Midsouth Cotton: Plant Bugs Continue on Hard and Steady, But Bollworms Wait It Out

    Plant bug. Photo: University of Georgia

    Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

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


    Plant bugs continue to increase across the board, and most fields are requiring multiple applications as adults move back in. Bollworm numbers are expected to rise in the next week based on time of year and egg reports.

    Other than plant bugs, most pests have been quiet. Green cloverworms are noticeable in Mississippi, and Arkansas is still battling spider mites. Sugarcane aphids are still light in milo.

    Corn is in the home stretch. At this point, most say it’s going to make a pretty good crop, especially with current prices.


    Angus Catchot, Mississippi Extension Entomologist: 

    “We do have some cotton blooming, but the bulk of the crop is in the second or third week of squaring.

    “Some areas of the state are seeing extremely high plant bug numbers, but it is very dependent on geography and proximity to corn. We have a lot of corn this year, and we also have cotton like islands surrounded by corn. Particularly around corn edges, we’re really struggling to control migrating adult plant bugs. Many have already decreased their spray intervals to four or five days to preserve square retention. Some fields have already been sprayed three times, and we’ve only been fighting large numbers of adult plant bug migrations for 10 to 14 days (from July 7).

    “It’s not that they are difficult to kill, but no products have a long residual to hold adult plant bugs out for long. You kill what adults are on the crop and a few days later they’re at threshold again. They’re a real problem. Sprays have to go out until that migration is over, and sometimes it takes two sprays, sometimes it’s four. We have so much grain this year, so it’s really contributing to plant bug numbers in cotton. I’m seeing the same things in my plots in the south Delta.

    “I want to reiterate if you make an application for plant bugs then find numbers just as high five days later, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a control failure. It could be another wave of adults moving into the field that quick. We really need to focus on square retention rather than bug numbers in these fields. Square retention will tell the tale if the insecticide is working or not. Fortunately, this hasn’t been the widespread norm. However, it has been tough in the isolated spots.

    “Based on the calendar date, we should see bollworm numbers start to rise in the next week. In fact, a consultant around the Jackson, Mississippi area sent me pictures yesterday (July 6) of a bunch of bollworm eggs in cotton. Bollworm populations usually peak around July 15, give or take a week, so I’m not surprised to have a report of eggs. I expect to hear more in the coming week about bollworms.

    “Soybeans have actually been quiet for the most part. The armyworm flareup has subsided after increased grass control after the rains, but some isolated areas are still having control issues.

    “Green cloverworms numbers were incredibly high last year, which is pretty unusual. I am starting to get a few reports of pretty good numbers this year too, so we’ll see how that plays out. They are very isolated reports right now. We hardly ever treat specifically for green cloverworms, but we did in 2020. Ten years could pass with very few mentions of green cloverworms, let alone targeted sprays, so I find it interesting I’ve already had reports of them again this year.

    “The probable upcoming bollworm flight is also something to be aware of in soybeans. They tend to preferentially target wide row beans that are flowering, so I expect those areas to start picking up worms in the next couple weeks.

    Eddy Cates, Cates Agritech Inc., Marion, Arkansas: 

    “Most of our cotton ranges from 9 to 12 nodes, but very few fields have reached first bloom. Our crop is 10 to 14 days behind schedule.

    “We’ve had a lot of spider mite activity. Around 60% of our fields have been sprayed for spider mites, and some fields have been sprayed twice. I mean entire fields have been sprayed up to two times. Last week was a big week for mites, but we cleaned up a lot of fields then. Luckily, we’re getting away from treating entire fields now.

    “Tarnished plant bugs are moving into the cotton at high numbers this week (July 7). We’re seeing more movement out of corn and ditch banks. Adults make up 95% of the plant bugs moving into cotton, and they are knocking off some small pinhead squares. We are trying to stay on top of them. Most cotton has had one application for plant bugs and the second is underway.

    “A lot of cotton was planted fast and furious with a lot of vegetation in the fields. After cleaning up the fields, spider mites and plant bugs started moving into the cotton. I think it’s going to be a very pest heavy year. It’s been one pest after the other. The season started with thrips, then transitioned to spider mites and now we’re battling plant bugs. It seems like plant bugs will be heavy this year.

    “Soybeans range from stages R2 to R3.5. Fungicides will probably be going out soon on a lot of the beans. The pods are starting to fill, and overall, the soybeans look really good. Spider mites actually got so bad at one point we had to treat some of the soybean fields along the edges.

    “Our rice crop is right at early boot stage. We are starting to make the early boot urea applications for fertility in the next week, and fungicides will be going out the week after that. The majority of my rice is hybrid rice.

    “Most of the corn is right at the blister stage, and it all looks really uniform and good. A lot of fungicides are going out or will be soon. Although we haven’t seen any southern rust, it is popping up all around us. A lot of our corn will dry down in the fields, so we like to put out the fungicide to promote stalk strength as it dries and try to beat the rust.

    “We went three weeks with no rain. Finally, we got a good, gentle rain last week, which the crop needed and helped beat back spider mites. Areas received up to 2 inches last week, and most of northeast Arkansas got 1 to 1.5 inches. The majority of my acres are irrigated, but the rain was definitely welcomed.”

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

    “The primary thing on everyone’s mind is plant bug management. I’ve received quite a few calls about them, and that seems to be the only major pest issue in the cotton currently. As usual, numbers vary a lot, but some areas are seeing pretty high plant bug numbers. Quite a few treatments are going out since most of the cotton is squaring pretty good, and treatment numbers might be a little above average across the state right now.

    “Our cotton is late to really late. I don’t advocate for making proactive automatic sprays or reducing thresholds, but it is so important to follow our thresholds and be timely with applications (especially in a late crop).

    “I’ve heard a couple comments about spider mites in a few isolated spaces but nothing widespread.

    “I don’t think I’ve had a call about a soybean pest in 3 to 4 weeks. We are seeing pretty good populations of threecornered alfalfa hopper and some damage, but our beans are really past the stage we would be concerned about damage.

    “We got 1 to 5 inches of rain last week (week of June 28). In mid-July, an inch per week will keep you alive, but we wouldn’t complain about a little more.

    “Most of our crops look good. The cotton is a little late and scruffy in places, but the soybeans and corn look good. If we keep catching timely rains, we have the potential to make a decent crop this year.”


    Richard Griffing, Griffing Consulting LLC, Monterey, Louisiana: 

    “Today we’re getting a good general rain (July 7), and we needed it.  A few showers have popped up here and there but nothing substantial for a while.

    “Most of the cotton is at first bloom. Plant bugs have been pretty heavy the past two weeks, and we’re on the second plant bug application. The cotton has a pretty good square set though, so we’re holding our own against them. A fair number of bollworm moth are starting to flush in cotton and soybeans, so I’m expecting a big egg lay in the next week or so.

    “Soybeans range from V3 to R5.5. We finally got weeds cleaned up in the beans, and the fungicides are starting to go out now on the second planting. Green stink bugs are picking up in the older beans with a few redbanded scattered in. Fall armyworms were a pretty serious issue for a while, but they cycled out about 10 days ago (from July 7).

    “I’m expecting to have corn earworms issues in the next 7 to 10 days based on the number of moths starting to flush in the beans. I have a lot of beans at the R2 stage at full bloom, which is the perfect storm with corn earworms. We usually see a big egg lay in the first couple weeks of July, so they’re right on time.

    “Corn is at the half starch line, so we’re almost done with it. I’m checking very little at this point.

    “My rice is all fairly late, but it’s all finally at flood. Everything has been quiet in the rice.

    “Milo is anywhere from hard dough to just starting to head. So far, we haven’t had many issues. Sugarcane aphids have been light.”

    Matt Foster, Louisiana Extension Cotton, Corn and Grain Sorghum Specialist: 

    “The cotton I’ve looked at across the state looks good with no major issues. Across the state, we’re probably 75% squaring, and a lot is starting to bloom. I looked at some May 15 planted cotton yesterday (July 7) that is just starting to bloom. Most of the cotton in Louisiana was planted in late May, so it’s all getting close to bloom. Square retention has been good.

    “The June planted cotton is growing fast. Compared to this time last year, the cotton is about a node above last year’s crop. It’s common for a later planted crop to grow quicker, so we’re right where we would expect to be given the start we had.

    “Currently, the only issue in cotton is plant bugs. Plant bug pressure has really ramped up in the past two weeks, and applications are going out readily.

    “I don’t think we’re looking at a record-breaking corn crop. Throughout the state, I think the corn crop will be average to just above average. I’ve looked at some really good corn fields and some pretty rough fields, but with higher prices, it could be a good year for growers overall.

    “A lot of guys are still irrigating corn and cotton. A lot of corn is at the dent stage, which is typically 20 days away from black layer. At that stage, we recommend terminating irrigation, so the crop is moving along.

    “I haven’t heard of many sugarcane aphid outbreaks in the milo, which is really surprising. They could blow up next week, but we’re enjoying the quiet. Most of the milo looks fairly decent.”

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