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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.
Aphids have become a bigger player in cotton over the last week. Some treatments are being made. The aphid fungus surfaced last week in southeast Georgia but has yet to make a big showing east of Interstate 75.
Applications for aphids will likely be necessary in Alabama to make it possible to scout for bollworm eggs and hatching worms later this month. See comments by Ron Smith.
Plant bug treatments are still being made on an as-needed basis, but the main migration has slowed in parts of the Southeast.
Stink bug numbers are picking up in places and treatments are being made.
Brandon Dillard, Regional Agronomist, Geneva, Alabama:
“We’ve got a pretty late crop and that’s not going to change through the season, but farmers are doing a good job with it. No one seems to be giving up. A lot of sprays are going out and they’ve got weeds largely under control.
“A number of growers have been treating aphids and also spraying some for plant bugs. I was seeing a lot more plant bugs 2 weeks ago than I did last week. In some of the older cotton where Pix was going out, a pyrethroid went in the tank. I’ve been searching closely for whitefly in the older cotton but haven’t detected any yet.
“Moisture is good right now (7/9). It rained late last week and then later into the weekend. Some areas that really needed rain caught up a bit, plus rain is in the forecast this week.
“Some of our older cotton is probably in the second week of bloom. That part of the crop was planted in early May. In our April-planted cotton, a few bolls have formed, but not much planting was possible that early.
“Peanuts are moving along well. Some growers started planting early when the soil was pretty cold, and at least part of that acreage is doing well – lapped and pegging. Any issues with worms are limited at most. White mold and leaf spot sprays have gone out.
“This has been an up and down year in terms of weather and trying to plant and line up field work and applications. But things are settling down now. If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster, there’s that point when you’ve made the last big drop and then the track flattens out. You can relax and you’ll think to yourself, ‘I’ve made it’. That’s how I feel about this crop. The up-and-down part seems to be over and maybe we can make some good yields if the fall weather cooperates.”
Chad Savery, Agromax LLC, Fairhope, Alabama:
“We started seeing blooms last week. Plant bugs have been really light. Aphids are picking up. The epizootic hasn’t shown up and we’ve sprayed where we think it’s needed.
“We’re still getting plenty of rain – whether we like it or not. We’re trying to keep cotton plants in check and a good deal of plant growth regulator has been going out.”
Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi:
“Pix is going out on most of our cotton – every irrigated acre and we’re also hitting dryland fields where it’s rained. Everything is blooming except cotton planted in late May and early June when the market hit 92 or 93 cents and planters eased into the fields again.
“In places, we’re having to Pix cotton every week. With the rain, irrigation or both, some of these varieties are trying to take off. Certain fields have received 16 ounces 7 days apart for 3 straight weeks. That seems to do better than hitting it with one big shot.
“I’m finding aphids and scattered spider mites. In one location, we sprayed mites where they had started spreading. So far, we haven’t sprayed aphids but will probably act soon if the fungus doesn’t develop.
“This crop is moving rapidly. On a lot of irrigated cotton, we’re at 5 to 7 NAWF and at 4 or 5 on dryland fields. That’s just the opposite of last year when it was wetter and we had fewer heat units. In 2017, the crop just kind of crawled along. Not this year.”
Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist:
“Calls have come in from every corner of the state this week about aphids. That’s the biggest concern. Aphids are still building and spreading and some significant populations are becoming apparent.
“It’s not so much what they’re doing in cotton right now but the effect they’ll have on scouting for corn earworms (bollworms) as that pests begins building in cotton. Aphids create a kind of smoke screen that hides bollworm eggs and small worms. Aphids make cotton sticky and then you have all the aphids – alive, dead or immatures – on the leaves and other parts of the plant.
“Scouting for worms and eggs is a very hands-on process. You’re checking for them on leaves, in blooms, under bloom tags, in squares and in terminals. It’s hard enough to spot eggs and any small worms in ideal conditions, much less if they’re camouflaged by aphids and all that goop.
“For that reason, we will have to spray aphids to clear them out of the way. Normally, you might wait for biological control – the aphid fungus or beneficials – but these aphids are crowding the time when we need to check for worms. They’re not going to cycle out fast enough ahead of bollworms. This is a self-defense situation.
“We need to take care of this as moths move out of corn and into dual-gene cotton this week and next week. Aphids seem to be particularly worse in our older cotton, which is where the moths are going. Those fields have the most fruit set and will be at the most risk to yield loss.
“We’re still not finding many plant bugs in cotton and the main wild host has dried down. We may see a little pickup in numbers from the eggs that this last generation of adults deposited in cotton. However, we won’t have an extraordinary plant bug year in Alabama cotton, even though that appeared to be the trend earlier.
“We still have brown stink bugs in cotton, so we need to check for those, as well.”
Michael Mulvaney, Cropping Systems Specialist, University of Florida, Western Panhandle:
“The weather has been hit or miss. It was pretty rainy a week ago but things this week have dried up a fair amount. A lot of the cotton is in very early squaring, with nothing bigger than a match head. But some of the later planted cotton just has a few leaves and in places the older cotton has its first bloom. A small percentage of the crop was planted in July.
“It’s time to start thinking about target spot protection. More and more growers are putting out prophylactic fungicide applications at first bloom. Trying to decide whether to treat has a good deal to do with how you’re managing the crop – if you’re shooting for 3-bale yields or 1.5 bales or less. If you’re in a high-yield program, seriously consider it.”
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina:
“A lot of calls, emails and photos have come in about aphids. They’re still somewhat spotty but they’re in more spots now and populations are heavier in certain spots than others – plus, they’re more widespread across fields.
“People want to know what to do. They’re finding aphids to varying degrees on most plants in fields. These are cases where the farmer is about to apply a plant growth regulator (PGR) and wants to know whether to add something for aphids. It’s a tough decision. On one hand, I’ve seen plenty of data to support the idea that you don’t spray. On the other hand, spraying would be relieving any stress the aphids cause.
“Honestly, aphid thresholds aren’t well defined. Like most states, we say that you should treat if 50% of the plants are infested and populations are likely increasing and there’s no sign of the aphid fungus or parasitism. I want to be very clear that if you meet those criteria, a treatment wouldn’t be out of hand if they’re obviously going to be there for a while and will continue stressing cotton.
“However – and this is a big ‘however’ – make sure that you actually have a reason to treat aphids. I am not promoting the idea of adding an aphid material simply because you’re going across the field with a PGR.
“Although the aphid fungus has been found in southwest Georgia, it has not turned up in South Carolina to my knowledge.
“Problems with spider mites are starting to develop in places. If you’re pressed into treating, consider starting with bifenthrin. It would have activity on stink bugs if you need to deal with them and it may help with any bollworms slipping past the Bt technology. Immature plant bugs are present in some cotton.”
Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Specialist, North Carolina State University:
“Some folks have gotten rain in the last week, but I saw a lot of pivots running over the weekend (7/7-8) in places where it didn’t rain. We’ve had somewhat cooler weather, although it’s starting to warm up again today (7/10). Cotton ranges from some growing well to fields that are stunted due to too much rain or not enough. Aside from insects and irrigation, any decisions left to make now are about plant growth regulators or late weed control.”
Wes Briggs, Briggs Crop Services, Inc., Bainbridge, Georgia:
“Cotton ranges from some at the 5- to 6-leaf stage to fields in the third week of bloom. We’re in that midsummer management mode now, trying to clean up a few plant bugs and we’re starting to pick up some stink bugs.
“Aphids are sporadic. A little fungus has developed, which is helping, but we have had to spray aphids in some younger cotton that followed sweet corn.
“The biggest thing for us now (7/11) is still weed control, and that’s been a challenge all year. In a 6- or 7-week span, it rained so much that we couldn’t get in the field with any consistency, which put us behind on dealing with resistant pigweed.
“Layby rigs are running but we’re still doing some over-the-top applications. A few crews are pulling pigweed and we’ll have to do at least some more of that once the available labor wraps up the sweet corn harvest.
“We’re spraying some worms in peanuts. It’s nothing real heavy, mainly corn earworms and a few fall armyworms. We had to pull a few pigweeds in peanuts where the rain kept us from making cracking sprays.
“Rain has been sporadic this week. We’ve poured 4 inches out of some gauges but only 0.4 of an inch at other locations.”
Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina:
“This crop looks almost too good to be true. Plants are carrying a great fruit load, although we know it won’t hold onto all of it. Conditions haven’t been as favorable in a spot or two, but rainfall in most places has been good.
“Quite a few acres were already blooming in the week before the Fourth of July. The main challenge now is controlling growth.
“Plant bug populations are average or maybe even below average, with higher counts in just a few areas. A lot of Bidrin and Diamond are going out to clean up any plant bugs ahead of worms. The moth flight hasn’t started yet but we’re gearing up for it. We haven’t had quite the bollworm pressure in the last couple of years as some neighboring states but we’re seeing things that will keep us on our toes. Consultants feel like more pressure might develop in certain areas than we’re used to seeing.
“Our dryland corn – which is most of the corn we grow – has received timely rainfall and could turn out to be a better-than-average crop. One or two more rains will probably finish it off.”
Dominic Reisig, NCSU Extension Specialist, Entomology, Plymouth, North Carolina:
“Plant bug sprays are still going out but there was a good deal more plant bug activity earlier. We’re starting to see a turnover of generations in cotton and are moving from an adult to an immature population.
“For folks with blooming cotton, they can now move to the drop-cloth threshold and begin working Diamond into the program. Also, the mass plant bug migrations are mostly behind us. We’ll see some additional movement from corn as it dries down and we can still find plant bugs in weeds but not quite at the numbers we encountered earlier.
“A couple of people called about corn earworms (CEW) in corn where they’re breaking through the dual-gene Bt technology. Enough research has been published for us to say that CEW don’t limit yields in timely planted corn. But we do know they’re primed to survive on cotton and soybeans when they do come out, so we’ll have some bollworms around later this season.
“We’re not picking up the moths in traps yet but they’re definitely in corn, perhaps putting together some big numbers.”
Phillip Roberts, Extension Entomologist, Tifton, Georgia:
“Plant bugs are sporadic and we are treating some April and early May fields right now (7/10) for stink bugs. Once boll formation starts, we really need to be checking for them. Stink bugs are kind of normal in Georgia at this point in the year and we expect to spray them once or twice on a lot of acres.
“Aphids can still be found on the east side of the state and people are looking hard for the fungus and want to know when it will turn up. It is on the east side of I-75 now but it’s hard to say how soon it will be widespread. West of I-75, a lot of populations are crashing.
“We’re still getting rain – too much in places – and the crop is rapidly progressing.”
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