Southwest Cotton: Pervasive Pigweed Pressures Southwest Cotton

    Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Peter Dotray

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    Pigweed is winning in parts of our coverage area after widespread rain has hindered herbicide application programs. Weed specialist Peter Dotray reviews how timely residual herbicide treatments can hopefully tame pesky plants.

    2,4-D drift and other herbicide mismanagement serve as reminders that labels must be followed to keep neighbors happy and prevent self-inflected wounds to your crops. Tim Ballinger shares his take.

    Low insect pressure is common, but be ready for outbreaks after rains stop and plants progress. Green ditches and other vegetation remain hospitable hosts to lygus, tarnished plant bugs and other insects, but it’s likely a different story if dry weather returns, notes entomologist Megha Parajulee.

    Potassium and nitrogen deficiencies are apparent where excessive rain has depleted soil nutrients.

    Sugarcane aphid warning – see Danielle Sekula’s Lower Rio Grande Valley update.



    Peter Dotray, Texas Tech University Weed Scientist (joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife), Lubbock: 

    “It continues to be an unusual, challenging year. Rain keeps coming after things start to dry up, and weed control is difficult. However, guys should stick to the original plan, even though the plan may require second herbicide applications sooner than they thought.

    “Timeliness of residuals and foliar herbicides is critical. Many growers are using a second residual over the top because the original ones are breaking down sooner than normal. Water and microbes break down herbicides and we’ve had more than our share of water. So the second applications of residuals are occurring more quickly.

    “There is good news and bad news about burndown products. Products like Liberty are working tremendously well. I’m seeing bigger weeds knocked down more than I expected. But the bad news is it’s hard to find many of these products. Folks are throwing lots of things in the tank, and I’ve noticed several generic glyphosates are causing leaf spotting. Humid conditions are playing a part there.

    “As guys are looking at their second and third sources for obtaining herbicides, they should consider using them in layby applications. That should help prevent later-emerging weeds from coming up and producing seed.

    “Folks have been in a mode to replant other crops. They should be mindful of cotton herbicides that might still be in the soil, which could impact other crops. At the same time, remember that herbicides applied in sorghum replants could affect cotton that’s planted next year.”

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

    “Rains have tailed off in the Brazos River Bottom. We had a small shower this morning (July 12), but in the past couple of weeks, there have been times where we almost had to irrigate. It’s hard to not appreciate an inch or 2 of rain like we’ve seen, but we need sunshine.

    “The crop is looking better after suffering through the wet conditions we had in May. Our research plots are at 7 to 9 NAWF, which I anticipate is close to what growers are seeing in the region. There are plenty of blooms as you drive through the bottom.

    “There are a few plant bugs we need to scout for. Weed control looks better than it did three weeks ago. There have been windows where guys could get into the field and make herbicide applications.

    “Guys need to be mindful of the more troublesome weeds that may escape herbicides. Even one pigweed can potentially drop a half-million seed back into the soil bank. Be sure to get those weeds out of the field, even if by hand.”

    Megha Parajulee, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Entomologist, Lubbock: 

    “For once we can be thankful for weeds in the bar ditches. With all of the rain, we have a lot more weeds and vegetation. It’s green everywhere – and that’s where all of the bugs are.

    “The vegetation is keeping potential lygus and tarnished plant bug outbreaks off the crops. There are also a few fleahoppers in the vegetation, but we’re mostly past the point where fleahoppers can hurt the crop.

    “The crop is looking good after the rain. Of course, the rainfall we’ve seen is unusual for the High Plains. When it dries up, or if the ditches are mowed, we could see pockets of lygus and tarnished plant bugs move into cotton and hurt late-season production.

    “We usually don’t see tarnished plant bug or lygus problems like in the Delta region. But with 4 million acres in the region, small pockets can be large.”

    Kyle Aljoe, Crop Quest Consulting, Dimmitt, Texas: 

    “After wet, cool weather in May and parts of June, cotton is finally starting to turn. It’s at early- to mid-square. The wet weather has created more insect issues and we’re spraying more for fleahoppers. Weed control is coming along and fields are looking cleaner.

    “Silage crops are looking good, but there are spots with iron chlorosis due to high pH levels. With our weather situation, field corn is anywhere from being planted behind failed milo to just starting to tassel. We’re dealing with a few mites with the warmer weather. And we’re scouting for rootworm beetles that are starting to emerge.

    “Weed control has been difficult in sorghum, again due to wet weather. We’re also seeing a shortage of nearly all crop treatment materials. The challenges just keep coming.”

    Tim Ballinger, Ballinger Innovative Agronomics, Dumas, Texas: 

    “We’re starting to dry out in the northern Panhandle after another good rain of 1.5 inches or more last week. Cotton is growing well. After 50 to 60 days in the ground, fields are at early- to mid-square. Once it hit 5 to 6 leaf, it took off. We’re on our second PGR application to control vegetative growth.

    “Weed control is a major issue. Pigweed is coming through the pre-emerge herbicides like they were not even there. And the post-emerge that was run during the 100-degree temperatures also failed. Russian thistle has also been tough to kill. We’re now running a mix of glufosinate and Roundup. It’s showing success.

    “2,4-D herbicide drift is a serious problem. A lot of growers are using the Enlist Duo technology, but some may be spraying straight 2,4-D to save money. Better management is needed to control drift because it’s damaging neighboring sorghum or non-tolerant cotton.

    “Insects are not a big issue, but we’re seeing a few grasshoppers in irrigation circle corners. We’ll need to keep scouting for these and other insects that can attack our fields.

    “On other crops, corn is healthy and enjoyed the rain. It’s tasseling, putting on ears and silking. It’s approaching peak water use, so guys need to manage their irrigation schedule closely after all of the rain. Sorghum is all over the board. Some is 2 to 3 leaf, while other fields are at 12 to 13 leaf and will be booting in about two weeks. High pH levels are causing iron chlorosis in various sorghum. Wheat harvest was above average, with yields from 70 to 100 bushels per acre. The May rains benefited the wheat.”

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

    “Overall, cotton across much of the region looks good. In general, there is variability as far as crop growth stages. It goes from fields that have started blooming down to 4 to 6 leaf and everything in between.

    “While it’s still early to speculate on impacts, it’s safe to assume our crop is somewhat late. Cooler weather has favored a slow start. However, we’re good on the moisture front. In the past 48 hours (July 10 through July 12) much of the region between Hale and Martin counties received moisture.

    “Other than Sundown, which clocks in at 2.66 inches, most places west of I-27 recorded 1.5 inches. The West Texas Mesonet reports that toward the east, amounts vary from 0.3 of an inch in Jayton to as much as 3 inches in Knox City. The area has seen hard hailstorms in isolated areas. We hope we’re near the end of severe weather.”

    Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas: 

    “We recently had a week-long rain that set back the cotton. A few fields suffered loss from excessive moisture. Early fruit was lost. But things have turned around. Cotton is at early-square to mid-square and we’re finishing up on post-emerge herbicides, PGRs and insecticides.

    “Weeds are now under control. We got our Pix shots applied to help get growth patterns back in line. In insect control, we’re still spraying for fleahoppers and tarnished plant bugs in a few areas.

    “Our wheat turned out well. Guys who took care of fertility and used fungicide are seeing above-average yields, in the mid- to high-60s and even better.

    “Corn looks surprisingly good after its slow start in May. With one more substantial rain, we could see a good dryland corn crop. Soybeans have also perked up after being stunted from the excessive rain.”

    Patrick Kircher, New Mexico State University Extension Agent, Roosevelt County, Portales: 

    “After being dry for so long, I’ve seen more rain the last 60 days than in all of 2020. Cotton had a tough time getting started and now it’s hurting for heat units. But optimism and hope are rising among producers who faced drought for so long.

    “Our pastures have a chance to heal and forage crops are promising. Alfalfa looks outstanding and the rain is helping the monumental number of haygrazer acres we’re seeing. We should have plenty of feed for the region’s dairies and feedyards this fall.

    “Unfortunately, pigweeds are also growing extremely well. They’re absolutely beside themselves. Guys couldn’t get in the fields to spray, and they took over. I’ve seen guys go in and shred weeds then go back and work the ground. With the rain slowing down, there are finally plenty of spray rigs and tillage equipment running in fields.”

    Stephen Biles, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Victoria, Calhoun & Refugio Counties: 

    “Well, we got our daily rainfall this morning (July 13) and we’re growing weary of it. Cotton is growing well and is pretty much at cutout. Most fields are 4 to 6 NAWF and we’re a couple of weeks from the start of defoliation. But yields could suffer because rain and cloudy skies caused small bolls to shed. There’s about a two- to four-branch gap between the lower part of the plant and today’s white bloom.

    “Weed control is pretty much over because most fields have a closed canopy. We’re watching for stink bugs and evidence of feeding in closed bolls. We’re also looking for bollworms in 2-gene Bt varieties. I’ve yet to find bollworms in VIP cotton.

    “Sorghum is disappointing. Rainfall will take its toll on yields. Corn is still standing well, but we need fields to dry up to get corn harvest going. There are a few acres of soybeans around Victoria and we need to be watching closely for stink bugs.”

    Orlando Flores, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, El Paso County: 

    “Both Upland and Pima cotton look great. We have small bolls and good flowering after plenty of heat units, irrigation and a recent rain that measured from 1 to 1.5 inches. But we haven’t had the rains much of Texas has seen this summer, so it will dry up quickly. The year’s limited amount of irrigation water available from the Elephant Butte Reservoir could shut down in August.

    “We’re fortunate pests are not a major problem. There is only minimal bollworm activity. Whiteflies have been non-existent.

    “At a cotton field day a few days ago we discussed many issues, including the joint research on fusarium FOV-4. USDA, Texas A&M research, AgriLife and New Mexico State are involved. We must keep this disease from spreading into our region’s cotton production.”
    Cotton filling out at Fabens, TX near El Paso (Courtesy Orlando Flores, El Paso County Extension)
    Not a yellow rose of Texas, but a beautiful one nonetheless as cotton blooms near El Paso at Fabens. (Courtesy Orlando Flores, El Paso County Extension)


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

    “Things look a lot better, but we’re still behind. We should be seeing lots of blooms this far into July, but I haven’t seen any up to today (July 13). We’re still in the squaring stage and will need every heat unit possible to finish the crop on a good note.

    “Rainfall has certainly helped, but it has made weed control a major issue. Not only have weeds grown, but guys also can’t get into the field to spray them. Wet weather could cause potash deficiencies, as well as nitrogen issues where water-logged fields prevented the uptake of nutrients. Insects have not been a major issue, but there have been treatments go out to handle fleahoppers.

    “If we can keep banging along and get rains later in July and August, the crop has much potential. But we will need a dry September and open October to make it.”

    Tyler Mays, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Hill County: 

    “We had a moth flight last week, but it died off. I’ve seen hatches, but the number of eggs isn’t a problem so far. Growers still need to keep an eye on 2-gene Bt to make sure bollworms don’t get through.

    “With most cotton at peak bloom in the Waco Blacklands area, we’re out of the window for fleahoppers. But we have to be aware of potential lygus and stink bug issues, along with bollworms.

    “It’s continuing to rain a lot here and it has rained all day (July 12) south of Waco. With the muddy fields, weeds are still hit and miss. It’s hard to get into fields in a timely fashion to manage herbicides.

    “We’re seeing a potassium deficiency in earlier planted fields, where the demand for potassium is a little higher to fill out bolls and promote fiber development.

    “Corn harvest is quickly approaching, and it looks to be a good crop for the most part. Sorghum looks good, but there are a few sugarcane aphids south and east of Waco. There’s nothing at threshold here, but it’s something we need to watch out for.”


    Danielle Sekula, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Lower Rio Grande Valley: 

    “We’re seeing very high numbers of sugarcane aphid in mature sorghum ready for harvest as well as in flowering sorghum — the highest populations we’ve seen all growing season. Growers should monitor their field margins and look for leaves that are glistening from the sugars sugarcane aphid excrete when feeding in abundance.

    “If you see the glistening, you’re likely at threshold and will need to treat. When sugarcane aphids are on the heads and feeding, their sugars will gum up the head and cause problems when harvesting. Check your fields and treat accordingly to avoid problems with combines breaking down during harvest.”


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    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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