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Owen Taylor, Editor




Farmers made significant progress planting cotton last week in much of our coverage area. In places, they were dusting in seed ahead of a favorable weather forecast.


The rain did fall. Amounts varied widely, but most everyone received at least some. In places, the totals were in line with what farmers wanted. But heavy amounts also came down in certain areas, especially in central and south Alabama.


Thrips have about played out across parts of the region. At least right now, cooler weather has mostly followed the rain, and a return to sunny weather should allow cotton to push past thrips susceptibility.


How late will growers plant cotton now and how has thinking about "late planting" perhaps changed? See observations on that topic from Billy McLawhorn and Ron Smith. Also, connect to a related article in our Links section.


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Christy Hicks, Auburn University Regional Extension Agent, Opelika, Alabama

“I’m a little worried about how things will turn out for cotton that was planted last week in parts of my region. It rained 3 to 8 inches in places, starting on Saturday night. With that much rain, you’ve got to be concerned about seedling vigor and how that kind of weather will affect things.


“The heaviest amounts fell in a band around Montgomery, then amounts tapered down to maybe 4 inches on the edges of it. Farmers to the south received lower amounts. More rain is expected today (5/22), and Thursday is the first day this week with no chance of rain.


“I am thankful that we planted as much as we did before this weather shut things down. Some guys with smaller acreage are still plugging along. But for many farmers last week gave them a needed window to get as much seed in the ground as possible.


“I have variety trials planted in the first week of May. I was in a couple of them today and plants were getting their first true leaf. That’s probably about the same stage for other early fields, but we have a lot of later cotton that’s only at cotyledon.”


Billy McLawhorn, McLawhorn Crop Services, Inc., Cove City, North Carolina

“We planted a little cotton during a window in late April and into the first couple of days in May. But then rain followed and temperatures dropped into the 40s for a couple of nights, and we really didn’t plant much more until about May 12-15.


“Most of our crop has really just gone in, with an awful lot planted in the third week of May. We’re at least in the short rows now. Some of that earliest cotton survived pretty well but had thrips pressure, and we did spray a lot of it.


“We’ll have a little more cotton this year. Some of that acreage came out of corn and some out of soybeans.


“It’s raining right now (late afternoon, 5/22) and the forecast says we’ll get 2 to 4 inches over the next several days. It that’s how it turns out, some people might back away from those last cotton acres. It mostly depends on how much risk growers want to accept.


“Years ago we’d say that all the cotton needed to be planted by the second week of May or around that time. But I think our cotton industry is seeing that informal deadline shift later on the calendar, giving us a wider planting window now. We have new varieties, for example, that might fruit sooner and we have a better handle on using plant growth regulators to manage the crop. Also, growers generally have more capacity to handle field work and plant cotton.



“In the past, it might have taken 3 to 4 weeks for growers to plant a cotton crop. We do have less cotton acreage, overall, which is a factor. But with bigger and better equipment, farmers often can finish up in a week, given the right weather.”


Zach Ingrum, Sanders, Inc., Athens, Alabama

“Our cotton is 99% planted. The rest could be planted this week, although it’s supposed to rain tonight (5/22). Cotton acres are up some. Our oldest was planted around April 11-12, and it’s at the 4- to 5-leaf stage.


“We received 1.5 to 3 inches of rain over the weekend, so that stalled planting. It also will complicate our herbicide programs, especially with pigweed where growers weren’t able to spray everything when needed. Along with rain in the forecast tonight, more is predicted on Wednesday, so a lot of applications will remain on hold.”


Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina

“Things are still pretty quiet in terms of insects. It’s raining here today (5/23) after a pretty good amount of rain on Sunday and Monday. It’s wet just about everywhere. This rain will maybe taper off tomorrow. Cotton is growing, although conditions are still a little cooler than we would like. Plants are at least outrunning thrips on a lot of acres.”


Trey Cutts, Cotton Specialist and Cropping Systems Agronomist, Auburn University

“It rained over the weekend and amounts varied widely. Across the state we received close to an inch, while areas somewhat south of Interstate 20 measured 1.5 to 2 inches. But totals were high in places, and areas around Montgomery recorded 8 inches. Another 2 to 4 inches are in the forecast this week for parts of Alabama.


“The rain was good where reasonable amounts fell, but it could cause issues where heavier amounts came down. We could see some replant issues where rains totaled 4 to 6 inches. We’ll have a better handle on that later this week.”


John D. Beasley, South Georgia Crop Services, Inc., Screven, Georgia

“Our cotton is probably 50% to 60% planted. As soon as the weather clears up we’ll start our post-emerge weed control. Thrips haven’t been that bad yet and everything looks pretty good.


“We’re trying to stay on top of the weeds and the deer. When we can get a stand, deer eat it up. This year we used more AgLogic aldicarb, both for thrips and also because it seems to repel deer. By the end of the week I’ll have a better idea about how it’s doing on both.


“We had to put cotton in dry dirt in places and have hoped to get enough rain out of this current event to bring it up. In places, it rained Saturday and then most everyone got a little rain on Sunday, from 0.2 to 0.7 of an inch, then another round of spotty rain yesterday.


“If my western area doesn’t get rain today, we’ll be in trouble. On the radar, rain appears to be moving towards us. Probably 70% of our peanuts have been planted. A few people had to stop planting when soils dried out too much. We’ve had some issues in peanuts with poor emergence with seed from one company. In a good year I figure 60% to 65% emergence will be okay, but with this one seed line we can’t get 50% of it up.”


Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University

“We’re wet today. Some fields got a little dab of rain on Sunday or even on Saturday, but now (late afternoon, 5/23) we’re receiving a pretty good rain through the coastal plains, so everybody is parked under the shed.


“We did cover a lot of ground last week, and I can safely say that 60% of our cotton was planted then. We finally hit a stretch of days with warm temperatures and decent soil moisture, so farmers made up for lost time. Some had planted 30% of their crop before last week, while others hadn’t started, but I think most people are either finished now or just about through. We were starting to get dry in places ahead of the weekend, so that rain doesn’t hurt a bit.


“Anyone who’s still a little behind is probably frustrated about that because the crop insurance deadline comes up on Thursday. Most people who aren’t already finished should still be able to wrap it up pretty quickly once they can get in the field. We have moisture now, so anything planted last week should be off to a good start.


“A lot of our cotton is at cotyledon, with maybe some early fields at 2 to 3 leaves. I haven’t heard about much replanting. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions last week, especially after all the cool weather, rain and delays up to that point. A lot of cotton last week came up in 3 or 4 days.”


Richard Davis, Davis Ag Consulting, Montgomery, Alabama

“One farmer estimated that he’s received 11 inches of rain, counting what fell over the weekend and what we’re getting today (5/23). It had been dry for a while, but we’re certainly wet now.


“We’ve been really late this year as far as cotton planting goes, and we’re not completely through yet. Our most advanced cotton is at the 3- to 4-leaf stage. We had pretty good conditions for planting last week, and it didn’t start raining until Saturday night. With that system it rained 3 to 6 inches, but the soil absorbed pretty much all of the water, with very little runoff. I expected one creek to be way up, but it wasn’t.


“We’ve received another inch of rain today and maybe another 2 to 3 inches is in the forecast for tomorrow.


“Earlier, we had a pretty good fright with grasshoppers in no-till fields, and we added an insecticide to the preemerge spray behind the planters. Enough grasshoppers were around that we treated a couple of fields a second time when they started cutting off plants. Sometimes they’ll do that and grasshopper populations don’t have to be real high to cause real damage.


“Thrips have been pretty light. Maybe cotton missed the peak time for thrips because we did plant a little later. We’ve sprayed some of the earlier cotton once for thrips. When the sun comes out again – combined with good soil moisture – cotton should really jump and outgrow thrips, especially when nighttime temperatures warm up.”


Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia

“Thrips aren’t too bad on our May-planted cotton. I looked at some today (5/23) with 2 leaves, and it was almost perfect. As a whole, it’s been a pretty light thrips year. A few people are still calling about grasshoppers, white margined burrower bugs and false chinch bugs, but that’s about it on insects.


“Stands generally look good and we’re off to a decent start, I think. Progress on planting this crop has to be at 70% to 75%. That varies, of course, with the area. We’ll also have some cotton behind wheat, and I saw a field of wheat being cut today before it started raining. Except for wheat and any cotton following other crops, farmers in southwest Georgia are finished planting cotton or very near to that point.


“Rainfall amounts have varied. Here at Tifton it rained about an inch a couple of days ago, but those rains were scattered. But it appears that a lot of people received rain today, and we needed it. Some dryland growers were waiting for moisture while others planted and hoped for a good rain.”


Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist

“I’m still finding thrips damage on older cotton that would seem to be past the thrips window. Plants were at the seventh true leaf, which would be considered beyond the point that thrips matter, but leaves were still being distorted. The damage might have been done a week or so back when the leaf was still in the terminal.


“We were rained out of the field before we could get an idea about how much thrips activity was still going on. Normally, though, by the seventh leaf you can’t find a lot of distortion, but it was still there. With older cotton – and these plots were planted in April – most seed treatments have run out.


“It also was striking how much variability in damage I could see down the row. A plant might have been totally stunted but 4 to 5 inches down the row they might look normal. You don’t always notice this variability if you’re just looking down the row from the end of the field. But the differences become more obvious if you look across rows or run a tape measure down the row and count the damaged plants. As entomologists, we don’t talk about this variability enough and it’s a matter of debate as to the cause.



“How thrips will play out in our youngest cotton is an unknown. It’s still at the cotyledon stage. Until it unfurls leaves, it’s difficult to judge how much thrips damage might have happened.


“Rain has varied over the weekend from enough to too much. At Headland it’s rained about an inch, according to the last report. Fairhope received 3, Mobile got 7 and 4.3 inches fell at Prattville. I’ve heard of up to 10 inches in a spot north of Mobile. But everyone in the state has probably received rain since the weekend.


 “I’ve read reports about all the planting delays in the Midsouth and whether farmers will pull back on planting cotton now and go to soybeans. Here in Alabama I think we still have plenty of time to continue planting or replanting cotton, certainly for at least the next 2 weeks. That includes north Alabama. We still have potential for more economic gain with late-planted cotton than with soybeans. One veteran consultant said recently that he’s comfortable planting cotton out to June 15.”


Gary Swords, Swords Consulting, Arlington, Georgia

“We got rain today (5/23) after 0.7 of an inch fell over the weekend. Everything had gotten dry, and we’ll take the 2 inches expected today, too. The ground will eat it up fast.


“We made plenty of progress last week with cotton planting. My growers tend to concentrate on peanuts first, and we’re probably 90% finished with that. After last week’s big push, I’d say we’re 60% to 70% finished with cotton planting. If it hadn’t been for good planting conditions last week, we would be significantly behind with this crop. Last week growers probably planted 30% to 40% of their expected cotton.


“That first cotton planted in April – especially the dryland fields – took a hit from a couple of showers and cool spells. Cotton didn’t move fast enough to lock in, plus it was hit by wind and we lost moisture on some of it. We probably lost half of that early cotton and are having to replant more acres than I can remember in several years.


“We’ve also had a rough period with thrips, although they’ve kind of tapered off. Some of the seed treatments didn’t cut it.”


Mark Freeman, Extension Area Agronomist, East Georgia:, Statesboro, Georgia

“We’re taking a ‘weather-related’ break today (5/24). We’ve received significant rains pretty much across the eastern side of the state. Amounts have varied. Over the last 4 to 5 days some weather stations in our network recorded 2 inches while other locations measured upwards of 4 inches.


“We needed the rain. A lot of growers were dusting in cotton. The last rain before this current round was about 10 days ago and it sidelined planting for maybe 2 days in places. But if you looked at the bigger picture, we needed that moisture and we also needed this recent rain.


“Most stands I’ve seen look pretty good, and very little replanting has been necessary. In this part of the state we’re probably 45% to 50% finished with planting.”




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South Carolina Peanuts: Crops Suffering from Poor Vigor   5-24


South Georgia Cotton: Considerations Before Making Replant Decisions   5-23


Alabama Cotton: Still Time to Re-Plant   5-23


Alabama: Crop Scouting School, Autaugaville, June 6 5-19


Florida: Perennial Peanut Field Day, Quincy, June 2 5-19


Georgia: Pest Manager Training, Byron, June 1


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