“Drivers, start your engines!” is the official command that announces the beginning of the Indianapolis 500, which has been billed as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” It’s a daring, daunting, twisting, turning three-and-a-half hour adrenaline rush before the checkered flag signals a winner.
Although there is no master of ceremonies or flagman on the turnrow, cotton farmers have their own signals to indicate the onset of the season. It may be something as simple as the way the dirt smells on a spring morning as you load the planter. Once the seed is in the ground, the race to harvest is on. And June is the month to set the pace.
The first 40 days after planting is the most critical time in cotton production, and farmers are encouraged to keep the crop stress free before it enters the reproductive stage. Seed companies have upped their game by providing a robust roster of herbicide- and insect-resistant traits and finetuning other variety characteristics to give farmers a good base with which to work. But to protect the optimum yield and fiber-quality potential, farmers still need to follow best management practices to control weeds, insects and disease.
In the weed control arena, cotton farmers are more familiar than they would like with Palmer amaranth, or Palmer pigweed.
First spotted in a cotton field in Macon County, Georgia, in 2004, the weed has been a formidable, fast-growing foe capable of taking over a crop in a heartbeat. Although great strides have been made over the years to control Palmer pigweed, it continues to adapt and bounce back.However, the pest’s resiliency is no reason to give up. On page 10, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist Stanley Culpepper outlines the steps to developing a sound, weed management program to give farmers the edge they need to regain the upper hand.
As far as insect challenges, the stink bug claims the title of Public Enemy No. 1 in the Southeast. On pages 8 and 9, Ron Smith, Auburn University Extension cotton entomologist, and Georgia cotton consultant Jack Royal share tips for scouting and controlling the elusive pest.
And on page 7, Louisiana cotton consultant Richard Griffing talks about his experiences with plant bugs and bollworms, which also can pose a threat to yield and fiber quality. For state-specific perspectives on keeping the young crop stress free, check out the Extension cotton specialists comments beginning on page 16.
In addition to perusing the production articles, we also invite you to read this month’s My Turn column on page 22 written by the late Patrick Shepard and originally published in June 2016. Patrick was the editor of Cotton Farming magazine from 1979-1993 and a respected ag journalist for many years. He will be missed.