Monday, March 4, 2024

Mid-Season Management

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

Rainfall has been frequent across most of the Bootheel, and as I write this, there are plenty of chances for rain in the future. Don’t be tempted to irrigate squaring cotton unless there is a substantial dry spell soon.

However, starting the flowering period with adequate soil moisture is essential and should remain at adequate levels to ensure proper fruit set and boll-fill. Make irrigation decisions on a field-by-field basis due to the varied planting dates.

July is a critical time for setting bolls to achieve earliness in cotton. It appears that some fields in the area may start blooming before July 4. Most cotton begins blooming in early July and blooms through August.

It is important to ensure that adequate moisture and fertility are available to set a good crop in the first couple of weeks of bloom. Having an early boll set will also help reduce the amount of vegetative growth and the amount of growth regulator needed.

With the varied planting dates due to the hit-and-miss dry spells this spring, plant growth regulator applications should be applied on a field-by-field basis to maintain a proper ratio of vegetative and reproductive growth. Measuring the distance between the upper fourth and fifth node can help determine if a PGR application is needed. If an internode length of 2 inches is found, growth is inadequate and PGR use is not warranted.

An internode of 2 to 3 inches would be adequate. Internode lengths greater than 3 inches would be excessive with PGR applications required for earliness and to limit rank growth.

Past research has established that growers in the Missouri Bootheel should have a final plant height goal 2 inches greater than the row spacing with 38-inch rows typically in the range of 40-45 inches. Proper growth management is essential to optimize earliness while preserving yield potential and fiber quality.

Past research at the Delta Center has shown that irrigated cotton will produce about 20 to 22 nodes during the season with dryland cotton producing roughly three to five fewer nodes.

Especially keep an eye on cotton that had to be replanted due to weather issues this spring to manage for earliness and ensure its development is not delayed by pest issues or rank growth.

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

This season so far has been one of the most difficult I have experienced in Arkansas. Planting dates ranged from mid-April to late April to the very end of May (and then some) as a result of very narrow planting windows.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition report estimates that approximately 80% of the crop is in good to excellent condition as the older cotton is starting to square.

We should see flowers by Independence Day this year in our early, May 1 planted cotton. The status of our cotton plants at first flower reveals much about the past and gives us an indication of what we must do down the road to end up where we want to be.

Ideally, 60 days after planting we will find nine to 10 first position fruit above the first white flower. This verifies we have the foundation to establish and develop high yield and fiber quality potentials. Our goal is to maintain 80% retention going into first flower.

Problems that can directly affect yield and profit are associated with extremely high retention rates as well as with low fruit retention. Going into flowering with extremely high retention rates can set you up for failure if any problems are encountered as the margin for error is small.

Maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth will help to optimize earliness and preserve yield and fiber potential. Irrigation initiation and timing play a dominant role in this balance.

Using sensors and scheduling tools along with programs such as Pipe Planner will help improve irrigation water-use efficiency and profitability.

An effective fruiting window of three weeks between first flower and cutout (NAWF=5) will provide the yield and earliness cotton producers in Arkansas desire.

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

The Oklahoma cotton crop has gotten off to a rough start in 2019. As I write this in mid-June, there are a considerable amount of acres that won’t be planted due to the wet weather.

Others in which stands were never established will be shifted to another crop. For fields where good stands have been established, slow growing conditions and pest pressure are causing issues across the state.

July is typically a critical month as it signals the start of the cotton plant’s reproductive development. Based on planting conditions and crop growth progress so far this season, many of our July benchmarks may happen later than usual in the month.

The transition from squaring stage to flowering is a critical time to complete fertility programs, as this is the last period to get efficient and effective use of nutrient applications. Monitoring for fruit-feeding insects is also key so pest control decisions can be made in a timely and financially sound manner.

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda
Texas A&M

As of this writing June 10, planting has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride in West Texas and into the Rolling Plains. Excessive moisture in some places and plenty of hail and wind have producers scrambling to work around the weather to fight sand, plant and replant cotton.

Farther down the state in the Rio Grande Valley, the irrigated crop is looking great. Much of the dryland is in rough shape, as the tropical weather early June completely missed them. In the Coastal Bend, most of the cotton has been flowering a week or more now, and there is still some younger replant cotton being sprayed for fleahopper, says Dr. Josh McGinty, Extension agronomist in Corpus Christi.

The early June rains in South Texas has been spotty, but those who were lucky enough to catch one should be in great shape for a while. In the Rolling Plains it has been raining continuously, and producers are having a difficult time finding good planting conditions.

Dr. Emi Kimura, Extension agronomist in Vernon, estimates 45-50% of the cotton acres have been planted in the region as of the first week in June. The yield prospect is good; however, weed and disease pressure may be higher than average due to the weather conditions.

In West Texas, much of the early planted crop that was looking good got hailed out or was sandblasted. Generally, south and east of Lubbock, the crop looks great where, ironically, they missed the big rains and also the hail.

West of Lubbock pointing to the northeast and into the Panhandle, there was a lot of replant as well as unplanted acres, especially north and east of Amarillo. Some of those acres may end up fallow and/or planted to some other alternative crop.

Through June and into July, producers should keep an eye on early insect and disease pressure; we need to protect those planted acres as best as we can. With moisture plentiful and delayed planting, a new flush of weeds is guaranteed. Do your best to get in the field with herbicides in a timely fashion to keep them in check.

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

Nearly two-thirds of the 2019 Mississippi cotton crop was planted after May 20. A similar situation occurred in 2013 when more than 75% of our crop was planted after May 20. Our state average cotton yield that year — 1,203 pounds per acre.

While no two years are the same and it is difficult to draw comparisons between 2013 and 2019, these numbers support the fact that excellent yield potential exists in this crop. We need some help with the weather in the fall and will need to manage this crop for earliness; however, the chance to make outstanding yields is present.

An issue that a number of our growers have/are facing is that of reduced plant stands. A tremendous amount of data exists supporting excellent yields with plant populations as low as 15,000 healthy, evenly spaced plants per acre. This is equivalent to about one plant per foot on a 38-inch row.

If you are in this situation, you will likely need to be more aggressive in protecting fruit as the goal is to maximize fruit production per plant. At higher plant populations, we can stand to lose more fruit per plant because there are more plants per acre.

You have not automatically lost yield if you have low plant populations, but you will have to be diligent in protecting those that you do have.

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve Brown

Corn earworm escapes in two-gene Bt cotton have generated considerable concern during the past couple of seasons. Since two-gene varieties still comprise a lot of acres, and the crop is particularly vulnerable during heavy fruiting, July is a time for increased vigilance and readiness.

Apart from regular, accurate scouting, you can’t be sure if worms are present, if the technologies are working and worms are dying, or if worms are surviving and causing significant economic damage. Again, good scouting pays.

In addition to careful looking, remember to listen. Pest updates from entomologists and comments from neighbors and others provide a heads-up about what’s going on in an area. Still, there is no substitute for field-by-field scrutiny.

Cotton is particularly vulnerable to bollworm during heavy fruiting, says Alabama cotton specialist Steve Brown.

Typically, some fields have problems while others do not. Increased pressure might be expected if cornfields are nearby or if cotton has been treated previously for plant bugs or stink bugs. And if you’re having to address stink bugs in the presence of corn earworm moths, eggs or larvae, make sure you add a worm product.

If worms break through, don’t wait around. Go get ’em! A well-timed worm spray can reap big dividends. Good logistics — the personnel and equipment to do a timely job — help you make the most of your scouting bill and insecticide cost.

Let’s make some good cotton in 2019.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

A little more than half of our cotton crop was planted after May 15. Although we were getting a little dry at the beginning of June, widespread rain fell at the end of the first full week of the month. Overall, I believe our crop is off to a very good start.

Plant growth regulator applications will likely begin on the earliest planted acres within the coming week (June 10). By the time you read this, you will likely have put out the first shot of plant growth regulator. A large number of our fields should be moving into the first week of flower by July 1.

If you have not applied a plant growth regulator to your crop by this point in the season, it is likely that an application is warranted on many of your fields.

Keep in mind the maximum rate per acre per season of a standard 4.2% mepiquat chloride product is 48 ounces. One of the best ways to reduce the total amount required to keep the crop at an acceptable height is to begin applying earlier in the season. Monitor internode length, and consider variety and the forecast when determining rate.

Keep an eye on for variety response ratings and details on fine-tuning rates.

Hunter Frame
Hunter Frame

As we move into July in Virginia, most of the cotton should be well into the squaring period. Plant growth regulator management has begun for producers who aggressively manage cotton’s vegetative growth (first PGR application at first square) and should be beginning shortly for producers who passively manage vegetative growth of cotton (first PGR application around first bloom).

Producers should continue to focus on insect management and most likely have sprayed fields once or twice for tarnished plant bug, depending on scouting and population thresholds. As we move into the bloom period, scouting will shift to bollworm management.

Scouting for eggs is critical to apply timely materials that target bollworms. This can be a busy time for producers as fields need to be scouted a minimum of once a week to maximize boll retention.

Plant nutrition should be wrapping up in terms of nitrogen, sulfur and potassium applications. However, tissue and petiole testing can be helpful in predicting adequate nitrogen and sulfur levels during the first week of bloom. Virginia data have shown the petiole nitrate-N critical level is around 5,000 ppm nitrate-N.

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this on June 4, many growers are relieved that the rains received May 31-June 1 broke up the abnormally hot dry spell we had during May. This was especially the case for both early planted cotton that was beginning to set squares, and recently planted cotton that had yet to emerge. Although some areas did not receive much or any rain, many areas did, and it was certainly welcomed and badly needed.

However, some areas were hit with major hailstorms, necessitating replanting of some acres in early June. Most of our crop was planted the first couple of weeks in May and is currently growing well now that we’ve had some moisture.

For late, replanted cotton that emerged in early June, timely management will be critical for success. This includes insect management, plant growth regulators, fertility, etc., while avoiding additional stresses that could delay the crop even further.

July is the time to focus on insect pests, such as plant bugs, bollworms and stink bugs. In addition, PGR applications usually begin in June but continue into July. Frequent and thorough scouting will be necessary to catch and treat insect pests in a timely manner. As we learned in 2018, we cannot let up on scouting at any time during the summer months.

In addition to scouting, proper product selection and rotation of chemistries are also important for managing plant bugs effectively. For bollworms, it is important to keep an accurate track of varieties planted in each field and convey this information to consultants, as two-gene and three-gene varieties are scouted, managed and treated differently.

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Planting season started out well this year. However, near the end of the planting season, it was so dry that some producers quit planting where irrigation was not available and resumed two to three weeks later. That results in growers managing two ages of cotton throughout the season.

ince herbicides and fertilizer are often put out at certain growth stages, more than one operation is being done at the same time resulting in more work for the farm unit. This can be managed effectively and requires timeliness for all inputs to make top yields.

In some cases, it works out well for non-irrigated growers if unfavorable weather occurs at harvest. This happened to us last year when Hurricane Michael came through and destroyed all of the early planted, defoliated cotton while later-planted cotton that had not opened or was not defoliated did better.

We hope for a good cotton season this year — whether the crop was planted early or late — and good growing conditions as the plants bloom and set fruit in July and August.

Mark Freeman, Georgia
Mark Freeman

July can be a unique and challenging month for Georgia cotton. Since our planting season extends from April to June, cotton in early July may be anywhere from pinhead square to the third week of bloom. However, most of the crop will be at or approaching first bloom when crop management becomes of more concern.

Our sidedress nitrogen should have been applied prior to bloom. However, it is always important to continue to monitor the crop throughout the bloom period to quickly identify and correct any nutrient deficiencies that may arise.

Nutrient deficiencies can occur anywhere but tend to happen more frequently on deep sands and areas where some foliar diseases have been common. Monitor crop nutrient levels using tissue and petiole testing either through the University of Georgia or private labs. Any deficiencies can often be addressed through foliar feeding.

Although insect scouting and monitoring should be done throughout the season, the bloom period is the most important crop stage as stink bugs, corn earworm and other pests can cause major economic losses. Scouting and using proper economic thresholds can also eliminate unnecessary insecticide applications, which could potentially flare other pests later in the season.

One tool that growers, county agents and consultants can use to determine when and what products to apply is the Georgia Cotton Insect Advisor app (GA Cotbug). It is a free, easy-to-operate, smartphone app that uses crop stage, current pests and damage percentage to recommend if treatment is necessary and what product(s) would be best in that situation.
For more information about cotton management in Georgia, contact your local UGA county Extension agent.

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