by AgFax Media LLC, AgFax.com
Boll rot continues to be the main factor hurting potential yields. This prolonged weather pattern – frequent showers, high humidity – has kept plants excessively wet, leading to heavy rotting in places. Varying degrees of hard locking and seed sprouting within the boll also are working against yields and quality.
Pushed along by the weather, target spot is knocking leaves off plants on a wider and more concerted basis in parts of the region. Several of our contacts noted that the disease may actually open up canopies for better drying, which could prevent at least some additional boll rot. That would be in fields with cotton nearing maturity. Concerns still remain about target spot hitting later cotton.
A couple of our contacts mentioned plants losing larger bolls than might be expected due to weather-related shed.
Insect activity varies. Bollworms and fall armyworms (FAW) are around. Plant bugs are mostly out of the picture except in the upper portions of the Midsouth or in late cotton. Growers and crop advisors are backing away from treatments. Many fields are past the point that insects matter, plus the prospect for weather-related losses means people will be less likely to spend money on further pest management.
Defoliation started earlier in Louisiana and at least a few fields are ready in Arkansas and Mississippi once the weather clears up. Some defoliation may start on the early side to open up canopies and prevent further boll rot.
LOUISIANA CROP REPORTS
Steve Schutz, Ind. Consultant, Coushatta, Louisiana: "Between boll rot and hard locking, we've maybe lost a third of our yield potential across a big part of the crop. Target spot is knocking leaves off faster than we can get anything on it. Last week it rained close to 10 inches in our area. We're seeing some flooding out in fields but aren't dealing with that widespread flooding people have been enduring in south Louisiana.
"We still have some young cotton at maybe 5 nodes to white bloom, and we're applying Pix on it. I was going to hit some older cotton with Pix for regrowth. But the opinion seems to be that it really won't help with regrowth once cotton starts opening, so we'll take care of it at harvest. We've been spraying some of the younger cotton for stink bugs."
Ashley Peters, Peters Crop Consulting, Crowville, Louisiana: "In a 2-week period we got 7 to 12 inches of rain, maybe more in spots. We've had about 10 straight days of rain now, with high humidity, no heat and no sunshine – all of that when cotton is trying to open. Some seed are trying to sprout in the boll.
"Target spot is showing up and blowing up. In spots where it was fairly noticeable 2 weeks ago the defoliation has probably hit 50%. Where I looked at cotton on Monday (8/22), boll rot and hard lock weren't as bad as I thought they would be after that much rain. But more rain is in the forecast, and we don't know if we've seen the full effect from all the rains that already have fallen.
"The last insect treatment was 7 to 10 days ago, and we included something for plant bugs and worms. In terms of further treatments, I think we're done. Cotton is shedding bolls that I thought would be too big for the plant to drop.
"The earliest defoliation is 10 to 14 days out, but we would need a lot of sunshine between now and then to go ahead with those applications."
Sebe Brown, Northeast Louisiana Region Extension Entomologist: "We're still in the midst of a bollworm flight. In checking cotton on the station Monday (8/22) I found 9 bollworm eggs on a bloom tag. However, we're not finding what we would consider a corresponding number of worms, based on the egg lay. We're not sure if egg predators are reducing numbers or if some kind of natural pathogen is working on the population.
"Unless it's very late-planted cotton, we're not concerned about plant bugs now. Added to that, all the weather damage has shut down growers' willingness to spend more money. According to one estimate, we've maybe lost 50% of the crop in central Louisiana. The popup showers continue pretty much every day, from a half-inch to an inch in places, so boll rot and sprouting are taking a toll. I found a boll on Monday with a sprout that had almost reached cotyledon size within the boll.
"We've shifted from a cotton-making operation to a cotton-salvage operation. We're concentrating on what we can do to make the crop that's out there with the least amount of added expense.
"A lot of target spot developed, with heavily infested fields in places. However, that may be more of a positive because it's helping defoliate the earlier cotton. In younger cotton, target spot could still hurt yields.
"Growers have started defoliating cotton. Some treatments went out on time. Others are being made on the early side to get the leaves off and promote air movement within the canopy to reduce boll rot. Some consultants said they're also going early with desiccation sprays in soybeans so farmers can jump in the fields and 'mud out' the beans before things get any worse. I don't know how much merit there is to that approach, but people are trying to do what they can."