, wet, wet, and we’re not even through planting, which is way behind for us. We’re probably 90% planted now. Half of those acres have been planted in the last 10 days (from June 8), and a lot of those will have to be replanted because of all this rain. We lost a lot of rice acres because we couldn’t get it planted, and cotton acres are down, too. We’re going to have a lot of late soybeans.

“Cotton ranges from cotyledon to pinhead square. Most of it is just at first true leaf to cotyledon stage. A lot of people who couldn’t get cotton planted just went with prevented planting this year.

“Soybeans range from not even planted to R3. This time last year, they were all at R3 or R4, so we’re very late this year. I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot of corn earworms in the soybeans with such a late crop. We’re starting to put up traps to monitor the moths.

“The corn is doing fairly well. It’s all tasseled and at pollination now (June 8). We think we’ve lost some nitrogen, and we’ve had to apply a lot of urea to keep it going. It looks OK now despite losing heat units during the cooler, cloudy weather.

“Since April 7, we’ve had 30 inches of rain (as of June 8). At this point, we’re probably 12 inches over our average rainfall from April 1 to now. Some periods we get heavy rains, but within the last week, it’s rained every day. It just keeps the fields sloppy wet. The rain chance for today is lower, and we’ve seen sunshine so far today (June 8). A few days like this and we can get back in the field.

“One of our main issues is we had to apply burndown twice. Once in January or February and then a second time around a month ago due to short planting windows. After only a couple days of planting, it would rain, and the same thing would happen the next week. We got behind on pre-emerge chemicals, so we had a lot of weed control messes to clean up in cotton, soybeans and rice. Corn was in good shape.

“We have a lot of milo this year, and most of it is late too, which is not good because of insect issues. It ranges from just coming out of the ground to boot stage. I found my first sugarcane aphids in milo this morning (June 8). Populations haven’t been bad so far, but they’re going to come on quick.”

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Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist:

“The big thing in cotton right now is thrips. Numbers are extremely high across the entire state. We’re actually having a little difficulty controlling the thrips with acephate this year. The rate has to be greatly increased, but I’m getting reports from growers putting out a half pound of acephate and still not getting control. Because a lot of people are doing tank mixes with herbicides, many are using Intrepid Edge. Based on our trials and reports from consultants, Intrepid Edge is getting decent thrips control. I haven’t seen any issues about using Bidrin or something similar, but I would be leery of relying on acephate to control thrips at this point.

“Rainfall patterns are another huge issue right now. A lot of people are making applications and it gets washed off in a few hours. Acephate is not rain fast anyway. I know it’s easier said than done, but I would really watch the radar and try to time applications between rains when the insecticide can achieve adequate drying.

“In rice, we’re seeing a little different pattern on rice water weevils (RWW). Typically, RWW come in just as the field goes to flood. The females want to lay eggs when the larvae can fall right into the water, so treatments usually go out within 5 to 7 days of going to flood. However, the weevils aren’t coming in until 7 to 10 days after the fields are flooded. It’s obvious when the populations move in by the scarring on the new leaves. We’re recommending foliar applications when we see 40% to 50% scarring on new leaves. If you’re seeing adult RWW in the fields, we recommend making a pyrethroid foliar application.

“Despite the winter we had, we’ve seen excessive numbers of soil insect pests such as wireworms and grubs. Thrips and RWW appear to have fared very well over the winter, too. The winter did not seem to lower pest populations much at all.

“Two weeks ago, before all the rain (from June 9), not all the traps were high, but some traps were running 170 to 220 bollworm moths in a three- to four-day catch. This are extremely high populations for this time of the year, which indicates bollworm survival was very good or we already have a big migration.

“The fire ants also seemed to be unaffected by the cold winter. We’re seeing newly developed mounds on field edges. It doesn’t look like those who have had issues with fire ants in row crops in the past will get relief from the cold temperatures reducing populations.

“South Arkansas has got 10 to 12 inches of rain, and there’s a lot of damage and flooding. Plants in the low ends of fields have all drowned. It’s really a tough year because of the rain. Northeast Arkansas has also gotten a lot of rain, but not the 8 inches in one day with rain before and after that day like South Arkansas has.

“The impact of the flooding will be devastating for a lot of growers, but hopefully disaster relief will be offered. The flooding and damage are pretty bad. A lot of these guys had a good start on crops, and then were dealt this hand. It’s rough for everyone.

“We had a little flurry of fall armyworms (FAW) come through milo and corn. FAW are a migratory pest and don’t live in Arkansas, especially with a winter like we had last year, but they’ve already found their way back into the state. We are seeing a little damage in corn and milo. Sometimes the numbers reach as high as 1 worm per plant, but I haven’t seen any fields to the point of making an application. It’s just not a good sign for them to be here this early in the year, but this could be a preview of what is to come in the next month or two.”

Angus Catchot, Mississippi Extension Entomologist:

“Thrips have been really heavy this year. A lot of acres have required foliar sprays – regardless of seed treatment. Until recently, we had been extremely dry and all the hosts in the ditches had browned up and thrips have been on the move. A lot of people have reported high numbers back in fields shortly after sprays.

“Although we have seen some issues with acephate the last couple years in isolated spots due to resistance, no matter what is used we are seeing adult thrips quickly move back in. It’s simply a function of very high population numbers — nothing is holding.

“As if we weren’t struggling enough, the rains then started. We have seen incredible amounts of rain in some areas and lower, but still high amounts in many other areas. I’ve had several consultants tell me they can no longer find thrips behind these heavy rains. This is common, and heavy rains dislodging thrips from plants and reducing population numbers have been noted for years. Numbers will likely pick up when we dry out, but we welcome this temporary reprieve.”

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Bob Griffin, Griffin Ag Consulting, Jonesboro, Arkansas: 

“It is wet and still raining. It rained all day today (June 8). Our cotton ranges from first leaf to pinhead square. Before this rain, all the cotton looked pretty good. I’m sure I have some flooded now though.

“We started seeing thrips in fields 7 to 10 days ago. I recommended treating several fields yesterday, but I don’t know when they’ll be able to get in the field to get it done. The forecast has good chances of rain until Saturday. This rain is just something else. Thrips are really coming on in the cotton that isn’t growing off well. Some was planted in the cold and the rain still has it sitting still rather than taking off. That’s really the only insect issue we’re seeing.

“Just about everyone has a field that is in need of an herbicide application, but it’s too wet. Some growers are on top of it, and I have one guy who made a second application before all the rain hit. For the most part, we are in pretty good shape as far as weed control in cotton goes, but some fields need some attention.

“We didn’t have to replant a lot of cotton, and it really looks good overall. We’ll see how this rain impacts it.

“My oldest soybeans are R2 and at full bloom. But I have some soybeans following wheat, and the wheat hasn’t been cut yet. It’ll be a while before those beans are even planted. I haven’t heard of any issues in the beans other than weed control. Most do have good control on weeds in the soybeans now.

“We had a really good wheat crop this year – emphasis on had. This rain is not doing anything good for it, and everyone needs to be getting it out. I haven’t had any wheat cut so far, so time will tell what the rain has done to it. They will start cutting as soon as it dries up enough to get in the fields.

“Corn looks really good probably because it’s hard to flood out corn. We had 40 to 50 mile per hour winds yesterday afternoon (June 7), and I know some was leaning. I bet several acres are down because of that big storm. Luckily, it’s just 6 foot tall rather than 10 foot tall like it will be in a couple weeks. On my oldest corn, we’re 10 days off from tasseling. All the corn looks really, really good.

“My cotton acres are down about 10%, soybean acres are down 15% to 20%, and corn acres might be up 10%. Everything is pretty close to normal compared to previous years, but I’ve seen some shifts. I don’t scout peanuts, but a lot of people have more acres of peanuts this year.”

Scott Stewart, Director of West Tennessee AgResearch & Education Center, Jackson, Tennessee: 

“The main thing we’re dealing with is thrips. It’s been a rough year for them so far. We are seeing pretty high populations, and the weather hasn’t helped us out. The cold snap over Memorial Day weekend was poorly timed. Thrips populations were just peaking, and cotton was just reaching a really susceptible stage.

“I think this is the worst year I’ve seen for thrips in a long while, and this might be the unusual year we need to make two foliar applications for thrips in some situations. It’s very common for us to make a single foliar application, but some areas will definitely require two this year. With cool, wet weather, high thrips populations, slow growing cotton and the insecticide resistance issues we know we have, it’s the ‘perfect storm’ for thrips to thrive.

“I’m also getting a lot of calls about slugs, which is not too unusual for us. The same weather conditions that make thrips bad also make slugs bad. We have seen slug infestations in cotton and soybeans that are requiring some fields to be replanted. The downside to slugs is the best remedy for them is dry weather and heat, and we’re not getting either of those things. Needless to say, we’d like to see some sunshine.

“No-till fields always have worse slug issues because of the excess residue. Given the conditions, I’m actually surprised we’re not facing more slug issues. Everything is so dependent on Mother Nature, who hasn’t been on our side this year. You can’t spray your way out of slug infestations, but we do have some recommendations such as increasing seed population, delaying planting and certain tillage practices. Unfortunately, tillage is not an option in much of west Tennessee due to our erodible soils.

“I’ve had a couple calls about stink bug damage in small corn, but it’s not usually a big issue for us. We’ve seen a lot of bean leaf beetles in some of our soybean seedlings, but again these aren’t usually financially threatening issues, although the exception proves the rule.”

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

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