Southwest Cotton: Crazy, Crazy Crop

    Cotton insecticide spraying. ©Debra L Ferguson

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    A crazy, crazy crop will cause more sleepless nights than normal, notes OSU’s Todd Baughman. Southern production areas are also ready to put the 2021 crop behind them.

    Bollworms are on the prowl, but where are they headed? AgriLife’s Blayne Reed advises prudent scouting to determine their destination after fleeing older corn. Stink bugs, aphids and whiteflies are also getting attention across the coverage area.

    Growthy conditions continue as rain pushes more rank cotton.



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

    “This crop just keeps getting crazier. It’s difficult to manage and hard to judge. From a healthy standpoint, the crop looks good. However, many fields are still way behind – and that’s after a perfect July. Heading into August, we would typically be talking about stressed plants and blooming out the top. But some cotton is barely starting to bloom, if it’s blooming at all.

    “With all the rain we’ve seen, weeds and weed control have been the biggest problems. Either one herbicide is playing out from the rain, or you can’t get into the field to spray when you need to. Residual herbicides helped prevent more weed escapes by holding down pigweed and other weeds until guys could get back into the wet fields. That proves residuals are very important to our herbicide programs. Still, there are areas with 6-feet-tall pigweed where herbicide couldn’t get applied. The last thing we need is being forced to climb off the cotton stripper to pull a tall weed and disrupt harvest.

    “Also, the abnormal rainfall is causing fertility deficiencies, mainly with nitrogen and potash. Thankfully, insects have been light. There are a few armyworm outbreaks. But most guys have Bt cotton, so it’s not as big of an issue.

    “We need a return of hot, dry weather to get this crop back on track. That’s strange to say in early August, but it’s part of what is a 10-year story of seeing a different type of crop every year. We don’t know what’s normal. I’m afraid all of us will be nervous until this crop comes out. I don’t think we’ll have a period where we will be totally safe with it.”

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

    “Mercifully, we’re winding down after a poor weather year in the Upper Coast. The balance of everything I scout is at cutout. Yields will be fair. Some fields look pretty good, and a few others are already abandoned after too much rain and cool weather. I saw my first open cotton only two weeks ago.

    “We had worried about heat units but have finally caught up after a warm-up. Now we’re concentrating on insects; we’ve had to spray for stink bugs in the past week or two. Growers need to closely scout for them because they can be scattered throughout a field. You have to be intense and aggressive or they will hurt you.

    “The corn crop looks really good. So far, yields are as good or better than they were last year. The key was variety selection, well-drained fields and timely fungicide applications to stay ahead of disease problems. Sorghum is a different story – too much rain has caused heads to sprout in many fields. Soybeans are decent, and like in cotton, we’re watching for stink bug pressure.”

    Jerry Goodson, Oklahoma State University Extension Entomologist, Altus: 

    “Our observations, and those of a regional consultant, show this year’s crop remains all over the board. Growth ranges from fields that are barely squaring with little to no growth to others with excellent growth into the third week of bloom.

    “Grasshopper populations appear to be slowing, while aphid infestation is on the rise. I advise growers to carefully survey their fields and closely monitor for beneficial insects before spraying for aphids. If aphids increase in 10 days or more without an increase in beneficial population, a control spray may be needed.

    “In weed control, herbicide drift appears to be lessening. Only old plant injury is being observed.”

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

    “Pest-wise, it looks like a heavy bollworm year. They’re starting to migrate from older corn, but we don’t know if they will go to newer corn or cotton. So insecticide treatments may be needed in cotton soon. There are also a few aphids, after beneficial insects were killed by treatments for fleahoppers. Hopefully, more beneficials will arrive to help clean up aphids. We’re also watching for lygus that may infest fields.

    “The cotton crop is still 10 to 14 days behind. Most cotton is at 7 to 9 NAWF. Drier fields are at 5 NAWF, and a few late fields have not bloomed yet. We usually reach absolute cutout of 3.5 NAWF before our average last effective bloom date of August 24. Even though we’re late we have a chance to make up time.

    “We’re still finding small weeds under plants. Some farmers are spraying Liberty if they can get it. A few conventional fields are being plowed, while other fields are seeing hoe hands at work.

    “In sorghum, sugarcane aphid populations are in and around fields in the post-boot stage, but they’re not yet in fields at the whorl stage. We haven’t treated any but are watching closely for them. We’ll likely spray for them this week. Headworms are also showing up in sorghum, and fall armyworms are chewing on whorl-stage plants. Luckily, we haven’t had to treat any. Spider mites are hitting cornfields.”

    Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Area Agronomist, Vernon: 

    “We had good rain over the weekend in the northern Rolling Plains. It was needed after a week or two of hot temperatures that reached into the 100s on occasion. But we still need more sunny days to help the cotton catch up.

    “Even though it’s still late, the crop looks good. Late cotton has just started to flower. Earlier planted cotton is progressing well. Weed pressure may be higher than usual after rainfall washed herbicide off plants treated with aerial applications. There is concern the heavier rain may have also washed off fertilizer from the root zones in peanuts and cotton.”

    Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas: 

    “South-central Kansas has had plenty of heat units the past few weeks and the cotton is in good shape. The early stuff is at mid-bloom, but there’s late cotton that’s not yet at first bloom. Early and mid-planted fields have a good fruit load.

    “Nearly all weeds are under control. However, areas that received a lot of rain recently have required additional PGR treatments. Insect pressure is also low. We had a few stink bugs and took care of them. There are no signs of bollworms so far.

    “Dryland corn was on the verge of being a disaster before they received good rains the last two weeks. It’s at the dented stage. Milo saw a similar situation and was revived by the needed rain. It has all headed and is at the dough stage. Early soybeans also came on following the recent rain. Beans may wind up being a respectable crop.”

    Jose Mendoza, Crop Quest Consulting, Northern Texas Panhandle: 

    “We caught unexpected rain Saturday and the dryland sure needed it. Amounts ranged from 0.75 to 2.5 inches. Between Spearman and Perryton, we’ve been wet a long time. A few fields could have done without the rain. We may even have to hit dryland fields with PGRs to manage growth, which is highly unusual here.

    “Most irrigated fields are setting at mid-bloom. Later stuff is at early bloom. Overall, we’re still about seven days behind.

    “Weed control measures are working for the most part. We’ve made timely herbicide applications and overlapped our residuals. Most fields are clean. However, hoe crews are needed in fields that were too muddy to run sprayers. Most of the cotton is Bt, so we’re not concerned about bollworms so far.

    “Corn looks really good, but I’m noticing a few cases of arrested ear. Both dryland and irrigated sorghum are blooming. The early stuff may be hitting the milk stage soon.”


    Josh McGinty, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agronomist, Corpus Christi: 

    “Our cotton is trying to finish up, if the weather would ever cooperate. Other than a few areas in southern Nueces County, there has been little defoliant applied in the Coastal Bend. “Normally, by this time of the year, half the leaves would have fallen off plants before defoliating. But with all of the moisture, we still have many leaves on the plants. This week we’re putting out different defoliants to determine which products may work best for this type of situation.

    “There’s a lot of tall cotton because we couldn’t apply enough Pix to manage growth. Yields will be all over the board. We expect 2- to 2.5-bale cotton, which is not nearly on track with last year’s crop.”

    Jaime Lopez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, Frio County: 

    “Cotton is at the mid-season level and bolls are putting on fiber. It’s looking very good. PGRs are going out to manage growthy plants caused by too much rain. Weeds took off with the rain, and growers are still making herbicide applications on later-planted fields.

    “We’ve had stink bug issues that required insecticide treatments. Other than that, insect pressure has been light.

    “Peanuts are looking good, but there are preventive fungicides going out to prevent potential leaf spot issues. Corn harvest is ongoing and yields look good.”

    Wayne Keeling, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Weed Specialist, Lubbock:

    “Overall, growers have done a good job in controlling weeds in a wet year that made it more difficult to get herbicide applications made. But with that, it’s no time to give up on weed management. We need to make sure there are no pigweed escapes or other weeds that can add seed to the soil for next year’s crop.

    “The auxin herbicide tools have been helpful in weed control. I want to stress there’s no indication there’s any pigweed resistance to the dicamba technology. But we need to check fields and make sure there is nothing cropping up that may be resistant. We need to delay any potential resistance problem as long as possible.

    “Again, growers are to be commended for their weed management programs this year. Along with the weather, they also faced tight supplies of herbicides. They managed around that issue and got the job done.”

    Scott Meeks, Yield Pro Crop Consulting, Farwell, Texas: 

    “In the northwest Panhandle, we’re still about two weeks behind normal and trying to fight back from the cool spring. A lot of fields are 6 to 7 NAWF and there’s just now a heavy bloom. It looks like we’ll make headway in the next few weeks with warmer temperatures. We need highs in the mid-90s and lows in the mid-60s the next 50 days to get the heat units we need.

    “We’re aggressive with PGRs and irrigation management. Cutout is close by, but we haven’t shucked any fruit yet. Insects are light after several early sprays for fleahoppers and lygus. I’ll be scouting a few non-Bt cotton acres for bollworms the next few weeks.

    “Sorghum replanted behind failed cotton that looks fantastic. Corn also looks very good under light full irrigation.”

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

    “With harvest right around the corner, growers are thinking about boll openers and defoliants. There are already a lot of open bolls in the LRGV. Most fields are 20% to 40% open. Some early planted cotton is at 70% open boll.

    “Insects have been quiet. However, we’re still seeing whitefly activity along the river. Treatments have gone out in some areas. If we continue to receive high heat units, there’s a chance for whitefly populations to increase. We need to monitor for them up until defoliation.

    “We’re seeing some light Chilli thrips populations in cotton along the river from Pharr to the Los Indios areas. They can be found on the undersides of leaves that are the new growth on the tops of cotton plants. These thrips can cause a bronzing on the tops of the leaves and on the undersides along the midvein where you will find them feeding.”


    EPA to Schedule Waters of the U.S. Rewrite Hearings – DTN 

    Texas Plains Pest Management: Few Immediate Threats but Keep Scouting 

    Thompson on Cotton: Back to 2018 Levels, Can We Go Higher?  

    Texas Blacklands Cotton: Some Stink Bug Damage, Low Numbers of Bollworms, Aphids 

    Texas West Plains IPM: Mostly Quiet but Keep Your Eyes Open 

    Cleveland on Cotton: Uncertainty Weakens Prices, Demand Remains Bullish

    Drought Monitor Weekly: Plains, Midwest Remain Dry

    Texas LRGV: Cotton Insects Mostly Quiet, Keep Eyes Open for Sugarcane Aphids, Rice Stink Bugs in Sorghum 

    Shurley on Cotton: Maybe Not Red, but Possible Caution Flags Ahead  

    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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