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Control Cotton Insects to Maximize Yields

Paul Scott Poag
Poag Scouting LLC
Manila, Ark.

I started scouting cotton for my sister and brother-in-law when I was 14 years old and later worked for consultants Terry and Gail Ramsey until I was a sophomore in college. In 1999-2000 I got a few acres of my own and then established Poag Scouting LLC after finishing graduate school in 2005.

Target spot was a big issue in cotton in 2016 so we will consider applying some fungicides this year. We may or may not have it again, but if we do, we will have a game plan as far as fungicide application timing. We did have a good harvest season, which helped us in some areas. This year, February and March were fairly warm and dry, but continuous rains the latter part of April made it difficult to get a good stand of cotton. Since the crop is a week to 10 days behind, we will need good weather in late fall to finish this one up.

Glyphosate-resistant pigweed remains the No. 1 weed pest. Our farmers did a good job of getting out the initial pre-emerge herbicides, but were unable to layer them as soon as they wanted to because of dealing with inclement weather and trying to plant. Consequently, we now have some pigweeds to clean up.

Dow Transform WGProtect The Money Bolls
Thrips attack young cotton in May and June, but by July 4, plant bugs are the target insect pest. When cotton starts blooming, it’s time to get plant bugs under control. During the early bloom period, I apply a shot of Transform® WG insecticide. If plant bugs are present in a field adjacent to a cornfield, I plan on coming back with another application. Otherwise, I will check the cotton the following week after the first Transform application to decide whether it needs an additional one.

Transform works well where we are trying to rotate chemistries and keeps some of the other insects, such as red spider mites, from flaring as badly. If it weren’t available for plant bug control, we would have to lean on some of the older, harsher insecticides.

July 4 marks a critical time in the season when money bolls are being set. We have to keep bugs off the cotton and the water rolling since the bulk of the crop is being made at this point. In the future, we also will be using more moisture sensors and new software to fine-tune irrigation scheduling as water restrictions become more stringent.

Although we faced challenges during the spring, my advice to farmers is to hang in there. We will get some good weather and the cotton will catch up. There is still plenty of potential for good yields this year. Bad luck may have been loaded on the front end of the growing season, but we hope that good luck will be loaded on the back.