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Owen Taylor, Editor
Here is this week's issue of AgFax Southeast Cotton.
Our thanks to SePRO – maker of Brake herbicide – for once again sponsoring our coverage.
Weather conditions greatly improved this week across much of our coverage area. Cool weather still prevailed in parts of the region last week, but daytime highs are more consistently in the 80s this week, with some pushing into the 90s.
Warmer weather should push growth in cotton planted over the last week and help earlier fields rebound from cold conditions, seedling diseases injury and thrips pressure.
Parts of the Southeast need rain now. In certain areas farmers are running short on soil moisture. In places, rainfall failed to develop when farmers needed it to incorporate preemerge herbicides. That will greatly complicate weed control, especially when it comes to pigweed. Similar reports have been coming from the Delta states.
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Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia
"Only 2 things are going on – thrips and grasshoppers.
“Thrips aren’t bad, just moderate, and it does still appear that they’ve peaked this year a lot earlier than normal. On some of the April-planted cotton we’re having to supplement seed treatments with foliar sprays. The time to do that is at the first true leaf stage. In terms of yields, our research shows that it’s very important to protect that first true leaf. If the first true leaf is banged up pretty good, the second leaf will be hammered, as well.
“We think thrips peaked about a week earlier than usual. After May 10 we typically expect lower thrips pressure. This year, though, the break point was more like May 3. Where you’d automatically make a thrips spray on May 10, this year you maybe could have gone at the end of April.
“Some cotton planted on the first of May is pushing out its first true leaf. If we have moisture, that usually takes about 14 days.
“With grasshoppers, I think we can find them to some degree in most every conservation tillage field. Limited applications have gone out, although I’ve only heard one report where they caused significant damage. Plenty of people are finding them, though. Grasshoppers are very unpredictable as to whether they’ll damage cotton. Probably more people have asked about treating grasshoppers than actually followed through with an application – but you do should be scouting for them.
“We need rain. Parts of the South are getting covered up with rain, but we’re dry. People are planting cotton wide open now, and probably 40% has been planted. That’s about normal, if not a little ahead of schedule.”
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina
“No more reports or questions about grasshoppers. Thrips are maybe a little more abundant as new cotton emerges. But as we move deeper into May and towards June, thrips historically pose less of a problem. The thrips predictive model indicates that should be the case this year, too. Some cotton at the second to third leaf may need to be sprayed for thrips, but that’s about it.
“In soybeans, the main pest right now has 4 legs. In places, deer are eating soybeans when they come up.”
Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University
“Cotton planting is really cranking up this week. Some was planted last week, more so in the southern half of the state. But a little cool period settled over our northeastern counties last week, which held back a lot of people. Daytime highs in that part of the state ran 15 to 20 degrees lower than in counties to the south. At times, you only had to drive an hour to see that much difference. In places, highs never broke 70s for a couple of days and lows were into the 40s for one or two nights. Not exactly cotton weather.
“Starting today (5/15) we have really good conditions in the forecast, and it looks favorable for planting cotton all week. I’m glad to see some consistency, too. Up until now the weather changed daily, so it was hard to plan anything. Statewide, everybody has a green light today, and this week we should see highs in the upper 80s and low 90s.
“People will push hard, and they’re keeping in mind that the insurance cutoff is May 25. Some smaller acreage farmers hadn’t planted a single seed before this week, but they can finish in a hurry now. Larger growers have been doing what they could in short windows, a day or two when conditions were adequate to plant. With what we’ve been able to do so far, a good amount of cotton is up or at least emerging.”
Brandon Dillard, Regional Agronomist, Geneva, Alabama
“We’re still planting, although moisture is hit or miss. Most guys are rolling today (5/16), but they’re definitely checking the soils as they go. We’re probably 60% to 70% planted. That’s maybe a little ahead of schedule. We had a warm winter and decent moisture in April, and a lot of guys decided to start when conditions looked right.
“Several farmers say they may wrap up peanuts and cotton toward the end of this week or early next week, and that’s certainly early for us.
“Farmers have more planting capacity now. We’ve had hard planting seasons over the last several years, and it was a struggle to catch up when people were delayed by too much rain or not enough. So a good many growers upgraded to larger planters, going from 4-row planters to 6 or 8 rows and even to 12 in some operations. Compared to a few years ago, people can plant much faster now. That’s the name of the game, too – get it in quickly and get it out early, too.
“Thrips have been rough. I looked at some peas that were being eaten up by thrips. A lot of our guys are doing seed treatments or something in furrow, and most of them will be okay. Research shows that cover crops do a great job of controlling thrips. You don’t see nearly the thrips damage when cotton or peanuts follow cover crops.
“Grasshoppers have been hit or miss. They have been pretty bad in some locations with cover crops. In plenty of instances an insecticide was included with the preemerge herbicide after planting to take out grasshoppers.
“Cotton acres in this part of the state will be up some, I think. Beans are down and corn is way down, and a lot of guys said they were going back to cotton and peanuts and nothing else. A banker told me that unless something drastic happens, his clients’ cotton and peanut acreage will be up, too.”
Wes Briggs, Briggs Crop Services, Inc., Bainbridge, Georgia
"We still have a pretty good amount of cotton left to plant. Probably 60% of our cotton has gone in, counting fields where cotton will follow small grains or another crop.
“We’ve had scattered rains and totals varied. One small area received 2 inches over the weekend, but it only amounted to a half-inch in most places. That much rain leaves in a hurry, too, so more rain is needed right away. I don’t think we have enough soil moisture today (5/16) to bring up dryland cotton.
“We’re overspraying for thrips. They’re not eating us up, but cotton has been growing off really slowly due to some cool nights, so we needed to take the thrips out. Our infurrow insecticides are wearing out in 21 to 25 days. Cotton emergence has been sluggish, too, mainly due to cool conditions. We’re making stands but they’re not perfect, certainly not like what I want to see.”
Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist
"I’m still getting calls about grasshoppers. One came in yesterday (5/15) from a distributor in central Alabama, so they’re not just in the southern part of the state.
“As far as I know, we’re still killing immature grasshoppers, which are easy to control, but the further we go on the calendar, the more adults will be in the mix. You’ll have to spend more money to take out adults if you let the immatures get away now. They’re mainly a problem in conservation tillage fields. You gain so much with reduced tillage systems that grasshoppers are a minor problem in comparison to the benefits.
“After cool conditions stalled our April-planted cotton, it’s finally growing. Seed treatments are gone, and thrips have obviously been active in places. The true leaves look really ragged in places. I’ve been in some cotton planted around April 18, and those plants were at 4 true leaves, and all of them were much distorted. Even true leaves coming out now are distorted, given enough thrips pressure. But with better conditions now, we’re almost past the point when we would spray.
“A good deal of that earlier cotton struggled for 20 or more days in less-than-desirable weather. Cotton planted after that cool stage is at cotyledon now. It’s hard to tell how much thrips pressure those fields will come up against. But if we’re over the peak period for thrips movement into cotton this week, we may be okay. With temperatures near or into the 90s, cotton will grow fast, plus the seed treatments should hold on any cotton planted in May.”
Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi
“Cotton ranges from some just coming up to our April 10 plantings that are at the fourth to fifth true leaf. Cold weather plus cloudy conditions slowed down cotton in places, and we did have to spray for thrips where it wasn’t growing fast.
“Making one thrips spray isn’t uncommon here. But two treatments were needed in cotton planted in an April 10-20 window. Cotton planted on or after April 25 came on with a little more vigor, and we’ve only had to treat it once.
“Rain also has caused problems. We got 1 inch to 3.5 inches, which idled everything until about Wednesday (5/10). It rained maybe a half-inch at first, which would have been perfect, but then another system stalled out over us. Areas around Caledonia received 3.5 inches, with 6 inches at one location.
“My cotton acres are up this year, and more cotton has been planted in the area, overall. Soybeans are about gone in Noxubee County. Cotton was the crop that carried a lot of guys in 2016 when we ran short on rain. Plenty of dryland corn only averaged 60 to 90 bu/acre.”
Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina
“Cotton planting has rolled along pretty well in the last week or so, and momentum in north Alabama really started picking up around May 8. Most growers have either finished planting or are well on their way to wrapping it up. Spells of cold weather slowed crop development where cotton was planted earlier, but I feel really good about cotton planted last week. It emerged quickly and should be fine.
“With all the acres planted last week, most folks ran Gramoxone and a preemerge herbicide behind the planter. That was a good strategy for controlling Palmer pigweed. All we needed was a rain to incorporate the preemerge, and rain was in the forecast. Unfortunately, a major portion of the Tennessee Valley did not receive rain soon enough. At this point, we’ll have to switch to Plan B for pigweed.
“People already are asking what they should do now, and the answer somewhat depends on the seed technology they selected. Most growers at least had Gramoxone in the tank, so that took care of whatever already was up.”
Chad Savery, Agromax LLC, Fairhope, Alabama
“Very few acres of our cotton have been planted yet, although that’s starting to pick up this week. We’ll be planting at least some fields into June, which isn’t unusual here. Generally, my growers plant peanuts first, then cotton. A few will plant cotton first or alternate between the crops, but the majority of them take that ‘peanuts-first’ approach. Just a little of our cotton is up (as of 5/16). I’m hearing that thrips are bad in some peanuts, but I don’t have enough peanuts up yet to begin checking.”
Georgia: 2 Cotton, Peanut, and Soybean Scout Schools, June 12, 20 5-17
North Carolina Cotton: Time to Check for Thrips 5-17
Florida: Tri-State Agronomic Scout School, Marianna, June 8 5-15
Farming With or Without Health Insurance – We Need a Plan – Commentary 5-17
Cotton Southwest – Irrigation Running; More Planting; First Time Growers – AgFax 5-17
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