Southwest Cotton: Insects Aren’t Giving Up

    A caterpillar of the cotton bollworm on green cotton boll. Photo: Wenxue Pan/Nanjing University

    Larry Stalcup, Contributing Editor

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

    Bollworm pressure mounts in the southwestern Panhandle and scouting can be tricky, notes IPM Agent John Thobe. Check out his scouting tips below.

    Fall armyworms march into Kansas and remain a pest as a result of spring and summer rain.

    Hurricane Grace has the eye of Coastal Bend growers as pickers hit full throttle. She is projected to miss Texas and strike Mexico, but spinoff rain could slow the harvest of what are higher-than-expected yields.



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

    “It has been hot and relatively dry around the Brazos Bottom. A few areas received isolated rainfall, but we’re forced to irrigate our cotton on the Extension and research farm to finish out the crop.

    “Despite the hot, dry weather lately, we’re about two to three weeks behind on average, like most cotton across the state. Most of our early planted cotton is past cutout. I looked at a field this morning that was at 3 NAWF.

    “Chemical applications were made to control brown stink bugs we fought in July. Target spot has popped in a few areas. But given we’re past physiological cutout, fungicide treatments likely will not be needed.”

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

    “We’re experiencing all kinds of insect pressure. Bollworms and fall armyworms are out there. Treatments are going out on non-Bt varieties. Bollworm coverage ranges from southern Bailey County to eastern Castro County — and no field is 100% free of either an egg lay or worm feeding by this late-season pest.

    “About 6% damage is our general action threshold for treating bollworms. Applications for bollworm are tricky when based on the egg lay. Stick with the 6% damage, but understand if you have upward of a 30% egg lay, wait four to five days for the hatch and reassess populations. If populations persist and they haven’t moved on, plan to control them. But be cautious when using a pyrethroid, which can flare up aphids.

    “A lot of Pix is going out. Fields are at about 6 NAWF and guys are trying to shut down the growth. They want to push it a little earlier to be ready for an early freeze. Guys have done a good job with weeds. With herbicides sparse throughout the area, we’re seeing more cultivation to control weeds.

    “Sorghum and corn look great. For a bonus, spider mite treatments are down in corn. About 45% of acres have been sprayed for mites, down from close to 98% last year. The wet weather has held them down, along with a lot of beneficials. There is a little disease in corn, but there’s not yet a red flag.

    “Headworms and sugarcane aphid (SCA) are in sorghum. Yesterday (Aug. 16) we sprayed the first field for SCA. Guys hope to make timely sprays to get headworms as well as SCA.

    “Scouting is very important. Every field is different from the next. Make applications wisely. Some guys are OK with spending a bunch of money since cotton looks good and prices are high. But they don’t need to.”

    Alan Sietz, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wilcox, Arizona: 

    “We had 1 to 5.5 inches of rain over the weekend in a wide area as storms persisted in eastern Arizona. The cotton is still a little behind. I don’t have anything that’s cutting out. Most cotton is 5 to 6 NAWF. But it’s a good-looking crop. Yields could be above average, with some at 3.5 to 4 bales per acre. That all depends on whether we can keep what cotton we have now.

    “There are still issues with lygus that will require treatments after the rain. There is no rust to deal with so far, but we could see it. We may need to make PGR applications when the rain moves on. Some stuff is wanting to grow off on us.”

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

    “Rain has once again blessed West Texas. As of this morning (Aug. 17) the West Texas Mesonet is showing big numbers. San Angelo has seen 6-plus inches in the past 72 hours, with Lubbock coming in at about 1.25 inches. Amounts ranging from 0.5 to 1 inch were very common up through the northern Panhandle.

    “A lot of our dryland and limited-water acres should benefit from this. The rain was very timely, considering the next 15 to 30 days will see the last effective bloom date across the area from the northern Panhandle to far south of Lubbock. That’s the last date where a bloom has a good chance to make it to harvest and contribute.

    “We still need warm weather to continue well into the fall to help the crop finish as fruitful as possible.”

    Cotton in Tarzan, Texas, west of Big Spring

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

    “The El Paso region has witnessed record rainfall, which normally isn’t a good thing in a flood-irrigated valley. Areas have had between 4 to 5 inches of rain within a week.

    “Before the rain, some farmers sprayed for bollworm. There were also whitefly infestations in certain areas but not valley-wide. We assume the heavy rainfall suppressed any activity, at least for the time being.

    “Once things dry out, we could see southwestern cotton rust. That disease can devastate our cotton production. These heavy summer rains will encourage grama grass to grow. Like cotton, it acts as a co-host for rust.

    “The boll load looks good even though we have not seen a lot of sunlight within the last week. We will continue to closely monitor the area as things progress.”

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

    “With warm weather the last few weeks, I feel we’ve moved ahead and gained some ground. We have fields blooming out the top. Others are at least 5 to 6 NAWF or less and could use a little more rain. I’m pleased about it, but our big issue is whether we have enough time to finish up the late stuff. It is borderline right now. There’s still a lot of young fruit on those plants. We’ll know a lot in a couple of weeks if those fields will finish.

    “There are issues with bollworms. There are quite a few eggs and even larvae that need our attention. In many cases, plant bugs have disappeared, but fall armyworms are thick in pastures and even yards. They are also in cotton flowers. We hope 2-gene Bt varieties will control them.

    “If we can get all our cotton in, yields could approach 800 pounds per acre, maybe even better. Plants are loaded. We just need to finish them.”

    Cotton near Winfield, Kan.

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

    “We’re hoping Hurricane Grace stays farther south because we’re in the middle of harvest and don’t need any more rain. I’d say the Coastal Bend is 65% defoliated, 40% of the acres have had a second shot and 20% has been picked.

    “Yields are better than expected. I had projected 900 to 1,000 pounds per acre after such a poor start in May. But now most is over 2 bales and some has finished at more than 1,460 pounds.

    “There’s still a small amount of late cotton that required treatments for plant bugs yesterday (Aug. 16). But overall, the crop looks good. The PhytoGen varieties look fantastic. New FiberMax varieties also performed well. NexGen seed also performed well and didn’t have severe stand issues.

    “I’m still amazed at how fast the new picker-baler harvesters can get the crop out of the field. With the year of more rain than usual and threats from the early tropical storm season, it’s nice to know harvest can be wrapped up quicker with the newer equipment.”

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

    “Other than stink bugs, cotton pests were not a major problem this year in the lower Blacklands. Almost all acres had to be treated midseason for high stink bug numbers. That got us through. Stink bugs are coming back into fields, but the bulk of the crop is far enough along and should not require treatments.

    “On the bollworm front, there were moth flights in late June and early July, but neither were that huge. Egg lay was early enough that we didn’t see many issues with bollworms coming through Bt cotton in our area. I had zero complaints in 3-gene, but some 2-gene had to be treated early. As the cotton aged, the numbers just weren’t there to require later treatments.

    “By far the biggest pest situation we had this year was fall armyworms in pastures rather than cotton. There are still some treatments going out. A few armyworms were seen bloom-feeding in cotton but not enough to justify treatment. The large fall armyworm infestations are common every time we have such a rainy year.

    “We have good-looking cotton out there. It should be a heck of a crop barring bad weather.”

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

    “Cotton has been late all year and is still two to three weeks behind. The cool, wet spring weather continued through much of the summer. I don’t anticipate any defoliation before early September.

    “Our cotton typically yields well. It should be average this year, from 3.5 to 4 bales. Anymore, anything as low as 3 bales is considered a disaster for growers down here.

    “There is still light stink bug pressure, mostly brown and rice stink bugs, along with a few green stink bugs. We recently had to spray a few fields. On the plus side, no whiteflies have shown up. We usually have to fight them pretty hard. I feel the severe freeze in February kept whiteflies in check.

    “Along with the projected good cotton yields, corn also yielded well despite the cooler weather. Yields topped 200 to 230 bushels per acre where it didn’t get hailed out.”

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

    “Overall the cotton looks decent after the cool, wet weather caused the slow start in May. Some dryland has cutout, while other fields are still at mid-bloom. The irrigated is similar, with growth ranging from 4 to 6 NAWF to 7 to 9 NAWF.

    “We’re still catching popcorn showers, meaning weeds are still an issue in some fields. We’re making layby herbicide applications to clean them up. I’m still not seeing many insects. Pockets of aphids have flared up and a few guys are spraying for them. Beneficial numbers are high to help contain aphids. There aren’t many plant bugs or stink bugs, and Bt varieties are working to prevent potential bollworm damage.

    “All in all, things look good for mid-August. Hopefully, the weather will stay good and we get the heat units we need to finish.

    “Peanuts are also coming along well. Runners are lapped. Organic varieties look good. We’re seeing a little leaf spot. We hope to hold it down with two fungicide applications.”

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

    “Earlier planted cotton looks pretty good. Some fields may make 2 bales per acre. We have mature bolls but none are opening yet. Later planted cotton is a concern. Some is barely starting to bloom. If it makes a crop, yields may be only a half to 1 bale. In the last four years, I’ve tagged blooms from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1. Sept. 1 is our last effective bloom date. This year, we need more heat and a dry fall to make it work.

    “There is no major insect pressure, except aphids. The good news is we have lots of beneficials, which are keeping aphids under control. I’m not seeing many plant bugs or bollworms.

    “Corn is being cut and yields are over the board. Some fields are making 100 bushels; while several others are so poor they will likely be insured-out. Soybeans look good. Plants are drying down and dropping leaves. Sugarcane aphids have found the sorghum, and we’re monitoring them to determine if treatment is needed.”

    Jose Mendoza, Crop Quest Consulting, Northern Texas Panhandle: 

    “Most irrigated is at peak bloom and bolls are filling very well. The crop is catching up and is maybe a week behind at the most. It’s tough to tell what yields might be but the crop is looking good.

    “We’re looking for bollworms in non-Bt varieties but haven’t seen any. We’ve seen 2-gene Bt show resistance to them in the past, but not this year with the light bollworm pressure. With the recent rains, we could see a late flush of weeds in the northeast Panhandle in the next week or so.

    “Corn looks promising. Irrigation for the earliest corn will be shut off in the next 10 to 14 days. Insect pressure has been light. Spider mite pressure is down in the majority of fields. But treatments have been needed in several hot spots in southwestern Hansford County. Irrigated sorghum looks good as well. There are scatterings of sugarcane aphids over Hansford and Ochiltree counties. No treatments have been needed so far.”


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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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