Southwest Cotton: Worms Are Playing Leapfrog

    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.

    Worms are playing leapfrog in cotton, corn and sorghum fields in the southern Texas Panhandle. IPM agent Blayne Reed has the story, along with word on stink bugs, lygus, aphids and other critters.

    Defoliation continues in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Upper Coast as the late crop works to finish.

    Pigweed pressure in the northern Panhandle is forcing a few growers into their fourth post-emerge herbicide applications to offset rain-charged weed growth.

    Kansas needs a drink to drown heat stress caused by weeks of drought and hot temperatures. Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona growers are among those hoping for a mild September and open October.



    Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas: 

    “While other areas have had nice rains, we’ve been stuck in a hot, dry spell for several weeks in south-central Kansas. After a slow start in the spring, we’ve caught up and are ahead of schedule to finish the crop. Most cotton has either cutout or is blooming out the top. We normally would be applying Pix one last time, but the weather has done it for us.

    “We’ve started to drop a lot of fruit because fields are nearly completely out of moisture. There have been a few isolated timely rains where yields will approach 2 bales. But overall, we’re looking at an average crop at best, about 700 pounds per acre.

    “Insects are a minor issue. There are a few stink bug situations and we’ve had bollworm issues in Bollgard 2 stuff but nothing major.

    “With the dry weather, we’re in good shape in weed control. But we need rain to help finish the crop. If we don’t get more rain, there will be many unharvestable bolls on later-planted cotton.”

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

    “About 30% of the Valley’s cotton is still green. Those farmers will benefit from a 10-day extension for stalk destruction of non-hostable bolls by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The deadline is now Sept. 10 to make sure cotton is either defoliated or there are no viable squares to host boll weevils.

    “Many growers are already harvesting or have applied their first shot of defoliant. But the crop has been late nearly all year. We’ve had 40-inches-plus of rain and much cotton stood in water for long periods. However, we’ve had high heat units the past three weeks to help open bolls.

    “There are still a few plant bugs and whiteflies, but they are not a problem with defoliating taking place. Some growers just finished harvesting corn and sorghum last week, so they’re ready to finish the season.”

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

    “Aphid numbers remain strong in many areas. However, there are a lot of beneficials to help control them and we still don’t have any cracked bolls. Folks need to monitor their fields to determine if they need to spray for aphids when bolls start cracking. We don’t need sticky cotton in the end.

    “Right now, everything is looking good. Recent rainfall helped quite a bit and was a money-making deal. Stressed dryland was about to quit. I’m in Martin County this morning (Aug. 31). Dryland here looks outstanding. But we still have late cotton.

    “Weed escapes are a problem in fields. A lot of folks are trying to play catch up with them. They need to get the weeds out of fields because we don’t want weeds to go to seed. The more growers take care of it this year, the easier it will be to handle weeds the following years.

    “I haven’t heard many complaints about auxin herbicide drift. Folks have been good stewards. With the rain, there were delays in getting into the field. But for the most part, the new technology herbicides are working as we expect. PGR applications are pretty well completed. At this point, we hopefully have good fruit retention, which should take care of late vegetative growth.

    “All things considered, I think we’re sitting on a crop with much potential. But we need fall weather to cooperate to make sure we can finish it off.”

    Patrick Kircher, New Mexico State University Extension Agent, Roosevelt County Portales: 

    “Rain continues to vary as it has all season. Some folks are in phenomenal shape and others are still skating by. Generally, bug pressure isn’t bad. And for the most part, cotton looks pretty good. You have a few problems in immediate areas, but in the grander scheme, it’s a respectable crop if weather cooperates.

    “Forage crops are promising. Haygrazer production is good. Again, timely rains helped. Much has been chopped. The tonnage and quality were what growers wanted. A fair amount will go on to maturity and be baled. Sorghum has come along and looks good. There is even a little dryland corn. Peanuts also look good.

    “Wheat planting is underway. But I’m concerned about fall armyworms. There are copious amounts of those rascals. They are in weeds right now. But when wheat gets up and established they may go looking for greener pastures.”

    Jerry Goodson, Oklahoma State University Extension assistant/entomologist, Altus:

    “Cotton has advanced rapidly in major cotton counties in western and southwestern Oklahoma. I’ve found only one field that has not bloomed out. Guys are still watering up on the I-40 corridor even though cotton is at cutout. They’re looking for any late bolls that can be harvested. With added rain this summer, PGR applications have been the most I’ve seen.

    “I’m headed to scout for cracked bolls today (Aug. 31) but haven’t seen any before now. From what I’ve seen and heard from area consultants, we’re looking at an average to below-average crop. That’s because there’s potential for early fall weather after the crop was late for so long.

    “Insects aren’t a big problem. Bollworms are down because growers have planted more 3-gene Bt cotton and relied less on 2-gene varieties. The main insect concern is cotton aphids until the field is conditioned for harvest. Thankfully, beneficial insects are in abundance and should control them. We need to monitor fall armyworm migration into fields if they’re located near pastures or other suitable hosts.”

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

    “We remain at full scouting tilt. We’re still finding fields with bollworms and lygus but only a few are at treatable numbers. Some are damaging harvestable fruit, but most bollworms are moving to late, susceptible corn at a rate of about two to three worms per ear.

    “We’re finding stink bugs at pretty high numbers. We will have to watch for these guys later in the growing season than we are used to checking. They can pierce old and tough bolls and might even cluster on them, which can produce hardlock bolls or even boll rot. So even though in a week or two we’ll be beyond the economic insect damage stage of growth we are used to, we probably still need to watch for stink bugs.

    “A few cotton aphids are still around toward the south. But unless guys caused aphid flare-ups with late fertilizer applications or spraying pyrethroids to manage other insects, beneficials should be keeping them down.

    “Timely rains have helped the dryland. However, heavier rains have turned fields into jungles. We may need to make early harvest aid preconditioning treatments to open up the canopy to expose fruit to needed sunlight as we move into mid-September.

    “Corn is presenting added challenges. We’ve had to spray fungicides to handle southern rust and other diseases in late corn. Banks grass mites are also still a threat. In sorghum, headworms are in fields, but as with bollworms, they are mostly moving to corn.

    “Fall armyworms are being monitored in sorghum, as are sugarcane aphids (SCA). We’re treating SCA as they reach threshold, which is 30% of plants infested with colonies of 50 or more SCA. As we get later in the year and plants reach hard dough, threshold reverts to 50% of plant coverage.”

    Tim Ballinger, Ballinger Innovative Agronomics, Dumas, Texas: 

    “Our cotton is in good shape. Most is in the 100- to 120-day period, from boll development to the first cracked boll. Some fields are a little rank, but we did a good job with PGRs to push maturity.

    “Insects are not an issue, but I’m on my fourth post-emerge herbicide application to try and control pigweed. I’m now applying 40 oz. glufosinate, 30 oz. glyphosate and 1 gal. of methylated seed oil per 100 gal. of water. If needed, I’m throwing in mepiquat PGR to help manage weed growth.

    “Herbicides are working, but pigweed is growing so fast the lower third of the weed remains green because we can’t get the whole plant covered. We’ve had to get back in and spray about two weeks later. We could see more dicamba-ready cotton next year.

    “Insects have been light in corn and sorghum. There are no sugarcane aphids or headworms in sorghum. And I haven’t sprayed any miticide or fungicide in corn. I hear the situation is much worse further south in counties between Amarillo and Lubbock.”

    Alan Sietz, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wilcox, Arizona: 

    “The crop is right on schedule. We’re applying Pix to shut down and finish the upper part of the crop. It is starting to bloom out the top and about 65% of plants are loaded with bolls.

    “We’re having to treat for lygus again. Applications will be hit and miss through next week. There are still no stink bugs in the picture. Weeds are still spotty but we’ll deal with them later due to their location near other crops.

    “We’re gearing up for more rain later this week. The forecast has predicted up to 2 inches here and up to 4 inches for Phoenix.”

    Joel Acre, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, El Paso & Hudspeth Counties: 

    “We saw our first cracked bolls last week. Some bolls are now completely open. Although we had limited irrigation available from the irrigation district, much rain was received during the monsoon period. That enabled growers to extend their irrigation well into August. We had an excellent rain at peak bloom, which was great for the crop.

    “Over around Fort Hancock there is evidence of stink bugs, but not enough to require spraying. Whiteflies, however, are increasing during the current drying-out period. They are our main concern.

    “Weeds are not a problem. I’m seeing a lot of morning glory, but nothing too dramatic. Weed populations here are mainly in pecan orchards.”

    Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas: 

    “This part of the Upper Coast remains late. We usually finish by Sept. 1. We’re trying to get defoliants applied and we’re going to need two shots due to all of the rain we’ve had. Treatment of late fields will roll into October.

    “The top part of the crop is puzzling. With all of the late vegetative growth, guys are trying to hurry with defoliation. I’m afraid they will leave unopened bolls. With 95-cent cotton, they might want to capitalize on that.

    “A few fields have been picked. The early yields are about 1,000 pounds per acre. That’s not bad on dryland. The later fields, which had plants standing in water for a long time, are looking good. They could be the best cotton we see, barring a tropical storm such as Ida, which we feared would strike the Texas coast. We feel for those who caught the brunt of the storm in Louisiana and Mississippi.”

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

    “We’re seeing insect activity, but the pressure is still light in cotton as we get toward the end of the season. Of major concern are cotton aphids. Fortunately, numbers are decreasing because of beneficials and sporadic rain. Going ahead, farmers need to keep a close eye once bolls start to open. That’s when aphids can damage lint quality.

    “I’m seeing quite a few lygus bugs but not at a level that requires treatment. I haven’t seen many bollworms in cotton, but there are still worms in late sorghum and corn. We still need to keep looking for bollworms and lygus until we accumulate 350 heat units after cutout. Cotton aphids can cause damage later than that.”


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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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