Sunday, May 26, 2024

Midseason Crop Management

ALABAMA | Steve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

Conditions have improved markedly since early May. Maybe I’m alone in wondering, “Will it ever rain again?” O, me, of little faith. I’ve had that mindset before, but it has always rained… eventually. How easy to think “this time” is different; indeed, it is not.

Our every-year pests that are predictably troublesome include 1) thrips, 2) palmer amaranth and 3) stink bugs. Unique challenges.

Pest problem No. 1 is obviously in the rearview mirror, but it’s helpful to acknowledge that we had heavy thrips pressure in many places this season and that countless fields would have benefited from better, up-front control measures and/or timely foliar sprays. Good thrips control can boost yields by 100 lbs./acre or more — a strong return with cotton prices exceeding $1.

We’re still trying to gain the upper hand on pest problem No. 2: glyphosate-resistant pigweed. Product shortages and expanding herbicide resistance increase the difficulty of dealing with Palmer amaranth. Farmers have spent hundreds of millions in dollars fighting pigweed, yet we still lack an easy, sure solution. No doubt some fields will warrant hand pulling.

July brings us to pest No. 3: stink bugs — a complex of multiple species that feed on seed in bolls and significantly reduce yield and fiber quality. Three stories about stink bugs. 

Late in the season of the first year for Bt cotton, I walked fields on back-to-back days with my entomologist colleague and saw good worm control but devastating stink bug damage. I stood still in mature cotton and observed stink bug movement that looked like airplanes over Atlanta. The “light bulb” went off:  stink bugs are now a key pest.

I recall walking a research trial with the same entomologist. A failure to communicate on a worm control experiment led to a neglect of stink bug control, resulting in yields of 100 lbs./acre rather than 1300 lbs./acre.

An area farm tour took our group into a field to examine fertilizer treatments. As we walked into the cotton, the stink bug numbers and damage were shocking — even to an agronomist’s eyes. Upon our departure, it didn’t take long to get a sprayer in the field.

Scout for stink bugs!

ARKANSAS |Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

The Prospective Plantings report released in March by USDA-NASS estimated cotton plantings in Arkansas at 520,000 acres, up 8% from the 480,000 acres planted last year. The Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation had mapped more than 530,000 acres one week into June. We are seeing a lot of new growers this year, and that is reflected in our acre expansion.

As the 2022 cotton crop began to square in early June, plant progress was ahead of last year but still slightly behind our five-year average. Cooler temperatures and cloudy conditions slowed the pace of our crop. Our biggest concern in the field to this point has been weed control. This shifts to irrigation late June and early July.

We expect to see flowers by July 4 on May 1 planted cotton. Most of our crop was planted the second week of May. At first flower, we like to find nine to 10 first-position fruit above the first white flower. This helps ensure the foundation exists to achieve high yield and fiber quality potentials with our growing conditions.  Our goal is to maintain no less than 80% retention going into first flower. To optimize efficiency, we must concentrate on the basics. This includes avoiding excessive nitrogen rates and striving for well-timed irrigation.

Maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth will help to optimize earliness and preserve yield and fiber potential. After cutout, we begin the process of our heat-unit based crop termination strategy.

ARIZONA | Randy Norton

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

The majority of the state is well into bloom, with some of the state, particularly the western part, approaching or just past peak bloom. For most of the crop around the state, the next four to six weeks are critical for making cotton. Everything we can do to protect the fruit is critical for developing the yield potential that is there. And as of this writing, the early season fruit set looks very promising. 

So, what are the factors that can affect the crop going into the next several weeks? There are a whole host of things, including proper fertility management, plant-water relations management and pest control, among others. Actively managing these factors that can affect crop development is important. We have control over many of these factors.  

There are some things, however, that are out of our control — such as days of elevated heat stress. Depending on a variety‘s susceptibility to this heat stress, these events can have a significant impact on fruit load. Monitoring fruit retention and height-to-node ratios will help you manage the crop more effectively. A sudden drop in fruit load will often result in a plant that tends to go into a more vegetative growth phase. Controlling this with plant growth regulators is important to maintain a balance for late-season crop management efficiency and defoliation. For more information on these topics, go to our University of Arizona Cooperative Extension website at

FLORIDA | David Wright

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Cotton is planted on 110,000 acres in Florida in 2022. Growers have gotten off to a good start this year with stands, although some midseason drought is affecting the crop. Commodity prices are high, and growers using good rotations and management practices can especially make good on yield, pest control and profits. 

With production prices going higher each year and almost doubling in 2022, it is necessary to do everything possible to make a good crop. Only 25 % to 30% of cotton in Florida is irrigated, so rainfall is critical in crop production in most years. In the several years of below-average rainfall we’ve had, our research with rotations and winter grazing before cotton shows that yields of non-irrigated cotton can often be as high or higher than irrigated cotton in rotations without grazing. Winter grazing prior to cotton results in greater cotton root mass, making the crop more drought tolerant. The additional root biomass can add an average of 150-250 lbs./acre of lint to the cotton. 

We’ve also seen high yields at relatively low nitrogen rates if these practices (rotation, winter grazing, etc.) are adopted. As we get more regulations on N use to limit nitrates in wells and springs, low water and N use will help us maintain, and even increase, cotton yields while pumping less water. 

Cotton being a southern crop can withstand high levels of stress and still produce good yields if we have good weather conditions in July. We are just getting into the rainfall periods for cotton and hope that we see record yields this year with the newer varieties we saw in 2021.

GEORGIA | Camp Hand

camp hand
Camp Hand,

As I write this June 8, it is hot in Tifton. The heat index is supposed to reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit this week! In my humble opinion, it is too early in the summer for that nonsense. 

The June 6 Crop Progress report from USDA has Georgia at approximately 86% planted. With periodic rainfall and crunch time upon us, I imagine we’ll be done planting in the next two weeks. Time to shift attention to management. At the point that you’re reading this, I expect our earlier (May) planted cotton to be blooming and our later planted cotton to be getting close to, if not already, squaring. Weed control should be close to done, so now we shift to insects, diseases and general crop management. Big things I’d be thinking right now are PGRs and fertility. 

In terms of PGRs, a little bit early will take you further than a lot late. Low rates when the plant is smaller will give you better growth management than high rates later in bloom. Growthy varieties on irrigated ground with a history of rank growth will need pre-bloom applications, but less aggressive varieties may not require a pre-bloom application. If the cotton was planted in June, I’d be more apt to recommend a pre-bloom application just to encourage earliness in that late-planted cotton. 

In terms of fertility, it is primetime to sidedress right now if you haven’t already. Timeliness is your friend with sidedress nitrogen, particularly if preplant N was reduced or not used. If preplant N wasn’t used, sidedress applications will be warranted closer to first square than first bloom. 

One other note: normally, tarnished plant bugs aren’t an issue for most of us in Georgia. However, if you came to county meetings this past winter and heard Dr. Roberts speak, he noted that he thinks there has been an increase in plant bugs, particularly on the west side of I-75. The best thing you could do is get out there and look, particularly at fruit retention. At first bloom, we want to be between 80% to 100% retention. Not to say plant bugs are the only reason we would go below 80% retention, but it’s something to keep an eye on and correct if necessary. 

As always, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. 

LOUISIANA | Matt Foster

matt foster
Matt Foster,

As I write this June 8, cotton planting in Louisiana is complete. May and June have been unusually dry in most areas of Louisiana, which increases supplemental irrigation needs. Timing irrigation when soil moisture is less than optimal can help preserve crop yield potential. Research shows that a one-inch water deficit at the wrong time can result in the loss of at least 60-100 lbs. of lint. The goal in Louisiana is to irrigate before plant stress occurs with a water amount that won’t waterlog the soil if subsequent rainfall is received. 

Approximately 60% of cotton acres in Louisiana are irrigated, with furrow-irrigation being the main method. Irrigation timing varies due to weather, cultural practices, soil type and status of the crop. One method to aid in timing the first irrigation is to install soil moisture sensors that determine soil moisture at six or 12-inch intervals in and below the root zone. In general, the first irrigation should begin when 50% of the available moisture has been depleted from the root zone. This ensures good root development and reduces risk of soil saturation early in the growing season. At bloom, irrigation shouldn’t promote rank growth or hinder root development. In general, irrigation is terminated just prior to the first open boll. Caution should be used as excess soil moisture at this time can delay maturity and make defoliation more difficult. 

Despite dry conditions, the cotton crop throughout the state looks good. Approximately 25% of the crop is squaring. Since squaring began, populations of aphids, fleahoppers and plant bugs have reached treatable levels in some areas of the state. As more of the crop begins to square, growers and consultants will focus on square retention and managing plant height with plant growth regulator (PGR). Once cotton reaches match head square stage, plant growth, environmental conditions and square load should be monitored. A few factors to take into consideration when planning for pre-bloom applications of PGR include variety growth habits, soil type and total nitrogen available to the crop. PGR applications should be based on current plant growth characteristics and the anticipated growth rate based on expected growing conditions for the next seven to 10 days.

MISSISSIPPI | Brian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

As I write this June 6, Mississippi cotton is in pretty good shape. I may have been a little too optimistic last month. We’ve experienced some setbacks, which caused some replanting. Most replanted acres were due to sandblasting. There were a few scenarios with off-target herbicide injury and even slug infestations reducing stands to the point of replanting.

Replants have been relatively minimal, and most of cotton acres have outgrown thrips. The crop is progressing past the five-leaf stage in most areas with some of the earliest planted cotton squaring. As this crop moves into the reproductive stages, plant bug and plant growth management should be on the forefront of everyone’s mind.  

Managing plant bugs prior to bloom in Mississippi is key to maintain greater than 80% square retention. Imidacloprid or thiamethoxam are good options for controlling plant bugs prior to bloom. When making these applications, consider the cotton variety and vegetative potential to create a PGR management strategy starting at eight-to-10 node cotton. When applying PGRs, it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive to maintain the optimal internodal distance of two-to-three inches between the fourth and fifth node.

Currently, nitrogen applications are in full swing with the goal of having all N applied prior to first bloom. If possible, it is always an easier transition into the reproductive stages with all N applied, as well as a fully charged soil moisture profile to reduce fruit shed.

Overall, the crop is looking good at this point. Proper insect and plant growth management will be keys to a successful season. Good luck!


Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this June 1, the large majority of planting has been completed, most of which was a success. The 2022 planting season seemed to include a wide array of both wet and dry periods, cool and warm spells and intermittent moderate-to-heavy rains — all of which have become fairly normal. All in all, most of our intended cotton acres were planted with success, although a few areas were planted — or replanted — rather late, primarily due to intense packing rains in isolated areas across the state.  

We have a decent mixture of late April and early May planted cotton and some late May and early June planted or replanted cotton, with nearly equal proportions of our acreage planted at points throughout the month of May. This can be considered as a good way to help manage risks associated with both summer and fall weather patterns, as we do not know whether the year will reward or penalize early versus late planted cotton. Thrips pressure seems to dominate most growers’ concerns at this particular point in the season, as evidenced by the volume of calls over the past week.

Monitoring the date of first bloom will be important in July as it will help us know if cotton is early, on schedule, or late, and will likely be determined by planting date but can be influenced by other factors as well. This will also help us manage this crop for targeted maturity. Staying on top of our insect pests, such as lygus, stinkbugs, perhaps caterpillars, etc., with timely applications will be as important as always. PGR decisions will be at the forefront of decisions during July as well and will be dictated by planting date, variety growth potential and — most importantly — rainfall.  

When making PGR and insect management decisions, it is important to keep in mind that the success of later planted cotton is very dependent on timely management. The effects on yield of delayed, necessary insect sprays, for example, tend to be magnified for late planted cotton, as it lacks the necessary time to compensate for even small fruit losses due to insects or other factors.

OKLAHOMA | Seth Byrd

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

As I write this June 8, many parts of west central Oklahoma are still trying to dry out from recent rainfall, while in the southwest, planters are getting back into fields to begin planting the dryland crop, or even replanting some of the irrigated acreage wiped out after storms. Late May and early June brought heavy rains and isolated hail events to the area. Elsewhere, a hail event in early June resulted in some lost cotton in northern areas of the Oklahoma panhandle. Seedling disease issues have popped up across northern Oklahoma, resulting from cool temperatures and excess moisture following planting.

By the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you, there will likely be a wide variety of crop scenarios resulting from this challenging start to the season. While the moisture was certainly beneficial after drought conditions persisted in some areas since September of last year, the large rainfall totals received in such a short period of time also created some challenges to stand establishment and the planting schedule. 

Whether planted before or after these rain events, it is likely that much of the crop will be a bit behind schedule — a situation we’ve found ourselves in several times in recent years. Monitor the onset of the squaring period closely, as well as square retention, to properly time inputs and gain an understanding of maturity status as we approach first bloom. 

While PGRs typically do little to impact crop maturity in comparison to variety selection and nutrient management, they may be key to regulate growth if excess moisture continues to be present — or if the crop is showing signs of rank growth prior to the start of the bloom period. For more information on early season management and PGRs, check out factsheets available at

TEXAS | Ben McKnight

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As I write this June 8, approximately 85% of the cotton acres have been planted across the state of Texas. Dry conditions continue to persist across much of the state, and any recent rainfall that has fallen in some areas hasn’t been enough to relieve overall drought conditions. One outlier is the Lower Rio Grande Valley which has been receiving rainfall in good amounts lately. Many of the fields in this region are currently in full bloom, and prospects are looking good for growers so far. 

Further north in the Coastal Bend, one glance at the corn crop puts into perspective how dry conditions have been. Over 100,000 cotton acres failed to emerge due to the dry conditions at planting, and fields that were successfully established are currently at 7 NAWF to approaching cutout. Considering past and current conditions, yield estimates at this point in the growing season are below average for this region.  

In the Upper Gulf Coast, additional rainfall through the remainder of June and into July would greatly benefit the cotton crop. Currently, lygus populations are above average for this region but not at threshold levels yet. Bollworm and stink bugs are also being found, but populations for these pests are also quite low. 

In the Blackland Prairie, cotton growth stage ranges from four true leaves in replanted fields to matchhead square in earlier planted fields. Insect scouting has transitioned into monitoring fields for cotton fleahopper, along with aphids and spider mites. 

In prolonged, dry conditions that many in Texas have been facing this year, yield expectations may not be as high as years with more favorable conditions. As a result, some growers will often start to think about minimizing input expenditures. Frequent and thorough scouting is equally as important in dry years as it is in better years. Continuing to actively monitor for insect pressure and midseason weed flushes following rainfall events allows us to stay ahead of the curve and best manage additional input costs for pest management. 

TEXAS | Murilo Maeda

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda,
Texas A&M

Planting in the Texas High Plains will be completed and our season well underway by the time this issue of Cotton Farming reaches you. As I write this in early June, I estimate roughly 85% or better of our acreage has been planted. 

While we have recently been blessed with moisture, planting conditions in general were far from ideal this year. Areas around and north of Lubbock into the Texas Panhandle have received some rainfall from mid-May through early June. South of Lubbock, however, rainfall has been virtually nonexistent with few exceptions. Record drought gripping the region since August/September last year delayed winter field preparation activities, as well as planting. 

While we are usually looking at plenty of cotton this time of year, there is not as much to look at yet despite a lot of it being in the ground. Thrips pressure seems to be a little heavier than usual in some places, and it has triggered applications in counties north and west of Lubbock. 

This morning (June 8, 2022), the northern Panhandle saw severe weather, including high winds and large hail, particularly north of Amarillo. The Lubbock region missed out on the rain but also saw high winds and plenty of sand blowing. While early to know the extent, it is safe to say this event damaged cotton; the decision to replant will be a tough one to make, especially when considering the calendar. 

Conditions may be favorable for planting, but around here, we are always mindful of season-length limitations. We usually stop accumulating heat units by mid-October, with our last effective bloom dates usually around mid-to-late August. 

TENNESSEE | Tyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

What was forecast to be one of the warmest, driest Mays Tennessee had seen in years quickly turned into one of the wettest, coolest starts in recent memory. Our earliest planted cotton (late April, first and second week in May) generally appears to be our best.  

A blackberry winter hit during the third week of May and caused a considerable amount of replanting through the area. The intensity of rainfall events has been a topic of almost every conversation; thunderstorms in the area throughout May have regularly dumped one to two inches in areas, with values as high as four inches reported in isolated areas. Unfortunately, areas impacted have often been some of our largest cotton producing areas. While many will have blooms by the fourth, most will also have fields that may not bloom until the 20th. 

When managing late cotton, I recommend backing off of nitrogen (25% reduction is a good starting point), aggressively maintaining insect thresholds and aggressively managing plant growth. Each of these will help retain fruit low on the plant and thereby speed maturity. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions concerning management. I hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe July 4.

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