Midsouth Cotton: Is the End Finally in Sight for the Cotton Crop?

    Cotton loaded with bolls. Photo: Jerry Stuckey

    Laykyn Rainbolt, Contributing Editor

    Here is this week’s issue of AgFax Midsouth Cotton, sponsored by the Midsouth Cotton Team of AMVAC.


    A lot of cotton acres are just about to the point of letting go for the season, but late season pests are presenting growers with difficult management decisions. Pests vary across the Midsouth, but many areas are still fighting spotty plant bugs and a second wave of bollworms. Though population levels, for the most part, are nothing to write home about, the timing presents a difficult choice.

    Saltmarsh caterpillars are being reported in extreme numbers in soybeans, and treatments are going out in Arkansas and Mississippi. Although not seen in such high numbers very often, they are causing foliage loss in some areas.

    Corn harvest is underway in much of the Midsouth, and yields are excellent. There is light at the end of a very long tunnel this year.



    Angus Catchot, Mississippi Extension Entomologist: 

    “Although we haven’t let any cotton go yet, we do have some at cutout and starting to flower out the top. That early planted cotton will be let go soon, but we still have a considerable amount of the crop that is just at NAWF 5 or almost there.

    “In the past couple days, I’ve heard reports of pretty heavy egg lay. People are having to make management decisions on late season bollworm treatments on Bollgard II varieties. As of now, we are still riding the VIP cotton (WideStrike 3, Bollgard 3, Twinlink Plus). We are watching those varieties closely, but right now we are not recommending any kind of egg sprays on those. Those sprays are based on live larval counts or damage thresholds.

    “Plant bugs are still in the area, but they are spotty. Some areas are pretty heavy though. In my experience, plant bugs are always hard to kill in August because they’ve been exposed to everything all season long. You would think they would be easy to kill right in the top of the plant, but we’ve always struggled with it.

    “We are finishing up spider mite sprays on a good amount of cotton across the state. They are still lingering in some areas, so a few treatments are still going out. We’re really to the point of just hoping for a good fall to fill out the top third of the plant from this point forward.

    “Soybeans are a mixed bag. We have had to spray for stink bugs no doubt, but until now, they have been fairly light. I think we will continue to deal with stink bugs in some late-planted and extremely late-planted beans.

    “The biggest story in soybeans the past few weeks has been the excessive numbers of saltmarsh caterpillars across a really large geography. I’ve had more calls about saltmarsh caterpillars this year than I have in the past 10 years combined. In a lot of situations, we have had to treat specifically for saltmarsh caterpillars where they are running 25 to 50 per 25 sweeps. They have taken a lot of foliage in some places.

    “Loopers have been here for a while, but they seem to be increasing in some spots. We are also seeing a second wave of bollworms come through the ultra-late soybeans. Growers are having to make tough management decisions because a lot of these beans are flood beans planted very late with only eight to 10 nodes. It’s a tricky decision, and we’ve been making field to field decisions based on yield potential.

    “We’re still fighting fall armyworms. They aren’t as heavy in soybeans at this point, but they are absolutely still in pastures. We’re not seeing them in soybeans that were treated earlier in the year, but they are moving to field edges from grassy turnrows and such that people have had to clean up.”

    Victor Roth, Roth Farm Service, Malden, Missouri: 

    “The cotton should be finishing up for the season in the next week (from Aug. 18), and we’re ready to see it. It’s nice to see a crop with good potential after the year it’s been, but I’d almost say this is the easy part. We can take care of irrigation and insects, but we have no control over the weather for the next two months to complete the crop and get it out of the field. We’ve faced challenges this year, but if you don’t have an optimistic eye, you might as well leave the seed in the barn.

    “Although not every field has been sprayed every week, we have been spraying for plant bugs somewhere for the past five weeks. I think we’re finally at the end, but it hasn’t been easy. We’ve been intense to keep them at or below threshold. Most growers are making their last treatment for plant bugs this week, and a few more will finish up next week.

    “A lot of my cotton is Bollgard 3, but worm pressure is still light in dual-gene cotton as well. We are watching the Bollgard II cotton for worms, but we’re only finding a few moths. Spider mites are behind us after battling them for a couple of weeks.”

    Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist: 

    “Cotton is quickly coming up on the end of the season. A lot of fields are approaching NAWF 5 plus heat units, so we’re recommending terminating plant bug applications on fields that have reached NAWF 5 plus 250. A lot of cotton is cutting out right now. Everyone is happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    “The bollworm flight was a little late this year, but it made up for that in intensity. A few bollworm treatments are still going out in the cotton.

    “In rice, we recently got a Section 18 for Endigo use to control rice stink bugs (RSB). With the late rice crop this year, a high percentage of the crop still has a long way to go. At least 20% of our rice is just now heading or isn’t even to that point yet. Stink bugs haven’t been in extreme numbers until just recently, but they have been steady. RSB are moving out of rice fields that are cutting out and into green fields, so the numbers are really concentrated in green fields. We’re seeing 30 to 40 RSB per 10 sweeps in some areas.

    “We are seeing spotty control issues with Lambda. I would get one call reporting excellent control with Lambda, but in a lot of cases people reported a mere 25% to 50% control. We got the Section 18 granted last Friday (Aug. 13), and it’s good for 15 days. We’ve been looking at Endigo for over five years with great control, which is why we went after it. So far, the RSB control has been great from what I’ve heard. It is a little more expensive, but the residual control and knockdown has been good.

    “We do still have armyworms in the rice, but most of the rice is big enough to withstand the armyworms. I’m still getting calls about armyworms in soybeans and pastures, and some cattle pastures have been treated three times for armyworms. They haven’t let up at all.

    “In soybeans, we started picking up bollworms in the south part of the state 2 to 3 weeks ago. They have continually moved north, and north Arkansas is now experiencing bollworms. We’re seeing a lot of fields running one or two per sweep, while our threshold is around seven per 25 sweeps. A lot of fields are R2 to R4 growth stage, and it seems like the late planted beans that haven’t lapped up are experiencing the highest bollworm numbers. Unfortunately, those fields have the lowest yield potential to start with, so you must look at yield potential and decide what you can afford to do. It’s a tough decision for growers.

    “Stink bug numbers continue to increase as well. It seems like they are hitting the fields around mid R5 as high as one per sweep while the threshold is only nine per 25 sweeps. A lot of treatments are going out on the earliest beans for stink bugs.

    “We also have a lot of saltmarsh caterpillars in the area. They are in pretty high numbers in spots and causing enough defoliation to justify treatment. So far, we haven’t heard of any control issues. They’re around every year, but the last time I saw them at these levels was 10 to 12 years ago. It’s right in line with the elevated armyworm population, and the thrips have been unusually high this year.

    “I encourage people with late planted soybeans or rice to get out and scout those fields. Rice stink bugs, armyworms and stink bugs in beans are getting bad. It’s a busy insect year, and people need to be on top of those.”

    Richard Griffing, Griffing Consulting, LLC, Monterey, Louisiana: 

    “Corn harvest is probably 70% done, and for the most part, yields have been excellent. People are very happy with the yields this year. All the corn is ready, so people are getting it out as fast as they can.

    “Around 80% of the milo I scout has been harvested. The yields have been pretty good but nothing to write home about.

    “In cotton, we are battling plant bugs like crazy. This is one of the worst fights I’ve ever had with plant bugs. A lot of acres have been sprayed for spider mites, and bollworms are picking back up. We will likely have to spray the cotton with another diamide in the next couple of days (from Aug. 17). The cotton crop still has a long way to go.

    “To add to the challenges at the end of the season, one end of my area is getting too much rain while the other end isn’t getting enough rain.

    “Rice is about 80% headed, and we haven’t drained any yet. Rice stink bugs (RSB) haven’t been bad so far. We sprayed them once and got excellent control, but that’s the extent of RSB to this point.

    “I have soybeans from R4 to desiccated. I haven’t had any harvested yet, but about 20% of the acres have been desiccated already. I’ll be carrying considerable soybean acres until Sept. 20 most likely. Loopers are really picking up as are stink bugs in the older beans. We are steadily spraying for stink bugs.

    “Soybeans actually haven’t been too bad. We had a big run of corn earworms three weeks ago, so we put out a lot of diamide chemistries on them. It’s worked very well. It will probably start breaking within the next week. I was sweeping beans today (Aug. 17) that were sprayed three weeks ago, and I finally picked up a couple of corn earworms and a couple of loopers.

    “This has been the most difficult year for me in 35 years. From too much rain to too little rain and the variety of pests. On one end of the area I cover, irrigation is wide open and the other end around Tensas Parish is extremely wet right now.”

    Larry Walker, Walker Cotton Technical Services, Flintville, Tennessee:  

    “Historically, we have gotten about three and a half inches of rain in the month of August, but we got more than five inches just last weekend (Aug. 17) with more in the forecast for this week. It was predicted in the forecast, so we hustled and put out a big shot of Pix on the cotton late last week. The past two years, we have received around five inches in August, and it really made our double-crop beans, top crop in cotton and helped finish out any late corn those years.

    “The crop response to the rain over the weekend was excellent. It is three to four white blooms below the terminal, so it’s finishing up. We have a good middle crop and need a good top crop. It looks like the crop is setting up for that. When I came out of the field yesterday afternoon (Aug. 16), I felt like the cotton was caught up to where it’s supposed to be for the first time since mid-June.

    “We’re waiting for stink bugs to show up because we know we’ll have to be intense to control them. In the eastern end of the Tennessee Valley, we usually spray about 30% of our crop for stink bugs, but each year we have to find which fields make up that 30%.

    “The defoliation date is after Oct. 10 with the current stance of the crop. Unlike last year, there won’t be any September cotton defoliation. We’re hoping for a warm, dry fall to finish out the crop. We’ve had those falls, and we haven’t had a cold October in 10 years or so. The falls of 2016 and 2018 were like that with temperatures in October reaching in the 90s. It’s possible, and we’re hoping for one of those years.

    “All the crops look promising. Right now, we’re counting 100% clean white blooms in cotton, which is fantastic. Some corn has turned and should be harvested in 2 to 3 weeks depending on how much propane the growers want to buy. There should be quite a bit of 200 bushel plus corn this year. One difference compared to previous years will be our bottom ground will not be our highest yielding due to the substantial rains over the season.

    “Some early beans came up about the time of the freeze on April 15, and those late MG III beans are starting to turn yellow and shed leaves. We should see some high yielding MG III beans harvested in late August or early September.”

    AgFax Midsouth Cotton is published by AgFax Media LLC
    Ernst Undesser, Editorial Director.

    Working-Copy%5B1%5D.jpgThis weekly report is distributed during the cotton production season. It is available to United States residents engaged in cotton farming, field scouting and other qualifying ag professions.

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