Southwest Cotton: Hurting for Heat Units

    Mid season cotton. Photo: Jerry Goodson, OSU

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    Hotter weather is welcome over most of our coverage area. Cotton is a week to three weeks behind after the cool, wet spring and much of the summer. But the mid-to-high-90s should help fields recover, notes AgriLife specialist Murilo Maeda.

    Excessive vegetation remains an issue. Timely PGR applications are a must for many.

    Brown stink bugs and tarnished plant bugs highlight regional insect activity. But overall insect pressure remains light.



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

    “Our Lubbock station dryland field planted on May 21 just started blooming. But variability still exists in fields across the region. Moisture seems to be good in most areas, although dry conditions are starting to show.

    “We’re still behind on heat units. For a May 15 planting date, the West Texas Mesonet shows Amarillo is 170 units behind, Lubbock is 221 behind and the Tarzan area is 150 behind. However, the short-term forecast is trending drier and hotter, with highs topping out in the low to mid-90s. Although not 100 degrees, that’s plenty warm for cotton development. What we really need is sunshine.

    “Folks should remember the deadline for over-the-top application of dicamba is July 30. The good news is drift-related issues seem to be minimal, which highlights our growers’ commitment to stewarding this technology. Considering the challenging weather we’ve had, I would say most fields are clean. While this is likely a combination of overlapping residuals and other products, I have no doubt dicamba has been an invaluable tool for cotton growers this year.”


    Kerry Siders, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent Hockley, Cochran & Lamb Counties:

    “It’s still a mixed situation after late plantings. About 10% of the acres are blooming (July 26). Even though everyone is concerned about having late cotton, this area typically blooms July 20 to 25, so we’re not that far behind. It now depends on whether we can obtain heat units well into September so the crop can mature. Warmer weather helped last week and is forecast this week as well.

    “We’re still struggling to get on top of weeds. Liberty worked exceptionally well during the rainy period, but with the drier weather results might be limited. However, residual herbicides should last a little longer with less rainfall.

    “Insect issues are popping up. Fleahoppers are still a threat to fruit, which we can’t stand to lose on the later crops. Weed control in ditches or corners forces fleahoppers onto cotton. One pesky weed, silverleaf nightshade, is a good host for fleahoppers. So growers should consider applying acephate, Bidrin or other insecticides when treating that weed with an herbicide.

    “We’re also concerned about different larva species, such as armyworms or bollworms that might be out there. We’re finding colonies of cotton aphids in small pockets. Beneficials will likely help clean them up, but at some point, aphids could explode.

    “As the weather dries up, more irrigation will be needed. Guys also need to wrap up their fertility programs. In peanuts, irrigation is needed but could increase disease pressure that’s already showing after our wet period and higher humidity. The 60- to 90-day window after planting peanuts is a critical disease period. Growers need to wash-in fungicides to manage leaf spot or pod rot.”

    Cody Noggler, Crop Quest Consulting, Northwestern Texas Panhandle: 

    “The crop is still a little behind but is progressing well. We’re seeing a few blooms on every plant. The warmer temperatures in the mid- to high 90s should help us gain heat units.

    “We have weeds under control for the most part. All that’s left is the resistant stuff, mainly pigweed and Kochia that escaped in the bad field conditions caused by wet weather. They will require hoe hands to go in and clean them up. I watch both Enlist and dicamba cotton. The herbicides did a good job when they could be applied on time. But they are more difficult to find these days. Insects are not a problem just yet, but we can’t forget about them.

    “This is an excellent year for corn. It’s fantastic. With the cooler wet weather, it hasn’t faced any stress all year. It should pollinate well. Milo also looks good.”

    Rex Friesen, Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Co-op, Winfield: 

    “We’re looking for rain today and we can use it. There were a few surprise popcorn showers Sunday. The timing couldn’t have been much better.

    “The crop is still a mixed bag. Some is really beautiful. We saw the first blooms just after July 15 and the other stuff has started to bloom. Overall, the crop remains a little late. We need more heat units after the last cool spell in early July.

    “There are a few fields with wilted cotton that is puzzling. We are waiting on analysis from a plant pathologist. Weed control has been mostly successful. There isn’t much pigweed out there. Guys are now watching for excessive vegetation growth. They need to manage their PGRs well to help retain squares.

    “There are a few insect issues. Tarnished plant bugs are in scattered fields. In one field I saw a few fleahopper nymphs and tarnished plant bug and stink bug adults. But square retention was good.

    “Corn is drying down. If there are tarnished plant bugs in corn, we might see more pressure. We’ll also watch for bollworms as corn dries down.”

    David Drake, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Northeast Texas: 

    “Our earlier planted stuff looks pretty good. It’s in bloom and starting to cutout. That involves about one-third of our acres. The remaining two-thirds of the acres were planted late and well into June after continued rainfall. It’s just now starting to square. So we’re concerned about having enough heat units in the fall before the crop matures.

    “Insect pressure is light, although there are a few fleahoppers around. We’ll have to watch for late insect pressure on the late cotton. Weeds are a problem in areas where the crop is behind.

    “Growers will start harvesting corn in the next few weeks. Sorghum harvest will follow that. Soybeans look good and are progressing well.”

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

    “There are still quite a few fleahoppers out there and some fields have been treated for them. As we see more blooms, fleahopper damage will be limited. But if a field is late, fleahoppers can still inflect economic damage on squares.

    “I’m seeing beet armyworms and yellow stripe armyworms, mostly in weeds. But farmers need to watch closely for them moving into fields, especially in non-Bt cotton. There is high earworm worm pressure in corn. It’s possible that a next generation of moths will come out of corn late in the season and head to cotton. So farmers need to look out for bollworms, as well as lygus and stink bugs.

    “There were spotty showers in the area last night (July 25). The Halfway research station received over 1 inch. That will help soil moisture, which is already looking good over much of the region. There is excellent cotton. In some instances, I can’t tell dryland cotton from irrigated.”

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

    “Our Oklahoma dryland research plots near Frederick, Hobart and Brinkman look good. They were planted June 10 to 18 and should bloom the next week or two. Irrigated fields also look good in Oklahoma. Overall, things are fine, but there are also thin and skippy stands. There are a few aphids around Brinkman, but lady beetle beneficials in the area should get them in the next week to 10 days.

    “In Texas, trials near Edmonson look decent while still a little behind. In the northern Panhandle at Sunray, stuff planted on May 7 is blooming. In all of these cases, PGRs are needed to help manage growth and protect boll development. We need to keep plants from getting away from us. Some areas remain short on heat units. Earlier this month, Amarillo was about 18% behind in heat units.

    “The shortage of herbicides and other chemicals is getting tighter. It’s hard to find Liberty or any glufosinate generics. They’re almost non-existent. Roundup and other glyphosate products are also short, as are insecticides. The value of Bt cotton is showing up more this year.”

    Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas: 

    “Some bolls are open in the Upper Coast, but there’s a lot of late cotton after continuous rain and flooding in the spring and early summer. The crop is all over the place. Most cotton is two to three weeks behind. We’ll be harvesting in late August and early September when we would normally try to be finished by September. Thankfully, counties farther south are nearly on time.

    “Drier weather is helping, but there are fields that have been inaccessible for two weeks. As for weeds, we’ve killed them, killed them again and killed them again. Grass has been a problem. So has rank cotton, where we couldn’t get Pix applied. Some is 5 feet to 6 feet tall.

    “Bugs have been relatively quiet, but we’re starting to see more stink bugs and lygus. Stink bugs can be tough to deal with. Guys who couldn’t get fields sprayed have a lot of stink bug damage. There are also leaf-footed bugs flying in we’ll have to deal with.”

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

    “After sunshine and continued warm weather, area cotton is performing well. It has bounced back from early cool and wet conditions. Our research station plots average 6 to 7 NAWF. Commercial fields look good from the highway and a couple of areas are getting close to cutout.

    “Weeds are pretty much under control. To my surprise, some later-planted cotton that had weed issues looks better. Growers took action to get rid of resistant pigweed. The initial push for applying PGRs has passed, and I haven’t seen any commercial fields with growth that sticks out like a sore thumb. Since we’re easing into a drier period, we may have to irrigate a few fields to keep crops moving if we don’t catch a couple of rains the next few weeks.

    “We’re having to treat fields for brown stink bugs. Bollworms, however, seem to be under control. The three-gene varieties are holding on.”

    Robert Flynn, New Mexico State University Extension Soils/Agronomist, Artesia:

    “We had a nice shower last night (July 26) but there’s plenty of sunshine today. We need it because some fields are behind on heat units due to cloudy days. Plants are blooming about two-thirds of the way up and bolls are forming on lower branches.

    “There has been concern about diseases with the wet weather we’ve had. But I’m not seeing any issues. I’ve been on several farms in recent days and their weed control remains strong. There have been no major insect damage reports, but we’ve had bollworms on our research farm at Artesia. They remain below threshold.”

    Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas:

    “The rain stopped late last week, and cotton is looking better after receiving sunshine. It’s nice not having to walk in mud. The later stuff is finally coming in and most cotton is in full bloom. Plants are setting a lot of bolls and look decent.

    “For the most part, we’re in good shape in weed control. There are issues at the ends and corners of fields that need cleanup, but overall weed control is good.

    “Insect-wise, we’re seeing a big population of stink bugs moving in from grain crops. There are mostly browns but there are a few greens as well. Insecticide treatments are going out to control them. Bollworms are not a big issue, but there are a few scattered in two-gene Bt varieties. Egg counts have stayed low in most places. There are a few spider mite issues here and there but nothing major.

    “Corn harvest will kick off next week. Milo is also about ready to cut. We needed to treat for sugarcane aphids, but beneficials helped clean up many fields on their own.”

    Alan Seitz, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wilcox, Arizona: 

    “It’s 91 right now (afternoon of July 27) and clouding up. It will likely rain, as our active monsoon period continues. We’re applying fungicides for preventative southwestern cotton rust control. I haven’t seen any rust up to now, but we need to be ready for it.

    “The crop is at mid-bloom and setting bolls nicely. It looks really good, but we’re spraying for lygus on fields near where alfalfa has been cut.

    “I’m making the final dicamba applications this week to clean up any remaining weeds. While others have applied PGRs, I haven’t treated anything yet because it was hot early on when we started. But that could change if growth gets out of hand.”


    Ag Economy: Federal Reserve Observations from July 

    Texas Upper Coast IPM: Heat Units and Stink Bugs 

    Thompson on Cotton: Fundamentals Continue to Gain Strength  

    Cleveland on Cotton: 85-90 Floor Is Hard 

    Drought Monitor Weekly: Upper Midwest Still Dry, Heavy Rains Hit Great Lakes  

    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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