Covering California cotton, alfalfa, tomatoes, grains and other field crops since 1991.
Owen Taylor, Editor
Small bolls are visible in the lower San Joaquin Valley. Cotton blooms are evident in more areas this week, too, and way before the classical Fourth of July mark for first bloom.
Lygus counts in cotton continue to be localized, based on this week’s reports. Some treatments are being made on threshold populations, while in other cases materials are going out more on a preventive basis. Spider mites and aphids are around but we’re not hearing about overt problems.
In Arizona cotton, a few whitefly treatments have been made.
In alfalfa, worms are prompting more treatments. No big blowouts reported.
PCAs continue to say that irrigation will wind down on more alfalfa going into July, which could affect pest spectrums in other crops.
Well capacities are steadily declining in a number of areas, something people have been reporting for weeks.
Some early tomato fields are moving toward harvest. Pest pressure has built in places and more applications are being reported on worms, with tomato fruit worms becoming more apparent.
After our Crop Updates section we’re including additional observations by Bob Hutmacher, Extension Cotton Specialist, about growth issues in some fields this month.
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Jerry Anderson, PCA, Anderson Consulting, Dos Palos: “Pix is going on, from 4 to 10 ounces/acre. Some cotton was planted late because people weren’t sure about their water situation, so that part of the crop is still pretty small. But our oldest is up to 25 squares. The Hazera has really put it on, and we probably have as much Hazera this year as upland varieties. All of our cotton looks really good.
“We had problems early with uneven emergence in the Hazera, with some 6-leaf plants and other plants still emerging. That could complicate things later, and we’re going in with Pix now in part to try to even out stands a little.
“Uncertainty about water earlier this year left us with some weed issues in alfalfa. Back when I should have been writing winter recs for herbicide programs, some farmers said they’d probably just do one cutting and let fields go, so they skipped preventive treatments. But then alfalfa prices went up and maybe they found more water, so we went past the first cutting and now we’re spraying dodder.
“We just finished spraying almost all of our alfalfa for worms. They came up quickly, both yellow striped and beet armyworms. We’re still seeing very few alfalfa caterpillars. This has been a real battle with worms and things have happened fast, to the point that I’ve checked a lot of fields this week 3 times. Yellow striped will lay in spots early on and if you don’t get your net into the right spot, you can come back in 3 days and see those white areas where they’re eating away.
"We checked some fields on Tuesday and didn’t see much to concern us but then came back on Thursday and found enough worms in places to treat. I’m hearing prices at $345 a ton for good hay and even $285 for weedy hay, so nobody wants worms to get the upper hand.
“Water availability is still hanging over us. Several growers are talking about abandoning some of the hay after this next cutting to hold back that water for cotton in July and August. A lot of this also has to do with declining pumping capacity. One grower has lost 60% of his capacity since last month. Another has a 140-acre almond orchard and his volume has dropped more than 50%, so he’s barely keeping things wet.
“Tomatoes, so far, are the easiest thing we’re working. Some thrips did test positive for tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), but I haven’t seen any TSWV in my tomatoes, just a little curly top.”
Ayman Mostafa, University of Arizona Entomologist, Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties: “About half of our cotton is finishing up squaring. Due to the hot weather, we have accumulated heat units faster and our crop development is running a little ahead of last year. Farmers have sprayed whiteflies in certain areas. Whiteflies are present in some cotton but below threshold. In alfalfa, we’re about 75% through the second cutting and some caterpillars and leafhoppers are being reported and treatments are going out. Barley and wheat harvests are about 50% finished.”
Bob Hutmacher, Extension Cotton Specialist: “Several general situations are evident in some of the cotton field evaluations we’ve done this week in Kings, Tulare and Fresno Counties. In some fields we’re finding plants that are clearly shorter than what you’d expect, with lower height-to-node ratios. In quite a few fields, you can trace the shortness to delayed irrigation and maybe reduced nitrogen rates. But in many fields with moderately sized plants, growth has been held back by really good square and early boll retention.
“In places, growers still haven’t made their first post-planting irrigations or have only just done so. With the hot weather and limited water, the vigor and growth rates are low and the stress has been significant enough to reduce fruiting branch extension and the number of fruiting sites.
“Delaying irrigation is an okay strategy with limited water resources. It reduces vegetative growth potential and eliminates the need for plant growth regulators. It also promotes earliness. However, if the stress is severe enough to cause mid-day leaf wilting, yields will take a hit.
“We’re seeing cases where plants are growing out of early thrips damage, mainly in later plantings. Damage was much worse with upland varieties than Pimas. Losses of plants to fusarium race 4 are still occurring in patchy parts of fields, and that’s been brought on by the heat. With plants growing more now, scout for indications of fusarium race 4 before adjoining growth covers up the plants that were hit. Contact your UCCE farm advisor for a field evaluation if you have questions about fusarium race 4.
“It’s vitally important now to keep an eye on square and fruit losses since we’ve got limited water in most situations. And if fruit loss is occurring, make sure you know why. Check for damaging levels of insects where you see significant losses of squares and early bolls. Don’t just automatically treat. As the season progresses, consider the crop’s growth stage, the time remaining to compensate for early losses, the severity of loss and any help beneficials might provide. Consider and reconsider yield goals as we move deeper into the season and you start weighing additional input costs. Price and water availability are major issues this year. Eliminating even one irrigation can be important.
“Early attention to square retention and plant mapping at this point gives you a basis of comparison when you have to make decisions ahead.”
Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield: “Cotton is coming along very nicely. We’ve got quite a few blooms in most of it and some of those blooms are falling off, so we’ve got small bolls now. Square retention is incredible.
“We’ve had to treat a handful of blocks for lygus over the last few days. Hay was being cut nearby, which pushed a lot of lygus into the cotton. When other PCAs are telling me about treating lygus this month, it also sounds like situations influenced by nearby hay. This is a localized deal. A good bit of our cotton hasn’t been sprayed yet and with certain fields we haven’t even had to consider treating yet.
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“In tomatoes we picked up a few fruit worms earlier this week, so we’re treating. Pressure wasn’t real high but the grower was doing a nutrient spray, so we took advantage of that.
“In alfalfa we’re starting to see more armyworms, and I treated 2 fields this week. I’m keeping a close eye on several others. In the vast majority of our alfalfa, worms are still pretty light, but it does look like they’re coming. A few yellow striped armyworms are in the mix but mostly we’re finding beet armyworms.”
Pete Goodell, Extension IPM Entomologist, Kearney Ag Center, Parlier: “Around the valley, cotton continues to develop very well. Blooms are appearing as far north as Merced County. In one Pima field I've been in this week, fruit retention was 95% or better. In that field, fruiting started early on the fifth mainstem node and plants now average 9 fruiting branches.
“With such strong fruit set, scout frequently for lygus and monitor fruit set. Be sure to look closely at square retention, especially taking time to split squares to look for early feeding damage. For more details, consult our Cotton Pest Management Guidelines. Aphid infestations were reported in localized areas in a few fields.”
Sheldon Childs, Valley Agronomy Service, Fresno: "One little flight of lygus came through a couple of weeks ago in cotton with real low counts. They didn’t hurt retention much. Some cotton was sprayed but not every field. Plants are loading really nice and we found our first bloom last week.
“In tomatoes we’ll start cutting off our first field for harvest soon, probably next week. We’ve had plenty of days in the high 90s and low 100s, plus a few with highs at or close to 105, so ripening accelerated. Fruit set was great but fruit size is somewhat small. Overall, it won’t be a bad year for tomatoes but nobody will set records. All my tomatoes this year are on well water with drip systems.”
Vern Crawford, PCA, Wilbur-Ellis Co., Shafter: “Cotton is blooming like crazy. Bug counts are manageable for sure. We’ve had flights into the cotton I’m working but they haven’t amounted to too much. However, that’s not the case everywhere. Other PCAs are telling me about heavier pressure in some fields. We did include Carbine when we went through with Roundup and some foliar feeding. Lygus were out there and I wanted to make sure that we reduced any egg laying on the front end. I think it still makes some people uneasy to see live lygus after using the material, but whenever I check behind the treatment, lygus have quit feeding and they’ll starve to death, which is how it works.
“Mite populations have been low, but we did include abamectin as a preventive. Mites have been active in corn and trees but we have not had a problem in cotton. Where we’ve sprayed a miticide, leaves were nice and succulent, so plants should pick up some good residual out of that application. As shocking as it was, I did find a bollworm that had done some damage. Nothing to justify treating, but we are keeping an eye out.
“Cotton is ahead of schedule. We use to say that if you had blooms by the Fourth of July you were in good shape. Today it’s June 20 and we have blooms all over the place. Growth is good and fruit retention is excellent, so far.
“Growers are treading light as far as water goes. Some wells in the Shafter-Wasco area have dropped 25 feet so far this season. With a well I’ve got, we’re seeing pumping rates falling off 100 gpm, from 850 to 950 gallons a minute to 750 to 850. Last year it was running more like 950 to 1,000.
“In the tomatoes I’m regularly checking 2 applications have been made for worms and sulfur went out each time for powdery mildew. Potential right now looks like 55 to 75 tons/acre and they’re still setting. A little potash is going out to help bring on the color.
“Where growers have been watering alfalfa, it’s okay, but people are still pulling water off of hay, so there’s a shortage. Prices seem to have plateaued at around $300 a ton, which is still good.
“Blackeyes are starting to fruit real good and are putting out runners. At this point we’re trying to stay on top of any lygus or stink bugs. I’ve found a lot more stink bugs in alfalfa and blackeyes than I normally expect.”
COMPENSATING FOR SMALLER PLANTS
By Bob Hutmacher, UC Extension Cotton Specialist
As we move into late June, some patterns are emerging in how cotton is shaping up. While we have fields that are moving along at a very satisfactory rate, in other fields plants are noticeably smaller. Significant acreage could be described in one of the following ways:
Weak to moderate vegetative growth, thinner stands and some retention problems. If you’re dealing with fields like this, stay flexible with plant growth regulators. If retention remains good in weaker stands, consider lower PGR rates or bypass them, altogether.
Weaker vegetative growth and good retention. Maybe it’s a little early to tell much about retention possibilities, but we might end up with plants fitting this description. Such plants could become candidates for early cutout if retention is good and growth is held back by limited water or delayed irrigation.
This could be good or bad, depending on the situation. For example:
Plants would press toward early cutout, which would translate into reduced yield potential.
But if water is limited, early termination like this may be an okay outcome.
If you have water, it’s still possible with irrigation and nutrients to push plants that have weak root systems and less-than-satisfactory early growth. Decide if the added costs pencil out. It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about possible payback. Every field is different and you know your ground better than I do.
But if you’re unsure how a given field will respond to added nutrients or suspect any response will be limited, keep supplemental fertilizer applications moderate for those made after the first split. For instance, go with 30 to 40 lbs/acre of nitrogen, then see how plants respond.
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