Covering California cotton, alfalfa, tomatoes, grains and other field crops since 1991.


Owen Taylor, Editor



Cotton yield prospects continue to look strong where growers have water. The crop is moving fast by most accounts.


Pest pressure in cotton remains relatively light, although our contacts still tell us that whitefly are on the early side in the lower SJV.


More tomato harvest has started. Scattered worms are turning up but no real issues were reported. Effects from earlier heat are evident, especially in certain varieties.


Worm pressure in alfalfa is relatively light, our contacts reported.


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Sheldon Childs, Valley Agronomy Service, Fresno: "My growers have a great cotton crop shaping up. It’s heavily loaded and most of it is on well water, so it’s really hard to keep the bloom down. We’ll probably have a lot of cotton hitting cutout in the first or second week of August and probably won’t have anything that makes it all the way to August 20.


“We have 12 to 14 effective fruiting branches. Yield potential already is strong enough that it doesn’t bother me that cutout is coming fast. As long as we have full cover and a good number of fruiting branches, we’ll be okay.


“We had one period of lygus spraying for a couple of weeks, and that’s been it as far as lygus go. I haven’t seen any whitefly yet.


“Harvest has started in my first tomato field. Yields are mostly running 50 to 60 tons/acre. Depending on the variety, some fields were hit harder by the heat than others. Certain varieties didn’t size that well, while others did better. Except for a couple of fields, I feel pretty good about the crop.”


Dan Prentice, Prentice Ag Consulting, Bakersfield: “Our cotton looks great right now. No real pest issues to speak of, no mites, not many lygus. Where we had to treat lygus earlier, nothing came back. Some fields have only been sprayed for mites and haven’t needed a lygus application, and we’re still only finding zero and one counts.


“Plants are loading up with bolls and the bloom is moving up the plant like we want. We can find aphids in cotton but nothing near treatment levels and populations don’t seem to be building. On rare occasions I might have to deal with aphids in late July, but it tends to be more in August when we see them.


Tomatoes are moving close to harvest. No pest issues there, either. We haven’t had too many worms show up, just spots here and there with no big population issues. Disease has been relatively quiet, too. I haven’t seen any powdery mildew, although I’m told that it’s taking off in some places. So far, I guess we’ve been lucky.


“In alfalfa, worms have been hit or miss. We’re spraying a handful of fields over the next 2 or 3 days. A lot of our hay is very clean, with just scattered hatches through the field and nothing treatable. We haven’t seen that area-wide movement that occurs in a lot of years.


“In certain cases we made applications where worms weren’t blatantly treatable, and if alfalfa had been worth a little less money we might not have done anything. But considering the price of hay right now, growers wanted to protect the crop as much as they could.”


Rick Sandberg, PCA, Agri-Consultants, Los Banos:Cotton looks pretty good, overall. Except around safflower, we’re not having much problem with lygus. But the safflower has dried up, so hopefully that’s pretty much over. Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet and we’ve just sprayed in some cases for low counts.


“We’re putting on some Pix. We had a couple of replanted fields, but most of our crop will be pretty early. How we finish out some of this cotton will depend on how much water we have. The Hazera looks really good in terms of fruit retention. Early on, though, some of it did not have a real good stand, so we’ll have to see if bigger plants make up for uneven areas. It was bad enough in one field that we replanted.


“Generally, cotton is running 3 to 7 nodes above bloom, but the averages is mostly in the 5 to 6 range.


“In our tomatoes, some harvest will probably start in the first week of August. We’re putting on sulfur and spraying for some yellow striped armyworms. The worm counts aren’t high, just enough to make you treat.


“Worms in alfalfa are mostly in that same pattern – just enough to spray – and they seem to come right before you cut. I don’t know how we coped when we had 7-day pre-harvest intervals compared to now when we can work with a product that has a zero-day interval.


“Spotted alfalfa aphids have turned up in a few places. We began finding them in August last year. Populations aren’t approaching anything like we saw in 2013, but more are around than we’d like to find at this point in mid July.”


Vern Crawford, PCA, Wilbur-Ellis Co., Shafter: “The fruit set on cotton is really good and retention continues to run high. Nice bolls are developing, and guys with adequate water have especially strong yield prospects. We had hot weather but nighttime lows were down in the 70s, so cotton didn’t go into undue stress.


Bolls are running two-thirds up the plant. We’re seeing some boll rot in sprinkler fields. That’s not uncommon, considering we keep wetting plants and that microclimate is real humid. At one time I identified this as a type of fusarium rot, but some new rots are out there now, too, and we’re going to put out our first fungicide application next week and then put on another shot later if this persists.


“Whiteflies are here, and I have no problem finding adults and immatures in places. We have lygus in some cotton, too. I’ve been holding off dealing with whitefly until we’re into the last 2 weeks of July. That’s still a little earlier than normal, but we’re at a point that we need to do something. Anybody who is finding whitefly around here next week and doesn’t spray could get in trouble. Honeydew is being produced, and I’m feeling those first traces of stickiness on leaves, plus we’re not far from open bolls.


“We’re finding more whitefly and lygus in the Acala, which I think is indicative of lower gossypol levels compared to Pima. We have seen some shift with this, though. When we started growing Pimas we didn’t have mite problems in that cotton most of the time. Mites didn’t like it, I guess. But then as more Pima was planted, they adapted to it because that was the only cotton to feed on.


“In Pima we’re seeing early stages of potassium deficiency, so if guys aren’t putting more potassium out, they’ll starting noticing changes in Pima leaf color. Pima has more of those little bolls, and they need potassium for bracts. That’s why potassium deficiency is more pronounced on Pima than Upland.


“Where we’ve had ample water, the second Pix application is about to go out.



“I’ve got a limited amount of tomatoes this year, and harvest should be wrapped up within the next couple of days.


“The price of alfalfa is still holding good, even though it’s summer hay, which dairies don’t prefer. More fields are being dried up where people don’t have water. Well capacity continues to fall off, and some farmers have been pumping 24 hours a day and still aren’t able to keep up, plus all that pumping has added enough to the costs that it doesn’t make economic sense to maintain the hay, even with strong prices.


“Worms have come on in hay, but we’ve really been blessed with a lot of beneficials this year and haven’t had to spray much. When hatches have developed lately, especially sugarbeet and yellow striped armyworms, whitecaps aren’t expanding like we’d expect. As worms start moving out, beneficials pick them off.


“My guys with blackeyes have prospects for a really good crop. They shifted some acreage to blackeyes because they probably wouldn’t have enough water for cotton. But with the lower water demand for blackeyes, they could keep them irrigated well enough.”




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AgFax West is published weekly during the main crop production season.


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Owen Taylor, Editor and Publisher.



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