Larry Stalcup, AgFax Southwest Editor

Debra L Ferguson, AgFax Managing Editor


Welcome to the sixth year of AgFax Southwest Cotton!
Our weekly reports come from the cotton fields of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona
We're especially proud and thankful to have PhytoGen back as our exclusive sponsor. 



Extended drought has growers praying for any sign of moisture in most of West Texas, the Panhandle and southwestern Oklahoma. They’re desperate. It’s been more than six months since many enjoyed a good soaking. The soil profile remains good from last fall’s rain, but surface moisture is a must as planting gets underway.


Cold temperatures have slowed plant growth in central Texas and coastal areas. Replanting continues in some fields, while others are seeing pinhead squares. Seed supplies could get tight and replant restrictions could apply. See Gaylon Morgan’s analysis below.


Early weed control looks good on the plains as farmers continue to balance herbicide usage. Weed fighting is more challenging toward the coast.


Aphids and spider mites are being monitored in coastal areas, but thrips aren’t yet an issue. New Mexico and Arizona are well into planting in milder areas, while some fields are at pinhead square in the Yuma region. Kansas needs to warm up before planting can begin in mid-May.


Scroll down to read our latest AgFax News Links.




Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas:

“We’re trying to finish with planting this week. I checked some stands with farmers this morning (4/30). Most cotton is coming up good. We still have some dry pockets that need a rain. We had low humidity and cool nights last week, which might have slowed growth. It has also been a little windy, which is drying up the tops of some young plants.


“I still haven’t seen any thrips, but I do have one field that was planted early and we’re seeing some aphids there. I’ll check to see if we need to spray later this week.


“Overall our cotton acres are up. The acres I watch are up about 15%. Our corn is looking good but is a little behind in some areas due to the cooler weather in April. So we’re glad to finally see some sunshine to help push the crops along. We have good soil moisture, which will really help us.


“Our wheat is drying down very fast and looks pretty good. It’s about two to three weeks before harvest will begin.”


Gary Beverage, Crop Production Services, Artesia, New Mexico:

“We have been very dry and can use some rain. We’re just getting into planting and we’re about 30% complete. Soil temperatures are good, but there are very few stands up. I do have a little bit of Pima up in one area.


“Weed control efforts have been good. I’m seeing an increase in the use of preemerge herbicides this year. That goes for the newer technology cotton as well as the older systems. I’m happy to see that and farmers will be happy in the long run.”


Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife State Cotton Specialist, College Station:

“It has been a tough year with the cold fronts that have come down and caused a lot of problems. There have been multiple planting cycles in the Blacklands. Getting a good stand has been a tough challenge. In the southern Blacklands, guys used their typical April planting window. But cold rain in early April forced most to replant. It was a similar situation in mid-April. A lot of early planted cotton has been in the cotyledon stage for nearly a month.


“In the Upper Coast, there was a lot of seedling disease, mainly Rhizoctonia, which caused some tough replanting decisions. Replanting decisions are already hard, but not knowing if a seedling will survive makes it even more difficult. Seed supplies are tightening on some of the popular varieties. Any seed shortages in the new technologies could complicate things.


“For example, if a grower planted XtendFlex and applied dicamba, there are plant back restrictions, 21 days + 1 inch of rain, if a dicamba tolerant variety is not replanted. If growers wanted to go back with other varieties, they could get themselves in a bind. The same would apply to Enlist technology, with a 30 day + 1 inch of rain plant back restriction following Enlist applications. I don’t think it will affect a lot of people, but if seed gets tight and growers are forced to change herbicide tolerant traits, it could cause some problems.”


Kate Harrell, Texas A&M AgriLife IPM Agent, Jackson, Wharton and Matagorda Counties:

“We’re looking at stuff that’s everywhere from just being planted to some that is up to 4 true leaves. Most is looking good, but about 20 to 30% of the acres are being replanted. That’s due to cooler temperatures that got down into the 40s and 50s in early to mid-April. We’ve also had a lot of wind.


“The poor conditions have caused some damping off. We’re watching for thrips but haven’t seen any. There have been some reports of spider mites and a few aphids, but insect numbers aren’t high enough to treat so far.


“I think we may have more cotton this year and I’ve heard a few complaints from grain seed reps who’ve seen fewer sales. However, corn that was planted is real pretty and is about shoulder high. We did see some seedling disease which was probably due to the cooler weather.” 



Randy Norton, University of Arizona Extension Cotton Specialist:

“We’ve had a few little bumps in the weather with cooler temperatures, but nothing significant. It continues to be very dry, but over all we’ve had a good spring and a lot of cotton is going in the ground. We’re close to 75% planted.


“In the Yuma area, where cotton was planted in early March, some plants are into the first square stage. That stuff is rocking along pretty good. But the majority of the Arizona cotton is at the cotelydon to 1 to 2 leafs.


“I haven’t heard of any issues with insects. We’ll be monitoring fields closely as plants progress.”


Chuck Wilbur, Independent Crop Consultant, Wellington, Texas/Southeastern Panhandle/Southwestern Oklahoma:

“The cotton market looks exciting in the 80-cent range and guys are ready to plant. We just need a good rain. Precipitation has been very spotty and some places around here have had only 0.5 of an inch since September. But there is still good soil moisture and growers are shining up their planters. We’ll probably see some planters in the field next Monday as it continues to warm up. Soil temperatures are still a little low now (4/30), 54 to 55 degrees.


“A lot of irrigated farmers are running their wells to provide moisture. Many of our fields have a cover crop of wheat or cereal rye to prevent wind and water erosion. It prevents blowing and is good for soil health. But now that it’s time to plant, guys are starting to terminate those cover crops.


“Much of our wheat looks pitiful due to the dry weather. The irrigated looks pretty good, but the dryland likely won’t make a grain crop. Some farmers are going to bale it, but some is so poor that it will barely make a windrow. Others have grazed out their wheat with stocker cattle.”


Cody Noggler, Crop Quest Consulting, Northwestern Texas Panhandle:

“Some guys started planting on Saturday (4/28), but most will start this week. That’s on irrigated land. Soil temperatures are up to 55 to 60 degrees and there’s some moisture in the soil after a good 1-inch rain about April 20. Most guys are planting early season varieties due to our location further north than most regions. Dryland farmers are waiting on another rain or two and will likely start planting the next two to three weeks.


“Like with cotton, corn planting is also just getting started. So it will all hit at once with days getting warmer.


“Irrigated wheat looks good and should make good yields. We’re not sure about the dryland. We need a couple of more rains the next few weeks to help finish it out. Some wheat faced pressure from Russian wheat aphid about a month ago, but it is under control.”


Tom Studnicka, Studnicka Consulting, Belle Plaine, Kansas:

“Farmers are definitely looking at more cotton this year after the good yields we finished with in 2017. We had 800 to 1,000-pound yields on dryland. That was the most profitable crop we had and guys want more of it. However, it has to warm up before we can get anything going. Forecasts are sounding better for warmer weather, but our soil temperatures are still very low. We just need more rain and not have to face a barn-burner summer for a good cotton year.


“While we’re optimistic about cotton, the wheat looks terrible. Between drought and a couple of late freezes, the weather has really done a number on it. We’re still trying to figure out the amount of damage from the freeze two weeks ago on about April 16. We’ve had good moisture since then, which is helping wheat heal up. But it will still be damaged.”


David Drake, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Northeast Texas:

“We’re ready to start planting, but soil temperatures are a little cool. We’re also waiting on some rain in the forecast to help us out. We expect acres to be up a little. I know of a couple of producers who haven’t had cotton in the past but are growing some this year. Contracts from gins are looking good to them and other growers.


“The wheat needs rain also. It has a good grain fill but needs moisture. There are a few minor spots with English grain aphid, an insect we had never seen before last year. A few wheat areas have also had some Hessian fly infestations.”



Paul Pilsner, Pilsner Consulting, Wharton, Texas:

“It has been a rough start of the year. We have some cotton that is at 7-leaf up to pinhead square. Some other fields are still being replanted. The problem has been the coldest and windiest spring we’ve ever had. We’ve lost a lot of stands to sand-blowing. The old timers say they’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, we have some decent temperatures in the forecast and we need them.


“There have been a few fleahoppers farther south but not too many thrips. Considering the cool weather, we had good results with insecticide seed treatment.


“We’re having to spray weeds after a prolonged weed emergence. We’re famous for our weed growth and we’re living up to that reputation.”


John Ellis, Crop Production Services, Southwestern Oklahoma:

“Guys are getting ready to plant in the Altus area irrigation district, but we need a rain to have enough pre-plant moisture. Dryland cotton won’t be planted until the end of May and first of June. We’ll need more moisture for dryland growing conditions.


“Meanwhile, guys have been applying a lot of burndown herbicides. Yellows and preplant herbicides are going out to help stay ahead of weeds. We’re seeing a lot of herbicide combinations. A lot of fertilizer applications are also going out to make sure we have the fertility that’s needed.


“We had a good crop in this area last year and look forward to continued growth in area cotton acres.”


John David Gonzales, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Agent, Muleshoe: 

“We were fortunate to receive some good rain Sunday (4/29). We had 0.75 of an inch or more around Muleshoe. That was good news for farmers getting ready to plant. Most soil temperatures are in the mid to high 50s and it’s in the low 60s in some conventional till land. If we can get continued warmer days in a streak I see no problem in getting some cotton in the ground.


“Guys have been spraying to kill their cover crop. That and first burndown applications are important to make sure we are clean from weeds.


“Corn is just spiking. After the cool weather we’ve seen, I pulled up a few plants to check for seedling disease. They looked good. I’ll check in the Dimmitt area later this week. Some irrigated wheat looks good but the dryland won’t make a crop after our extended dry weather.


“We’re definitely seeing more cotton acres this year. More guys will switch acres from corn after the fumonisin disease problems last year. Some others will go to sorghum. They’ll need to plant as early as possible to prepare for late season sugarcane aphids.”


Wayne Keeling, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Weed Specialist, Lubbock:

“Even though it has been dry, we’re still seeing weeds in no-till areas. Guys need to watch for that. The key in any system is to be clean when you plant through either the use of herbicides in no-till or tillage in conventional.


“Guys need a good residual program. When we finally get into a rainfall period, the weeds are coming. They need to be ahead of the problem. With the new technologies and the use of good residuals, most guys stayed clean last year. That trend needs to continue.


“As we move past the planting season and make post applications of dicamba or 2, 4-D, guys need to follow guidelines to prevent drift problems. The required training we’ve had for the use of dicamba has been good. A lot of those principles in dicamba training also apply to the Enlist system. It’s important to use these technologies correctly so we can have them available in the future. We also need to use the basic principles of weed management.”

©Debra L Ferguson


AgFax News Links 

Dicamba: Weed Scientists Caution Against Using Generics – DTN   5-1


Texas Grain Sorghum Acres Losing Out to Cotton and Corn – DTN   5-1


Oklahoma Sorghum: Be Ready for Sugarcane Aphids 4-30


Texas Cotton: Scouting for Thrips and Aphids   5-1


NOAA: Drought Outlook Monthly – May   5-1




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AgFax Southwest Cotton is published and distributed by AgFax Media, LLC. AgFax Media crop newsletters include: AgFax Midsouth Cotton; AgFax Southeast Cotton; AgFax Southwest Cotton; AgFax Peanuts; AgFax Rice; AgFax Southern Grain; AgFax West, AgFax Almonds, AgFax Updates. Owen Taylor, Editorial Director, and Debra L. Ferguson, Agfax Managing Editor, AgFax Media LLC, 142 Westlake Drive, Brandon, MS 39047,, Office: 601-992-9488. ©2017AgFax Media, LLC.

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