Southwest Cotton: Bollworms Below Normal

    Bollworm, cotton square. Photo: Aaron Cato, University of Arkansas

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    Bug pressure has decreased in much of the Southwest. But beware of bollworm, stink bug, Lygus, spider mite and fleahopper flare-ups as the crop approaches or hits bloom and nears cutout.

    PGRs are proving their power as growers across our five-state coverage area battle invasive vegetation caused by continued rainfall. Cotton Specialist Murilo Maeda shares tips on growth regulator management.

    Boll rot has Coastal Bend growers grasping for a dry rest of the summer. And this week’s space flight wasn’t the thing on the radar in Southwest Texas and parts of New Mexico. Growers are monitoring Southwestern cotton rust that might invade fields.



    Gary Beverage, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Artesia, New Mexico/Southwest Texas:

    “Overall, the cotton looks good. A lot is blooming and starting to put on more fruit. We’ve had quite a bit of moisture. That has helped the crop, but we must keep an eye out for Southwestern cotton rust. There are no major infections, but we’re applying protective fungicides to be in front of it.

    “Insects are not a problem, but I’m curious about how stink bugs will react to wetter conditions. Weed management has been solid. We had productive early control from timely herbicide applications. Now, the canopy will start closing soon.

    “The yield potential depends on if we experience an early cold snap like we had last September that hurt the 2020 crop. We don’t want that again. Temperatures have moderated in the 90s with lows in the 70s. That is helping. We’ve been proactive with PGRs and will likely remain aggressive with them to help control vegetative growth. Crops respond better to rainfall than any nitrogen or other fertilizer you can apply, so we have to stay on top of them.

    “Of course, there was other excitement around here this week. Monday, I drove by the site of yesterday’s (July 20) big space launch outside of Van Horn, Texas. I was on my way to look at chili peppers — it was plenty hot there with all of the news coverage.”

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

    “We’re far behind on heat units. Growers hope for more this week with warmer temperatures in the forecast. Cotton is just starting to candle (July 19), but there aren’t many blooms so far.

    “Insect pressure is light, but we’re still checking for fleahoppers and lygus. Both remain question marks. Weed control remains good. Many growers are applying herbicides when they apply PGRs to save a pass. It’s still difficult to obtain chemicals and some guys are writing their names on chemical totes as they go to a distributor. Diseases have not been a problem, other than a little common rust.

    “Sorghum planted late is just now at V2 and starting to boot. There are no sugarcane aphids just yet. Corn varies from silking to 90-day hybrids just planted last week. Spider mites are slowly coming in, but we know they can blow up if the water shuts off.”

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

    “We’re seeing a lot of brown stink bugs. They’re our main concern in cotton and growers are spraying for them. There are also problems with tarnished plant bugs that are above threshold. If guys spray for stink bugs they will clean them up as well. A few spider mites are also in cotton, but they’re not severe. Cool weather will keep them suppressed, but watch out if it turns off hot and dry. Fortunately, bollworms are light, and all Bt varieties are holding up thus far.

    “Sugarcane aphids are starting to pop up in milo. Much of it is ready to cut and growers don’t want harvest issues caused by SCA.

    “Fall armyworms are a major problem in pastures. There are large populations, and guys are complaining that pyrethroids are not holding up. Also, all of the rain we’ve had is washing off insecticides.”

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

    “We’re spraying for a few stink bugs, both green and brown. They’re migrating out of milo that’s drying down. There are also scattered spider mite infestations. About 10% to15% of my cotton acres have needed spraying for mites. The crop has canopied, so weeds are no longer an issue.

    “This summer remains cooler than normal. We’ve had one day of 100-degree weather; we’ve usually had a month of it by now. The cooler, wet weather has kept our cotton about two weeks behind. Fields are in full bloom and look good. But it will be early September before we get into defoliation, which usually starts in mid-August.

    “Average to above-average yield potential is still there, even though the bottom fruit load is poor due to the cool, wet spring.”

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

    “We’re still seeing nice little showers. We received 0.7 to 0.8 of an inch last night (July 18). You don’t see too many pivots running, which is highly unusual in mid-July.

    “Cotton still seems late. But I looked at the date of the first bloom for the past few years and it’s July 12 to 15. Most of what I’m checking started blooming last week. That’s even with a lot of cloudy days and cooler temperatures. There’s not yet a big fruit load, so we haven’t lost much fruit to weather.

    “We’ve turned the corner on fleahopper control in older cotton, but we’re still scouting all fields. Weed control remains a chore with wet fields. The cotton I watch is 80% to 90% Xtendflex, applied with Liberty and Roundup. That combination handles small weeds but can’t control weeds that reach 6 to 8 inches tall. There’s still a chemical shortage, but providers seem to have material available when needed. A lot of people have run sweeps and cultivated cotton and peanuts to help control weeds. One grower I know has even invested in a weed zapper. It sure toasts those large weeds.

    “Peanuts look good and are into the second bloom with pegs and swells. I’m not seeing any disease but will watch closely for leaf spot in three to four weeks.”

    Justin Chopelas, JWC Consulting, Odem, Texas/Coastal Bend: 

    “A local grower just tweeted he picked the first bale in the nation. That normally happens down in the Valley, but freezes and zeroed-out cotton put them behind. Overall, we’re getting close to defoliation in the Coastal Bend. It’s about 15 to 18 days out if Mother Nature will leave us alone.

    “I’m walking in waist-high cotton this afternoon (July 19). It’s nice to see dry weather again, and we could use about 90 more days of it. We’re projecting an average yield of about 900 pounds per acre. There may be yields a lot better and a lot worse.

    “Boll rot is an issue after all of the rain. We also had issues with rank cotton and couldn’t get it sprayed. We’ll be glad to get this crop out of the way.”

    Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Amarillo: 

    “As a whole, we’re still at mid-point square across the Panhandle. We hope to start seeing candles and blooms by the end of this week. Unfortunately, we’re still a few weeks behind. Fields look good after the rains, but we’re starting to see elongation in the nodes. Producers need to think about PGR programs. We don’t want plants to get away from us. Temperatures are forecast in the 80s and 90s this week. That’s good because it helps with heat units, but it isn’t hot enough to stress the crop.

    “Fleahoppers have picked up with the advanced squaring. Weeds are a bigger issue, even in corn. Producers couldn’t get a preplant herbicide application applied in corn, so there are still weeds as corn approaches tasseling.

    “In the northern Panhandle, cotton herbicide decisions should be based on the crop rotation, especially with corn. Sharpen herbicide is a good option, but not with grain crop rotation. Volunteer corn is an issue, along with johnsongrass, which is more problematic. Roundup is not working on johnsongrass. Fusilade or Select should control volunteer corn and johnsongrass.

    “Corn looks good overall. It’s anywhere from very late to tasseling and R1. Some fields are showing signs of nitrogen deficiency. If possible, producers should take nutrient assessments and consider fertigation. Sorghum is looking good but weeds are a problem there, too.”

    Dagan Teague, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Floyd & Crosby Counties:

    “Bollworms are being found in non-Bt and below-three-gene Bt. We have not had to spray, but with all of the rain we’ve had, this could be a year with many more insects than usual. We’ve already sprayed for fleahoppers on quite a few acres. Growers need to scout closely for insect buildup.

    “The crop is way behind in many fields, with growth stages all over the place. Rain has set everyone back. Fields range from match-head square to the stage where Pix treatments are needed to manage growth.

    “Corn looks good, and I haven’t heard of any major insect outbreaks. Sorghum is from V4 to V5 to blooming and heading out. There are a few sugarcane aphids here and there but none that have needed spraying.

    “Most growers have been able to obtain chemicals, but they’re aware of potential shortages.”

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

    “Areas south of Lubbock toward San Angelo still look good. Many places have received additional rain the past 48 hours, so we continue to be blessed on the moisture front.

    “In the coming days, we’re forecast to be on the dry side with high temperatures in the high 80s to mid-90s. As long as we can get sunshine we should be in good shape. Cloudy days are something we need to avoid as the crop goes into the reproductive stage. That tends to cause plants to shed young fruiting sites. Overall, I still think this crop is running behind, and managing inputs to promote earliness will likely be a good strategy.

    “Typically, most of our dryland doesn’t need PGRs, but this year might be an exception. While I still don’t think it fits all acres, there are fields that could benefit. My main concern relates to plant size on dryland and even some irrigated where water is limited. The plentiful soil moisture will promote robust vegetative growth, and the bigger those plants are, the more water they will use.

    “Keeping vegetative growth in check can be beneficial if we find ourselves on the dry side of things. With PGRs, just remember the golden rule — avoid an application if the crop is, or is likely to be, under stress.”


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

    “It’s hot and humid (July 20). The crop is late after the cool spring and early summer, but it’s improving. It has made rapid advances. If planted on time, it has started blooming the last five to six days. The short-season varieties from PhytoGen and Deltapine look good, but we don’t need a cool September like we had last year. That discouraged a lot of growers and is one reason our cotton acres are down.

    “Fleahopper treatments have been going out, and there are also a few plant bugs. Guys are combining those treatments with PGR applications. Our growers are quite accustomed to staying on top of things. And when you’re dealing with only 13 to 15 effective fruiting branches, you can’t afford to miss any of them.”

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

    “Growers in the Yuma area will make their final irrigations at the end of the month and should start terminating the crop in August. That area’s crop looks good, even with a fair amount of heat stress. It has a good fruit load and insect pressure has been light, which is the case around the entire state.

    “In central Arizona, most cotton is near peak bloom and at 5 to 6 NAWF. But there has been fruit loss due to heat stress. Of the blooms we tagged two weeks ago, 95% have fallen off the plant. That’s a lot of small boll loss. With humidity and hot temperatures, that crop will grow like crazy, so it needs to be managed with PGRs.

    “Southeastern crops are pushing toward peak bloom. Those planted later are at early bloom. Much of the crop is seeing better than 85% fruit retention in the higher elevation.

    “While the cotton is growing like crazy, weeds are doing the same thing. I’m in Maricopa County today (July 20) and pigweed is rampant in some fields. Growers need to take care of it and help prevent pigweed from spreading across the entire state.”

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

    “Despite all of the excessive rain and cooler weather in Wharton County and the Upper Coast, the crop looks fair to good and is getting close to cutout.

    “We’ll probably make one more application to manage stink bugs before we call it quits on insecticides. Insects have not been overwhelmingly awful. After the initial moth flight, we treated BG-2 fields for bollworms. We were on top of those and never saw a second flight come in. Beneficials also bounced back to help manage bugs.

    “If and when it finally dries out, guys will start to clean up what weeds they can. It has been two months since many growers could get into the field with a spray rig. I talked to one aerial applicator who said he has twice as much air time as last year.

    “Outside of cotton, the drier weather will mean we’ll finally start getting grain out of the field. Grain crops are way behind. Also, fall armyworms are bad in pastures, which saw lush growth with all of the rain.”


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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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