Be Diligent On All Fronts

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve Brown

The hummingbirds that appeared in our backyard in March developed goose down to survive April and early May. Cotton seed planted in early May in North Alabama needed jackets and waders, while further south, they desperately thirsted for water. Spring finally turned the corner to warmer temperatures on May 12.

In Central and South Alabama, soil moisture became extremely limited as we missed rainfall from multiple fronts. Dry weather is scary, especially during planting. So it’s been a tough start in much of Alabama. Where do we go from here?

In June, it’s usually best to live with less-than-ideal stands in fields with questionable plant populations, unless they are clearly unworkable. June replanting is often risky because of elevated temperatures and fleeting moisture.

One measure of acceptability in marginal stands is, “If you can step in any direction and land on a healthy cotton plant, you’ve got enough to make a crop.” Skips of 3 feet or more are cause for concern. But if a stand is borderline between leaving or replanting, the recommendation is, “If in doubt, leave it.” What’s too thin in June can look pretty good in late August.
Sucking pests warrant attention.

Thrips should be gone, but if they are lingering on late emerging cotton, deal with them. In most situations, cotton beyond the fourth leaf is past the window for significant thrips injury. If aphids appear on pre-squaring, late-planted cotton, treatments may be needed to minimize stress. You can’t stand delays on really young cotton.

Of course, June is time for weed management and sidedress nitrogen applications. Busy days.

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

The National Agricultural Statistics Service recently updated our 2019 crop summary. Our final lint yield of 1,185 pounds per harvested acre for the state of Arkansas is a new record, surpassing the previous high of 1,177 pounds set in 2017. Arkansas ranked fourth in harvested acres and third in total production for the 2019 season.

A small percentage of our cotton was planted in April this year in Arkansas. Our planting progress mirrors that of 2019. We could still have some very late-May planted cotton. Our old rule of thumb that up to a 2% loss of yield potential may be experienced for every day planting occurs after May 20 still has merit.

The first 40 days in the life of a cotton plant set the foundation for yield and fiber quality potential for the season. Pest management issues are generally the greatest concerns for our young crop. However, as we move into the next few weeks in June, other factors, including fertility and soil moisture stress, become more critical.

Research demonstrates the importance of avoiding stress once squaring begins. Irrigation water management is our next big challenge.

There are many programs, tools and practices available that producers can use to help improve irrigation water-use efficiency. Everyone who uses poly irrigation tubing should be using Delta Plastics’ Pipe Planner — a computerized hole-selection tool.

We want to go into squaring with the plant developing a new node every 2.5 to three days. This will put us on track to having nine to 10 nodes above white flower at first flower. Contact your local county Extension agent for more information.

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Cotton was planted on time despite some delays from dry weather and cooler-than-normal May temperatures. Stands look adequate, and June is always the month to fight weeds since early weed control is better and cheaper. Make timely sidedress nitrogen applications for early vegetative growth, usually from squaring to early bloom.

It is normal for our growers to battle weeds in June as cotton often grows off slowly, and these pests can get ahead of critical herbicide applications. Start with the right combination of over-the-top and residual herbicides at the proper timing.

Weeds can get taller than is optimal for certain herbicides due to rain, equipment delays or even dry weather. This makes them harder to control, and higher rates are often needed with less efficacy.

Use growth regulators when cotton is growing faster than desired. First applications are often made in June. By the second or third week of July, cotton reaches maximum leaf area and is able to compete with weeds more effectively than in June.

In addition to applying PGRs, which are critical to cotton growth and yield, insects also should be scouted for damage to squares and young bolls. Treat as needed. The timing of every June input is crucial to making high yields, which is even more important during periods of low prices.

Dan Fromme, Louisiana
Dan Fromme,

As of May 18, cotton planting in the state is only about 80% complete. In Louisiana, peak yields can be expected from cotton planted no later than the second week of May. Cotton planted in past years after the middle of May until June 1 has seen lint yields reduced as much as 20% to 25%.

Cotton planted in early June can experience even greater yield reductions, and soybeans become a better option. This year, it appears that cotton acres will be down significantly across Louisiana.

During June, fields will be squaring, which means fleahoppers and tarnished plant bug numbers will need to be monitored. Scout cotton for fleahoppers during the first three weeks of squaring. Detection can be difficult due to the flighty nature of these pests. Our entomologists recommend treating when 10-25 of the insects per 100 plants are found.

Treatment levels may be adjusted to maintain between 70% and 85% first position square retention.

For tarnished plant bug control, prebloom threshold levels are 10-25 plant bugs per 100 sweeps. Adjust prebloom treatment levels to maintain between 70% and 85% first position square retention. The Louisiana threshold for the bloom to harvest period is two to three tarnished plant bugs per 5 feet of black drop cloth, 10 plant bugs per 100 sweeps or 10% dirty squares.

Occasionally, clouded plant bugs are found in Louisiana cotton. Prebloom and bloom threshold levels are the same for tarnished plant bugs; however, each clouded plant bug should be counted as the equivalent to 1.5 tarnished plant bugs when making a treatment decision.

Mississippi brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

Cotton planting in Mississippi is progressing quickly for most farmers. I can think of one exception in south Mississippi where the soil is too dry; unfortunately, this region missed the rain that passed through the state the week of May 8. The recent rainfall was significant for two reasons:

• It provided 1-inch precipitation.

• It brought near-record-low temperatures.

Most farmers were getting to a stopping point to wait until the week of May 11 to resume planting. Primarily, the calls I have received regarded soil moisture and “What do you think about the cold weather?”

Fine-textured soil that tends to be “cloddy,” especially if tilled this spring, is where most of the moisture issues are occurring. In some situations, we have been successful using no-till row cleaners to push the clods aside and plant into adequate moisture. I have been optimistic about escaping the cold temperatures with only the loss of a couple days of seedling vigor.

Based on the sunny days surrounding the cool nights we experienced and knowing the soil is a good insulator, I feel confident most cotton will achieve a good stand.

As we move into late May and early June, weed control is a primary concern. Preemergence herbicides lose effectiveness if not activated by at least 0.25 inch rainfall. Fortunately, most areas received adequate moisture to activate these applications. But it’s still important to remain diligent and apply the necessary herbicide regiment for your operation to stay as weed free as possible, especially as this crop establishes itself.

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

Cotton planting season in the Bootheel has been wet, and fieldwork has been slowed by rainfall and cool weather. Some cotton was planted earlier in April in less-than-ideal conditions. This cotton should be observed closely, especially if it received hail damage in early May.

Later plantings toward the end of April into the first of May look quite soggy with flooding in many fields and cool weather to top it all off. Stand issues need to be caught early since seed supplies are tight. Otherwise, seed may not be available for a replant situation.

With seed treatment issues surrounding thrips control, Missouri producers with early planted cotton should keep an eye out for slippage and be prepared to make foliar applications if thrips populations exceed thresholds.

With cool, wet weather occurring for the first 15 days of May, thrips damage would be best avoided. Cotton growing in these conditions will be slow enough developing. Adequate scouting is especially critical if seed was planted with just a base seed treatment.

Regardless if planting took place in April or May, early season management is crucial for Missouri cotton growers. Prompt, early season insect control, such as for thrips, as well as later applications of plant growth regulators will be needed to ensure the crop is timely.

Apply residual herbicides to prevent an early season onset of weed pressure. Even with auxin herbicides, residual herbicide applications are needed to reduce early season pressure and help preserve the technologies.

This is especially important based on data from surrounding states indicating that dicamba could be in the initial stages of failure against Palmer amaranth. Enlist growers should also incorporate residual herbicides. Farmers must be mindful of off-target movement and complete mandatory training.

Because of wet, cool April weather, cotton acreage may decrease due to delayed planting. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report on May 17 has the Bootheel at only 20% planted for 2020 compared to the five-year average of 70% by mid-May.

There is a lot of optimism for Missouri cotton after coming off a good year in 2019. We’re all hoping for a successful and safe start to the 2020 growing season with more cooperative weather.

Keith Edmisten
Keith Edmisten
North Carolina

The 2020 North Carolina cotton crop is later than normal due to challenging weather during most of our optimum planting season. This makes management timeliness more important, particularly for growth regulator, nitrogen fertilization and insect control decisions.

Mepiquat can increase boll retention on the bottom of the plant, which in turn can make the cotton mature earlier. The earliness advantage that comes from mepiquat use may be more important this year than in years where planting was not delayed.

Growers should avoid excess nitrogen fertilization. A shorter season allows less time to use or lose nitrogen and a greater chance that residual nitrogen can increase regrowth pressure at defoliation and harvest. Excess nitrogen can also make cotton more attractive to insects.

Late-planted cotton has less time to compensate for insect damage. Growers should make sure they are scouting the crop in a timely manner and reacting quickly when thresholds occur. Being late on an insect control application in a short season could result in greater yield loss than in full-season years when the plant can better compensate with later developing bolls.

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you, we’ll likely be close to having 100% of Oklahoma’s irrigated crop in the ground. Excluding the Panhandle, much of the western part of the state received significant precipitation during mid-May, allowing for favorable planting conditions.

A large portion of the dryland crop may be planted in some parts of the state as well, including the west and north central areas. The dryland crop in the southwest area traditionally goes in during early June. The Oklahoma Panhandle region saw much of its cotton planted in late April due to favorable moisture and temperatures.

Hopefully, this crop has continued its fast start. Late May moisture hasn’t been abundant, but temperatures generally have been favorable for early season growth. However, we haven’t reached the extreme highs we did just two seasons earlier.

As we enter June, producers are encouraged to diligently scout for insects and weeds and have a plan in place to address historical problem species. If favorable conditions continue to persist, much of the crop may reach squaring by mid- to late June.

During this time, watch for pests, such as fleahoppers and plant bugs. Remember that the squaring period is a good time to apply the second half of fertilizer should you be following a split application program.

Squaring also will signal an increase in crop water use and water stress sensitivity. Have an irrigation plan in place and be mindful of the crop water demand curve as we initiate reproductive growth.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

As I write this on May 19, the majority of our acres are still unplanted. I’m hopeful we will find a window in the next few days to plant and, just maybe, by the time you read this your crop will be up. Still, the 2020 crop will generally be a late one. As such, we need to make every effort to push earliness.

I would seriously consider cutting the nitrogen rate, closely monitoring plant growth and paying close attention to plant bugs as we enter the flowering window. We need the first fruiting branch low on the plant and must protect first position fruit to make the most of a late-planted crop.

Unfortunately, we will likely not have the heat units late in the year to compensate for missed sprays early in the season. Additionally, setting early fruit will help naturally regulate plant growth and reduce overall management costs.

Keep an eye on our UT blog ( as we try to help you navigate this challenging year. Please reach out if we can help.

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight

As of mid-May, the average cotton stage in the Texas Coastal Bend is near flowering. This area has been extremely dry but recently received some much-needed rainfall. If this region continues to get timely moisture in June, growers will be on track for above-average yields.

While the rainfall was greatly needed for the cotton crop, expect to see a new flush of weed pressure, including pigweeds and grasses.

Timely herbicide applications targeting small, actively growing weeds can optimize control in postemergence herbicide programs. Including additional residuals into our herbicide programs at this point in the season can be beneficial as well.

The cotton crop is progressing in the Upper Coastal Bend and the Texas Blacklands. I anticipate any remaining acres in the northern Blacklands to be completely planted within the next few weeks. Planting in the Rolling Plains continues, and I expect to see many more acres planted following the recent rainfall.

Insect pressure is increasing across the state’s planted acres. Thrips have been reported in Central Texas, and fleahoppers have been found in the Coastal Bend. Moving into June, scouting for insects will become increasingly important.

Insect pests can vary widely over a growing season, and every year is different. Being familiar with economic threshold levels for each individual pest can assist in making timely management decisions. For more information on cotton insect control, visit

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda
Texas A&M

Planting was slowly progressing in the Southern High Plains of Texas as of the second week in May. While some farmers have underground moisture, it continues to be scarce for most. The second half of May brought spotty showers that favored mostly the eastern side of the region.

The moisture situation is now forcing growers to make the hard decision between delayed planting or dry planting while hoping for a timely shower.

Following some hailstorms came reports of scattered spots where replanting might be needed. Unfortunately, that is not uncommon around here this time of year. In the northern Panhandle, cotton planting is well ahead in terms of planted acreage during the third week of May.

RACE trials, west texas
Texas cotton specialist Murilo Maeda says, “We planted one of our Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) Trials on May 13 at Dale Wilhelm’s farm near Nazareth, Texas, in Castro County” — photo by Murilo Maeda, Texas AgriLife

This is important because the northern region has a shorter growing season that growers must contend with. In fact, on average, Amarillo sees about 500 fewer heat units than Lubbock in any given year.

Regardless, by the time this issue of Cotton Farming gets to you, Lubbock will be just a few days away from its June 5 insurance deadline, so planting will no doubt ramp up in the coming weeks.

For those south of Lubbock who still have time to plant in June, keep your planting capacity in mind but strive for good planting conditions. It can make a difference.

As the cotton crop comes up, keep an eye on the early season insects to make sure they are kept in check.

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