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James “Wish” Patterson
James A. Patterson Consulting
I grew up in an agricultural community in southeast Arkansas where my uncle had a farm with cotton in the mix. Later, while I was working as an assistant coach, I got a job scouting cotton in the summertime in between my coaching duties in the fall and winter months. This piqued my interest in the crop, and I learned a lot from two area consultants — Charles Denver and Jesse Rice — before starting my own consulting company in 1990. In 2014, I hired Barry Boney, who is now my partner in the business.
In 2021, insect pressure was light, but it was a wet year. Early on, we got 22 inches of rain in four hours. Ten days later, we got another nine inches, but in the end, the cotton crop turned out good.
We typically start out looking for cutworms and thrips. Occasionally, aphids or spider mites may build up. The next insect we battle is tarnished plant bug, which usually comes in around pinhead square. When we start seeing missing or blasted squares, we apply Vydate® C-LV insecticide/nematicide to take out the adult plant bugs that are coming in and out of the field when the cotton is small. It also provides some suppression on nematodes.
When corn starts drying down, plant bugs will move from that crop into cotton. We then monitor the small square set for plant bug damage and begin making treatments when the square set drops below 80%. This typically happens the third week of squaring or the second week if the plant bugs come in early. At that time, we’ll make the first application of Transform® WG insecticide tankmixed with Diamond insecticide. Transform controls the adult plant bugs, and Diamond controls the nymphs. If you don’t keep this pest in check, it can devastate your cotton crop.
After cotton gets too big for the sweep net, we use the drop cloth to scout the crop. Since we don’t have to worry about treating for bollworm much in our Bollgard 3 cotton, we’ll make another tankmix application of Transform and Diamond. When cotton aphids start showing up, Transform is very effective in controlling them, too. We also like to include boron in our insecticide tankmixes, which helps retain the fruit on the plant. We use plant growth regulators each year to keep cotton in the fruiting mode instead of letting it get tall and rank. This potentially allows us to save on treatments for cotton diseases, such as target spot.
With the high cost of fuel and fertilizer this year, farmers need to harvest as many pounds of cotton as they can to help counteract this expense. Once the crop is made, we hope Mother Nature and the Good Lord will give us favorable weather to keep the cotton on the plant and get it picked in a timely manner.