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Be Proactive, Not Reactive, in 2015

wes briggsWes Briggs
Briggs Crop Servics, Inc.
Bainbridge, GA

While in high school, I spent my summers employed by crop protection companies as an ag laborer. After entering Mississippi State, I had the opportunity to work under Jack Reed and Randy Luttrell – two of the best cotton researchers with the MAFES Department of Entomology. In 1990, I checked cotton with an ag consulting company, then worked for an irrigation company before starting Briggs Crop Services, Inc. in 2001.

In 2014, irrigated cotton yields were average to above average. Dryland acres were up and down, depending on rainfall. To my surprise, nematodes and Target Spot did not rise to the top as they have in previous years. Last year’s high yields can be attributed to matching the right variety to the right acre, being proactive with fungicides and nematicides and, most importantly, being blessed with good weather at harvest.

Glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed is the most troublesome weed we face in every field on every farm. Morningglory is also a problem in several crops. New technologies such as the Enlist Weed Control System, LibertyLink and the XtendFlex varieties will greatly enhance our ability to control tough weeds. We start clean, use multiple residuals before and after planting and closely overlap our post-applied herbicides. We generally make two post applications. At 45 to 55 days, our layby applications go out with more residuals. Later on, we pull any escaped pigweed.

Sponsored by Dow AgroSciencesStinkbugs are our most damaging boll-feeding insect, with aphids, plant bugs and spider mites running a close tie for second. On any given year, one of these three secondary pests can easily move up to primary pest status. Most of our boll-feeding and foliage-feeding larvae are easily managed with Bt technologies, plus we have some newer insecticides to choose from such as Blackhawk, Prevathon, Belt and Besiege. Aphids are getting harder to control, especially with imidacloprid products, so there may be more opportunity to try chemistries such as Transform. Although we don’t have resistant plant bugs, we are seeing increased plant bug pressure and sugarcane aphid.

Generally speaking, this area consists of loamy sand to very sandy soil and is 85 to 90 percent center pivot irrigated. On our sandier soils in Decatur County, we’re only three days from a drought behind a one-inch rain. We do not cut corners with fertilizer because once we get behind, there’s no catching up. We pull soil samples on 100 percent of our ground every year. Since we have center pivot irrigation, we also have the ability to pump nitrogen and spoonfeed crops on an as-needed basis. Depending on the crop, we can get by with less nitrogen, but only when we inject smaller amounts more frequently. Total nitrogen on cotton is between 165 to 185 units on our sandier pivots.

Commodity prices are low and our cotton acres may be down 10 to 15 percent, so we have to be proactive with weed control, insect control and fertility. This year, we will concentrate on maintaining yields and staying in business, not trying to win any yield contest. Developing a plan and executing it in a timely manner will maximize yields and be a lot less stressful.