Larry Stalcup, AgFax Southwest Editor
Debra L. Ferguson, AgFax Media Managing Editor
Owen Taylor, AgFax Editorial Director
Special thanks to PhytoGen, the exclusive sponsor of AgFax Southwest Cotton.
This issue begins our 5th year of AgFax Southwest Cotton covering Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona. The AgFax Media staff is excited to start our 27th year of publishing crop e-news reports.
Christmas weather in April was not welcomed by northern Panhandle growers who were hit with up to 6 inches of snow, rain and temperatures down to 28 degrees. Wheat damage remains up in the air while delays in cotton and corn planting are evident. Cattle and crop losses northward into western Kansas added to the March wildfire devastation.
South Plains planters are ready to roll as soon as fields dry out and soil temps warm up. Weather delayed planting in central Texas putting farmers 3 weeks behind.
Eastern New Mexico saw its first plantings this week (5/1) while Arizona is virtually done, with plants ranging from 2-leaf to squaring.
Oklahoma could see more cotton acres as farmers either bale, graze-out or abandon their wheat, then follow with no-till cotton. Kansas is a week or two away from planting, as fields try to dry out from weeks of periodic showers.
“Follow the Label” could be a popular (or unpopular) bumper sticker as herbicide drift damage is already showing up with use of the new chemistries to fight glyphosate resistant weeds. There’s little margin for error. Consultants are also emphasizing the need to be a step ahead by putting residuals in place before planting.
Cotton prices continue to outshine grain and propel planting projections upward. More than 7.66 million cotton acres are forecast across our Southwest coverage area: Texas (6 million); Oklahoma (470,000); Arizona (166,000); New Mexico (59,000) and Kansas (56,000).
Seth Byrd, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Cotton Specialist, Lubbock: “We had very good rainfall in the Lubbock and South Plains area last weekend (4/29). We welcome the moisture, but would like to see it warm up to help get planting started. By and large, we won’t see a lot of planting this week. Most guys will wait to see what next week brings. We want to find a good window for planting. Since it is so early, farmers can still be selective.
“Preplant weed control has been good. A lot of yellows are going down and a lot of tillage has been done in areas where farmers know they will plant cotton. They’ve done a good job of getting a head start on weeds. Since we are seeing new herbicide chemistries, folks need to communicate with their neighbors on what type varieties will be planted and what type herbicides will be used. They can use flags, or new smartphone apps to identify different field situations. They just need to make sure they know what is around them.
“We also remind farmers who faced disease problems last year to make sure they plant varieties that are more resistant or tolerant to those diseases. They need to be selective where they put varieties and how the seed can see vigorous growth the first 2 or 3 weeks after planting. We need to have a good start from the first day.”
Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University Cotton Research Director, Cotton Extension Program Leader, Altus: “We’re gearing up for hopefully another big crop after the success we saw in 2016. One of our gins was still ginning late last week (ending 4/28). They ginned some 94,000 bales.
“We keep receiving good rainfall. In the last 30 days many of our growing areas have had from 2.5 inches to over 4 inches of rain. With continued rain and cool temperatures, we still don’t have good planting conditions. Soil temperatures are 50 to 57 degrees at 4 inches and 53 to 58 degrees at 2 inches. We need to be well over 60 if possible. Cooler temperatures make cottonseed more susceptible to seedling diseases.
“Hopefully a lot of our irrigated farmers will see good planting conditions in the next 2 weeks. Many of our dryland guys don’t plant until late May or early June. Overall, we have a good chance to surpass the 470,000 acres forecast by USDA. Several of our southwestern counties are seeing farmers graze-out or bale wheat fields because prices are just too low. Many will no-till cotton into those acres.
“The new dicamba and 2, 4-d chemistries will improve our weed control. But we still encourage the use of residuals prior to planting. We need to stay ahead of weeds.”
Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Area Agronomist, Vernon: "No one is planting yet, but I expect everyone to start later this week or next week. In the last 5 years cotton acres have been down in the Rolling Plains. But we will see more cotton this year because dryland yields were very good last year and wheat prices are so low.
“Producers are looking at more dicamba and a few Enlist varieties. Others are looking at conventional. They’re apprehensive about the new technologies and the potential for drifting. We’ll be scouting more variety trials to see how they perform with drift issues.
“Wheat looks okay. It was dry, so it needed the moisture from recent rains. The dry weather is likely why leaf rust hit wheat later this year. I’ve been sharing rust report ratings with producers and suggesting they try to plant more rust-tolerant varieties. We’re also discussing how our disease control trials are showing that fungicides will help prevent rust.”
Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas: “We finally finished planting last week after rainfall delayed us by 3 weeks. Plants are coming up pretty good. We’re probably at least 90% up in most fields, but some hot, dry winds delayed a few fields. So far, there are no signs of thrips.
“We’re seeing a lot of the new chemistries because we’re on the verge of glyphosate resistance. A lot of waterhemp is starting to sneak through on us. Many guys have gone with the new technology.
“Corn looks good and is starting to really grow. To protect against problems from the heat and humidity this summer, some farmers are already putting on treatments to handle aflatoxin. It can be a real problem here.
“A few soybeans are also up and growing and the wheat looks really good. We’ll start combining in the next week to 10 days.”
Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas: “Farmers in southern Kansas will start planting after this weather warms back up. We have to finish corn first. At best it’s probably 50% planted due to continuous patterns of rain every 3 to 4 days since late March. If that pattern continues another 2 to 3 weeks and they can’t plant corn, we could see some guys plant more cotton.
“Some farmers are switching from cotton to soybeans because of a better insurance guarantee for beans. With that said, some northern Oklahoma guys may plant more cotton because of low wheat prices. They will come back with cotton on grazed-out wheat or wheat they hayed.
“Our area has a chance for a wheat crop that’s above average. I haven’t seen a lot of insect drama in wheat. There are a few aphid issues, but no armyworms or other insects.”
Kate Harrell, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Jackson, Wharton and Matagorda Counties: “Cotton aphid numbers have been a little high. Jackson County has been a little worse than Matagorda and Wharton counties. Some farmers have treated for them. Fleahoppers are also a problem and are already at threshold in Jackson County.
“Overall, cotton looks alright. In Wharton County, it is at squaring to just coming up with most plants at squaring farther south.
“Sugarcane aphids moved into sorghum last week in Matagorda County. They’re not yet at treatable levels. Corn is tasseling, but some northern leaf blight and southern rust are being found.”
Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife State Cotton Specialist, College Station: “We’ve had good growing conditions the past few weeks and the crop is off to a good start from Waco down through the southern Blacklands. We planted the last of our on-farm trials last week. Plants are popping up because the weather has been so good. I haven’t heard of any replanting as a whole. So far, thrips pressure is low.
“A lot of Enlist and Xtendflex have been planted. I haven’t heard of any problems with those new chemistries. Some fields started out behind on weed control. They weren’t as clean as they should have been, so guys need to get their herbicide plan straightened out.
“Herbicide stewardship is important with the new technology. Companies are doing a good job educating growers on the new chemistries. But, even though the new technology is there, growers need to continue using residuals. We need to do all we can to fight resistance and make sure our new technology remains affective.”
Wayne McAlister, Crop Production Services, Portales, New Mexico: “Wheat chopping for dairies is on the down hill slide, strip-tills are running, corn is going in and cotton planting started yesterday (5/1). We’re seeing more cotton acres in Roosevelt and Curry counties in New Mexico, as well as Parmer and Bailey counties across the Texas border. They like the new chemistries, and are planting as much of the dicamba varieties as we can get them. There is concern about the potential for drift problems with the new technologies, so we’re watching that closely.
“With the drop in corn prices and the rise in cotton prices, it’s been a pretty easy choice for these guys. They’re planting more cotton but monitoring their inputs. The strong cotton market has everyone’s hopes up. But with the high cost of seed and financing, everyone is pinching their pennies where they can. It’s champagne dreams on a beer budget.”
Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas: “We already have some big problems with herbicide drift in the upper coast. Farmers are using the new technologies, but some are not following the label. Guys need to be spraying at the right levels on plants and not when winds are too high. If the label says spray at 24 inches, then spray at that height.
“I spent all day yesterday (5/1) looking at disasters caused by herbicide drift. We’re hoping fields will come out of it. I know two neighboring farmers who had a confrontation because of drift damage.
“You can’t spray in high wind just because you use a drift agent. I understand the need to get applications made, but winds have been at 20 mph or more and last week we only had 2 hours that we could spray due to the high winds.
“We have a mess going on. Hopefully, these experiences can help keep others from having problems. The new technology is very valuable when used properly. The products are good, but they are only as good as the farmers who use them. Don’t blame the products. If farmers want weed control and don’t want to irritate their neighbors, they need to follow the label.
“Despite those issues, cotton is looking a little better after a slow start. It’s finally drying out after the spring rains. In Matagorda County, some cotton planted in early March is up to 10 nodes, while other fields are just getting planted. We’re everywhere in between.
“Fleahoppers are moving in now, so we’re scouting for them. We had some pretty bad pockets of aphids in the southern part of the upper coast. All insecticide products seem to be working well, but it’s always about the coverage. Farmers need to use an adequate water mixture to assure plants are fully sprayed.
“Our corn looks great. If we get a rain this week we’re going to have a beautiful crop. Our cool nights and warm days make for good growing conditions.”
Tim Ballinger, Ballinger Innovative Agronomics, Dumas, Texas: “It’s probably at least 1 to 2 weeks before we can plant. Guys are ready and a lot of Enlist cotton will go in. We need a 7 to 10 day good forecast window after we plant to prevent seedling damage. Up here, there’s an old saying that you don’t put out plants until after Mother’s Day.
“Corn is the biggest thing now. We planted several thousand acres last week – 2 days before the rain, snow and temperatures that got down to 29 degrees (4/29). If we have to replant corn, that will happen before we plant cotton.
“We’re worried about our wheat and what 29 degrees might have done to it. That’s enough to hurt the crop, which ranged from heading stage to starting to bloom. The wet weather and cold could also cause lodging problems, even if we don’t lose grain fill. A lot of our dryland wheat got hit with wheat streak mosaic and there has been talk about stripe rust in some fields.
“If the wheat doesn’t make it, it will at least be a good cover crop for cotton if guys want to consider that option.”
Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist: “Most of the crop is in. In the Yuma area, some fields are squaring on cotton planted in mid-February. The majority of the state’s crop is at the 2- to 3-leaf stage, which was planted within the last 3 weeks. There have been a few thrips reported, but I’m not aware of any control measures going out other than seed treatments.
“A lot of growers have planted the new varieties with new transgenes. It hasn’t necessarily been for the new herbicide control measures. It’s about adoption of the new germplasm. But we do have a few pockets of pigweed resistance across the state. We hope it stays that way and new herbicide technology should help.
“I think the early estimates of Arizona cotton acres are correct. Most of the increase is in central Arizona, but there could be a little more cotton in the west and southeast. We’re off to a good start, even though we had a cold spell where it got down to the high 30s and low 40s this past weekend.”
Kyle Aljoe, Crop Quest Consulting, Dimmitt, Texas: “Some guys who usually try to plant early got some cotton in the ground a week or two ago. But none of mine has been planted. The soil temperature is 50 degrees today (5/2) in Lamb County and it was 48 yesterday in Castro County.
“After this week we’re supposed to see some decent weather. Most cotton planters will start rolling. We’ll plant corn until then, switch to cotton, then get back to corn when most cotton is in the ground.
“I’m seeing more cotton acres in this area. Cotton prices look better than corn prices, although grain prices are up some this week after the snow storm up north. It will be 7 to 10 days before they know how bad the wheat was hurt. We just had a little snow and it got down to 31 degrees over the weekend. There shouldn’t be much wheat damage.”
©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography
AgFax News Links
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Texas Field Reports: Establishing Bermuda Grass Pastures Takes Time, Preparation 5-2
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