Southwest Cotton: Pests Are On the Move But Chemicals in Short Supply

Cotton fleahopper adult. Photo: Texas AgriLife Extension

Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

Fleahoppers are hungry for cotton in parts of the Panhandle and South Plains as weedy ditches and corners dry down. A few fields still need thrips treatments as the latest plants push forward.

Stink bugs are migrating from corn to cotton in central and southern production areas.  Earworms/bollworms are blowing through three-gene Bt corn and cotton. A few are even surviving VIP technology, warns IPM Coordinator David Kerns.

Deep moisture over much of our coverage area has many still optimistic about a good crop, including Todd Baughman with Oklahoma State University.



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

“We talk a lot about the crop being a mixed bag. Well, this one truly is. The wide range of weather from the northern Texas Panhandle down to north of Lubbock and over into Oklahoma has wiped out two of my variety trials and caused skips in stands in others.

“The two lost trials were east and west of Panhandle, with one planted May 6 and the other one May 26. Heavy rain got them both. A trial planted May 27 east of Pampa is appalling. We dropped 55,000 seeds and only got half of it up. Part of the field had been underwater a few days and there were lots of skips.

“On the flip side, two trials with all variety technologies near Stinnett look good. They had good emergence and are at 5 to 6 leaf. Trials near Sunray also look nice and are probably squaring this week. Trials around Edmonson are at 6 to 7 leaf. Late trials in western Oklahoma were planted into a good profile and should perform well.

“Guys need to focus on keeping thrips off early stuff. For cotton that’s squaring, they need to focus on PGR applications. This mix of stands across the region indicates growers need to manage PGRs to prevent excessive vegetative growth. Fields planted at a high seeding rate likely had high nitrogen inputs. But if the stands are poor, there will likely be vigorous plant growth that will need good management with PGRs.

“We’ll continue to monitor fields to help determine if it was weather that caused most of the problems or poor seed quality.”

Blayne Reed, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hale & Swisher Counties:

“Although we’re shorter on irrigated cotton due to higher corn prices, our dryland cotton is out, filling in and looking good. Stands are in all stages. They range from cotyledon to match-head square, which we noticed today (June 21). It’s on track and moving right along.

“The rains several weeks ago did much for our area. But since we were unable to get into the fields for several weeks due to mud, weed flushes erupted. We’ve been trying to catch up on weed control and hitting fields with different herbicide mixes, including residuals. A few plants are showing stress from the many herbicide applications. But I expect cotton to grow out of it. There shouldn’t be major problems economically.

“With cotton squaring, we’re scouting closely for fleahoppers and lygus. I’m not seeing any, but after spraying silverleaf nightshade, there are 8 to10 fleahoppers coming off those weeds. They’re waiting to jump to something else and that’s likely cotton. We need to watch for those and treat them if needed to prevent major early square loss.

“We have indications there is a big fall armyworm flight coming up from the south. We could see hits on non-Bt corn and on sorghum.”

Stu Duncan, Kansas State University Crops & Soils Specialist, Manhattan, Kansas:

“The USDA crop report indicates there was timely rain in some places where cotton was planted. But not a whole lot of that looks good. We had a terrible time getting it in.

A lot of stuff planted down south is looking OK. But the northern part was wet until Memorial Day.

“There have been issues with dryland acres planted around June 15. It sprouted but is brown all the way to the ground. Hot weather hit it at the wrong time. We lost half of it to temperatures in the high 90s and even 100s. Let’s say the weather overachieved in those instances.

“All in all, the crop is anywhere from fair to good. Treatments for thrips were needed the past couple of weeks after wheat dried down. Guys were on top of that a lot more than usual. They hit it with acephate.”

Clyde Crumley, Crumley Agricultural Consulting, El Campo, Texas: 

“We’re trying to catch up from the wet spring across the Upper Gulf Coast. With the succession of numerous days of rain, rain, rain, this has been the worst cotton season I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve been down here. We’re 10 days to two weeks behind.  There has been a lot of replanting and a few fields were abandoned.

“Weeds have been horrible since guys couldn’t get into the field to spray. There were a few fields in which you couldn’t see any cotton for the weeds. Thankfully many guys have caught up on weed control. There is still some good-looking cotton, but most is only fair. We’re not looking at 3-bale potential by any stretch. About 1.5 to 2 bales per acre will be a win this year.

“Most is hitting the second week of bloom, the time we look for our second round of pests. We’re getting out of fleahoppers and into the potential for bollworms, especially in varieties that are two-gene Bt or lower. I’m seeing the leading edge of an egg lay. If there is a 20% egg lay it’s recommended to make an insecticide application. I’m not seeing that yet, but we’re watching for them.

“We need to watch for stink bugs now that corn is drying down. They could invade cotton as they leave corn. They’ll likely be brown stink bugs, the tougher ones to control. Another heatwave is expected after a chance for rain, so we expect a strong migration of stink bugs. The corn looks good except for fields in low-lying areas where crops are nitrogen starved. Milo is beautiful and we should see an above-average yield. Soybeans also look good.”

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

“We’ve been 85 to 90 degrees overnight and that’s not pleasant, even after days in the 115 or higher range. But we’re down to below 110 for daytime highs this week, which is common as we approach the summer monsoons. The water supply is tough now and we need those rains to offset irrigation.

“I’m still optimistic about the crop. In the central growing areas, cotton was young enough in the fruit cycle the heat probably didn’t impact much of it. Growers were able to irrigate those fields. The earliest stuff is approaching mid-bloom in that area and southeast Arizona. In the southwest, cotton is on the backside of peak bloom. Growers there should make their final irrigations in about six weeks. Fruit retention is high and guys expect a good crop. There’s more Pima cotton this year and it shows heat stress quicker than upland varieties. We hope Pima didn’t lose much fruit.

“Thankfully, insect pressure remains light. I don’t know of anyone who has sprayed. There are a few lygus here and there, but nothing to worry about. I haven’t seen any train wrecks with weeds.

“As we discussed before, the 2022 crop is on our minds because it’s a forgone conclusion we will see shortages of irrigation water from the Colorado River. That will impact central growing areas. Growers can make up about 70% of that through groundwater. But if low precipitation continues this year, it could get bleak really quick.”

Mike McHugh, Southwest Texas Ag Consultants, Uvalde, Texas: 

“Cotton is about two weeks late after many fields had to be replanted. But it’s picking up and looks good, even though cooler weather has slowed growth a bit. The majority is approaching early bloom.

“Weed control has been successful in most fields. Many growers hit it twice, first with early applications of a Roundup and Liberty combination. They came back at layby with Dual. Engenia was applied where we had pigweed misses on dicamba-tolerant cotton. Pix applications are going out to manage growth when the cotton finally takes off.

“It remains quiet insect-wise. Fleahopper populations have been light. Where needed, we’ve made applications of acephate.

“We have more milo than usual, and it looks great after the early rains. Milo harvest will start next week. I haven’t seen any sugarcane aphid problems. But for milo planted later after it was too late to plant cotton, they could be an issue. Field corn harvest should begin in about two weeks.

“Vegetables remain major crops in our area. Sweet corn harvest is just starting for our July 4th run. So far there’s not much worm pressure. Green beans look really good after the cool weather.”

David Kerns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Professor and Statewide IPM Coordinator, College Station: 

“Cotton is not quite blooming and fleahopper pressure is slowing down. Treatments are holding up, although a few fields need retreated. Aphids have played out for the most part. We’re watching for bollworms and moths are showing up in a few traps. It’s an isolated situation and there are only a few eggs here and there.

“Corn is in the milk to denting stage. We’re monitoring it for ear damage ratings. The only things working to control earworms are VIP corn technologies. But we’re finding a few earworm survivors in those — something we don’t need to see. That indicates growers need to check all Bt technologies for earworms and eventually bollworms in cotton.

“Stink bug numbers are still low in corn. I saw one stink bug every four or five plants this morning (June 21). As corn begins to mature, they may spill over into cotton. Brown stink bugs were in milo last week. Rice stink bugs are there this week. A few fields are above threshold and need treating. Sugarcane aphids are out there, but their numbers remain low.

“There’s a growing problem with the lack of chemical availability. Many insecticides are in low supply, including dimethoate and pyrethroids. Lorsban is being applied on rice stink bugs in sorghum, but it’s not as effective on high populations.”


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

“With a few fields hitting pinhead square, farmers need to watch closely for fleahoppers. With large populations of weedy hosts, fleahoppers could move into cotton after weeds are treated with herbicides. The threshold for fleahoppers in West Texas is 25 to 30 fleahoppers per 100 terminals.

“Farmers need to have a minimum shed of early squares, which produce the most cotton in a plant. It should be limited to a 10% shed if possible. There can be square loss without insect infestations. So before deciding to spray, make sure insects are the problem. When it comes to the right insecticide, use a broad-spectrum insecticide to protect beneficials that will be needed later in the growing season.”

Todd Baughman, Oklahoma State University Institute for Agricultural Biosciences, Research Professor, Ardmore: 

“As late as it is in June, there are still a few guys trying to get dryland planted. For some it was too dry to plant early. For others it was too wet for too long. They made up for it last weekend. Planters were blowing and going.

“The crop that’s up looks better, but we’re not sure how far the wet weather set us back.

“The most positive thing is we have good soil moisture with the bulk of the summer still ahead. Research shows with this kind of deep moisture, there should be a positive yield in the end. But the slow start is still a concern.

“While the moisture and heat helped the cotton, weeds took off. Weeds went from being no problem to being too big to spray in about a week’s time. Fields treated with residual herbicides earlier were cleaner. That shows how important those residuals are. They may break down faster in wet weather, but the advantage of them was extremely obvious this month.”

Chuck Wilbur, Independent Crop Consultant, Wellington, Texas/Southeastern Panhandle/Southwestern Oklahoma: 

“We had a little reprieve in the weather Monday (June 21) and Tuesday with temperatures in the 70s and low 80s. But after heat in the 100s last week, the crop needs another shower. The dryland is all over the place. Most is up but some didn’t make it. The irrigated looks pretty good. It’s at 6 to 10 nodes and pinhead to match-head square.

“Fields are weedy, so this week we’re applying more residuals and will start making PGR treatments. Since the crop is squaring, we may incorporate acephate into the application to manage fleahoppers. We’ll also start top dressing with fertilizer later this week. There’s a good profile after the rains a few weeks ago. Even though fields are getting dry on top, we want to get roots down to the profile to conserve irrigation water. We’ll need the water in August.

“The peanut crop is coming along. It’s at first bloom and looks good. I’m hearing good yield numbers on wheat. They’re 40 bushels per acre and higher for dryland. The wet May helped with the grain fill.

“Growers are scrambling to obtain chemicals. There could be difficulties in getting enough herbicide and insecticide further into the growing season. Another problem is weeds are adapting to herbicide chemistries. We’re hoping the residuals will hold up until well into July.”

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

“The cotton is responding well to the warm weather after good rains. Growth stages are in all ranges. There are 6-plus leaves in some fields, to others where plants are just coming up. Even some fields hit with blowing sand and hail early on look a lot better.

“Monday (June 21) was a rough day after high winds hit the South Plains region. It’s hard to tell at this point the extent of the damage but I’m sure some fields were hurt. On the positive side, weather models indicate the chance of rain this weekend. That would be a welcome sight and relief after hot temperatures last week and the warm weather we’ll see through Friday.

“After a dry start to the year, spring and early summer rain put our total precipitation at 10.61 inches in Lubbock. That’s 2.36 inches above normal through June 21. For that reason, we have a chance to make a good dryland crop. We hope that materializes.”

John Thobe, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Bailey, Parmer & Castro Counties: 

“Cotton is in different stages of growth, with a few fields still pushing 3 to 5 leaf and others starting to square. For those fields, we’re warning guys to check for fleahoppers and stay on top of them to prevent square losses.

“Residual herbicides have done a good job on weeds and we’re focusing more on escapes. With the shortage of chemicals, some guys are pulling out the whole bag of tricks to try and stay ahead of weeds. For younger cotton, Orthene is going with herbicide applications to manage thrips.

“Milo is being replanted in parts of the region. A few growers will push into next week before planting. Corn is at the V8 stage and we’re watching traps for fall armyworms. Wheat harvest is about 20% completed. May rains were beneficial and a few guys took wheat to grain. But there’s still a lot of wheatlage around after wheat was cut for forage.”


Oklahoma Cotton: Managing Fleahoppers 

Thompson on Cotton: Outside Influences Responsible for Recent Volatility  

Weekly Cotton Market Review – USDA 

Cleveland on Cotton: Market Mostly Recovered from Commodity Shakeup 

Drought Monitor Weekly: Heavy Rains in Southeast; Hot, Dry Up North  

NOAA Seasonal Drought Outlook – July, Aug., Sept.   

Global Markets: Cotton – Strong Chinese Consumption, State Reserve Demand Drive Imports to 7-Year High  

Ag Taxes: Looking Over the American Families Plan – DTN 

DTN Fertilizer Trends: Slow March Higher Continues 

Eyeing USDA’s Budget Request – DTN

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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