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Owen Taylor, Editor




Hurricane Irma is pushing back the urge to defoliate any cotton that’s ready in the lower Southeast. The consensus is that Irma will affect Florida, portions of Georgia, the Carolinas and maybe parts of Alabama.


Whitefly remain a factor in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Cooler temperatures over the last week may help slow the pest’s population dynamics. Whitefly have built to troubling levels in some soybeans.


Stink bugs and a few corn earworms in late cotton are about the only pests still on the radar, aside from whitefly.


Corn harvest has hit major delays in parts of Alabama, either because of mechanical problems at a major feed mill or because mills have maxed out their grain storage capacity. With some of the dryland corn yields being reported, it’s easy to see how buyers would run out of places to put it.


Alabama: The Barbour County Row Crop Tour is still set for next Tuesday, September 12, starting at 9 a.m. at Liikatchka Plantation. The tour will cover cotton and peanut variety trials, cattle management and corn seed rate trials. Extension personnel will discuss irrigation and water management methods, including subsurface drip on cotton. Auxin herbicides and wild hog control also are included in the list of subjects. The tour will start under the shed on Corcoran Road. Look for the trailers and peanut variety plot signs.


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Brandon Dillard, Regional Agronomist, Geneva, Alabama

Some folks are close to defoliation and were talking about making applications this week, although I don’t know of anyone off hand who’s started. With this hurricane (Irma) moving towards Florida, I doubt if people will be in a big hurry.


“Whitefly remain the big challenge. Some products are available, but how well they’re working is a different story. The first applications were only made 2 or 3 weeks ago and some people are just now assessing the results.


“We’re running behind on corn harvest. Farmers hit a terrible drydown period in the first 20 days of August but then moved into better conditions at the end of August, with dry weather and more sunshine. But then it rained last Wednesday (8/30), which put things on hold again.


“On top of that, the main buyer in our area suspended taking in more corn due to mechanical problems. It’s said to be the third largest poultry feed mill in America, so that would affect plenty of farmers in our area. We’re maybe 60% finished but would be running wide open today (9/5) if the mill could take the corn. Some guys have had to switch to digging peanuts.


“Most dryland corn has been really good, with some fields averaging 200 bu/acre. That’s unheard of here. In the back of our minds, we’re wondering what that storm might do to any corn still standing in the field.


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

In cotton, we’re done as far as insects go. If anything warranted a treatment now, it would be in cotton planted extremely late – in which case they would have bigger problems than insects.


“Soybean loopers, velvetbean caterpillars (VBC) and green cloverworms (GCW) are the big three insects in beans right now, and we’re seeing another flush of GCW. We’re finding stink bugs, too. If a soybean field hasn’t been sprayed in a week or two, it likely has some assortment of those insects in it. I saw an abundance of VBC moths flying around in soybeans yesterday (9/4), so I think we’re in for another flush of those. A lot of fungus took out a big portion of the kudzu bugs.


“A consultant texted me that he’s finding several redbanded stink bugs (RBSB) in his drop-cloth counts and asked what thresholds were for it. This is a new insect for us, and we’re going by the threshold people in the Midsouth seem to be following. Briefly, take the threshold for our native stink bug species and divide that in half for RBSB. I saw plenty of them, myself, in sampling yesterday.”


Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist

In Monroe County, we’re finding stink bugs where cotton was sprayed 2 or 3 weeks ago, so they’re back. In a typical year, it takes 2 applications there to keep stink bugs down, so finding them now isn’t an unusual situation.



“The older cotton is definitely loaded up but the younger cotton also is looking better and better in terms of potential.


“Stink bugs would be about it in terms of insects now – except for whitefly in southeast Alabama. We’re still seeing that whitefly situation in about 7 counties. A couple of guys who work for distributors said they couldn’t detect much difference in pressure where they sprayed or didn’t spray. Where they sprayed, both had used an insect growth regulator on some cotton and a regular insecticide on other cotton.


“We got 6 inches of rain off that last front, which held whitefly in check. Based on reports from southeast Alabama, whitefly have at least not gotten any worse.


“Many of the questions I’m getting still focus on whitefly thresholds. If people are spending $20 to $30 per acre for these treatments, they definitely want to know when to spray. We’re basing approaches on immatures.


“To determine whether to spray, locate the fifth main stem leaf below the terminal, which typically is where you’ll find the most immatures. Georgia is going with the approach that you must have 5 or more immatures on the leaf for it to count. If you can find immatures at that level on 50% of the plants, you’ve hit threshold.


“In soybeans, velvetbean caterpillar (VBC) numbers are just exploding in south Alabama. In places, I’m finding 90 small caterpillars on 3 row feet. Last week the counts ran 50 to 70. The percentage of foliage loss is creeping up, too.


“Let me add that there’s no guarantee that all those tiny worms will make it to larger sizes that can cause significant damage. In places, we’re seeing some fall0ff in numbers, which may be due to fire ants. Soybean loopers also have reappeared in the mix. So far, the highest amount of overall defoliation we’ve found was about 50% in untreated plots at Fairhope.


“More redbanded stink bugs have turned up in more locations. I still haven’t seen a field that was completely overwhelmed. Also, I was told today (9/5) that about 10 VBC per foot were present in some peanuts in Monroe County. That would be enough to take off significant amounts of foliage.


Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia

I’m not aware of any farmers who have picked any cotton yet. Some defoliation was supposed to have started last week. But with this hurricane (Irma) maybe heading our way, I don’t know if anyone actually started.


“The whitefly continues to dominate conversations. What you’re dealing with depends on where you are, what you’ve done so far and when you planted your cotton. In terms of whitefly materials, inventories are probably tighter than what they have been. When they need to treat, growers are finding something, although it may not be the preferred material.


“The whole whitefly situation has moderated, I think. They haven’t gone away by any means. But as we’ve shifted into cooler temperatures, they have slowed down in terms of population development. Highs are dropping into the 80s and we’re seeing nights into the 60s. That’s compared to 90s and 70s for a while. Maybe this weather will give us a little relief.


“Where growers got after whitefly, they did a great job. It will be an expensive crop, but that’s what it will take to manage this insect. Some people are still treating stink bugs and scattered corn earworms. We may have sprayed a few more corn earworms this year than in previous seasons, but it hasn’t been terrible.”


Dominic Reisig, NCSU Extension Specialist, Entomology, Plymouth, North Carolina

Except for reports of plant bug activity in isolated areas, we pretty much have cotton insects behind us now. In soybeans, we’re spraying some loopers in coastal areas and stink bugs are beginning to appear at treatment levels in places.”


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

I scouted a field yesterday (9/5) and did find a few green stink bugs, but the bolls were pretty much finished. I suspect that a lot of fields are approaching that point.


“Bolls are cracking in places, and that cotton should move along well with enough sunshine. Plants with poor root systems are struggling.


“In corn, some dryland fields are averaging over 200 bu/acre, and a lot of guys are really enjoying corn harvest this year. We only received about 1.5 inches of rain from the storm (Harvey), with maybe 2 inches in spots. The forecast at one point put it at 3 to 4 inches. I haven’t seen any damage from wind or rain.



“Caterpillar activity has picked up in soybeans and treatments have kind of increased in the past 4 to 5 days (from 9/6). Some diseases have turned up that we don’t normally see in soybeans, like target spot. But we still should have some decent soybean yields this year.”


Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi

We defoliated some cotton Monday a week ago and should see a picker in the field next week. So far, we’ve probably made applications on 1,500 acres. We have about 5 fields in the same variety that are showing some hard locking. Maybe cotton will fluff out and be okay, but it sure looked ugly the last time I checked.


“Overall, we came out pretty much unscathed from the storm (Harvey), especially considering what the forecasts predicted earlier. We’ve been spraying for stink bugs here and there and have probably treated more for stink bugs than in the last 4 or 5 years. That must be due to the mild winter.


“In soybeans, redbanded stink bugs (RBSB) started moving into some fields and I’m checking soybeans longer this year than I ever have before. We had a near-threshold level in one field at R7. The farmer didn’t want to apply paraquat ahead of the hurricane, and we felt like we had to do something in terms of the stink bug.


“The grower’s brother farms in Arkansas and had cut beans that were still carrying a good many RBSB. When he took that first load to the elevator, he was told that they would take those beans but don’t bring in any more loads with that many RBSB. That’s the kind of situation we want to avoid.


“We’re finding enough soybean loopers in spots to treat. Those fields tend to be out there by themselves. Where people have been harvesting beans, some dryland fields are averaging 55 bu/acre. But where beans missed pivotal rains in July, they’re cutting about 30. Some irrigated MG IVs are averaging 70.”


Ethan Carter, Regional Crop IPM, Marianna, Florida

Whitefly started out kind of slow in our cotton, but in the last 2 weeks I haven’t been in a field that doesn’t have them. Of course, the big concern is limited supplies of any of the materials. The 2 preferred products – Courier and Knack – are sold out. Several growers have called about whitefly in soybeans, plus I’m finding them in peanuts.


“A pretty fair percentage of bolls are opening in some fields. We’re still several weeks from starting defoliation in that part of the crop. We also have cotton planted into late June and maybe into the first few days of July.


“I’m wondering how the storm (Hurricane Irma) will impact cotton harvest in this part of the state. Our dryland peanut farmers actually need rain but not those 8- to 10-inch amounts that could keep them out of the field for a month.”



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