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  Blog Archives  09/21/20 8:16:55 AM

Finishing Strong In Cotton

Finishing strong is a part of winning.  A huge component in finishing strong in the cotton game is the Precision Ginning offered at Commonwealth Gin.  Our system digitally analyzes cotton every 15 seconds as it is running through the system to maximize the amount of lint and value we get out of the module.  The system sees the weakness or strengths of the cotton during the process.  It compares to planting 8 rows with a precision planter so you can pick it with a 6 row or detailed soil sampling in precision fertility, plus many other aspects of precision agriculture.  Last year we had a large comparison with our precision gins versus a conventional gin using round bale modules.  We are able to do more with the module because we have eyes inside the system using IntelliGin monitoring.  Sometimes we kick in extra cleaning to improve trashy spots and this typically lowers the leaf grade.  It is important to get off of this extra cleaning because the turnout can suffer, that is why much of the time we were able to be very gentle on the really nice stuff.  The gentle ginning not only improves the pounds of lint out of the module, but maintains longer fiber.  Most of the time, it was a combination of both to deliver a quality service and a great return on investment.  The other aspects of our business include providing farmers with a variety report card based on real results of variety performance using gin data, production and agronomic assistance, pest management assistance, evaluation of the farm programs and marketing strategies to offer risk management in light of the safety nets in place, full service from office and field personnel, and the flexible marketing terms.  We are excited about cotton’s future and are humbled to be a part of your team.

Comments on Late Blooms

About half the cotton or more is still blooming.  It is from later planting dates, and also from the addition of more squares in early August when the rain started back.  So that brings up the annual question of how many of these late blooms will contribute to yield.  The first component of this question is just the math of the time it takes for a bloom to go to a mature boll.  It takes about 45 days with normal temperatures.  Once we get to late August, it will probably take about a week longer because of milder temperatures.  Based on this, we would be waiting for the middle or third week of October for defoliation for this type of crop.  Certainly not too late, but mighty late.  The second component of this question is whether this late fruit will even stay on the plant.  Late blooms on the 11th fruiting node or higher only account for about 3 to 6% of a high yielding normal aged crop. The first 10 fruiting nodes represent the first 5 or 6 weeks of bloom and that is the cake where 95% of the yield comes from. The top stuff is normally the icing; however it can represent a significant portion of yield from a crop recovering from early stress, low early fruit retention from plant bugs, or very late planting dates.  More normal cotton that already stopped blooming may see some late September defoliation, with more into early October.  A third component to mention is gappy stands or thinly planted cotton that will have much more of the yield contributed to by lower branches and some of the extra positions and even top fruit so late blooming can be important for these fields
Much of the cotton looks to be getting safe and has good potential, but many of the fields that are blooming heavy now with a poor boll load could see cotton pull the rabbit out of the hat again with incredible fall recovery.  
I would add that blooms from the last week or so and for the next week or so that are expected to be part of the yield are still vulnerable to insects and need to be checked primarily for bugs and protected if needed.


The Inspiration from the Farmer 

A day in the life of a farmer is faced with waves of challenges.  He or she checks with the agronomist and is told he has a fertilizer issue.  The physiologist says that those small bolls fell off because of a lack of sunlight.  The entomology says to check for bugs.  The pathologist says that nematodes need to be addressed.  The consultant tells them to hold up one week, but then when it is raining every day, the farmer is told that the fields are at threshold.  What? All of them on the same day?  Then right when he is trying to beat the next rainy spell, his employee calls in and says, I need to take today off.  The retail person tells him to mix 5 different products into the tank and add a compatibility agent and some special sauce and you’ll take care of everything.  The cotton man say’s on the radio to forget about those soybeans and take care of the cotton.  After all this, his neighbor who just moved in out of the city to enjoy the country life complained about the smells and how inconvenient it is to have farm equipment on the roads.  Even the preacher says…”Well you told me to pray for rain, now what’s the problem.”
In all seriousness, those pictures from the Iowa corn fields are heart breaking. Yea, what are the odds of getting a hurricane in Iowa, wonder how many Iowa farmers took out Hurricane Insurance. We know we are at the mercies of the politics of the day or weather making up off the coast of Africa. The good thing can happen and often we know it is not in our hands, yet we do our best with what we have.

Often a farmer approaches all of this with a chuckle and if you meet him in the street or give ‘em a call and ask how’s it going, he’ll say, “if it got any better, I couldn’t stand it”.  How bout that attitude.

WHY does this genuine response of hope and optimism come from so many of our farmers despite their challenges? I think the reason starts with the beginning of the blog. I poked fun at the resource people at the beginning, including myself, yet most farmers feel like they have a big team of people to help sort through the vast array of challenges. However, farmers look at these folks as a valuable part of their team and the suggestions are truly appreciated. This even includes some new arrivals to the rural life who do not quite understand the full package of why rural living is so important with Agriculture as the economic hub (but they eventually do). Along with faith and the expectation that the good thing will eventually happen, most farmers ultimately appoach their occupation and life with the expectation of eventual success dependant on their efforts, good will, determination and a call to a mission of service by feeding and clothing the world. Plus make some money and raise their families.


Old Cotton Getting Safe, Late cotton still has questions.

We are now in the second half of August. Most if not all the cotton has had an insecticide and probably a shot of pix and some boron around the third week of bloom.  The question regarding “are we through until defoliation?” becomes the prominent factor.  The answer will come from how young the top of the plant is, how long has it been since that most recent spray has been made, and what is the current insect infestation status.  This year we have two more variables to consider regarding the decision of whether or not to make one more protective spray, or let the crop go.  The recent rainfall pattern has given most people a good bit of rainfall recently and pyrethroids and acephate do not last as long when it rains a lot.  Most of the residual benefit is gone.  (The Prevathon/Besiege products hold up well in rain if they did not get washed off immediately because they are systemic)  The second consideration will be potential damage that comes from making the trip from cotton plants leaning over, or wet fields that could get rutted up.  It's more than just a coin toss, and I would be more concerned about later planted fields that have not been cleaned up in a couple weeks, particularly if they are close to late corn.  If you are in a heavy plant bug area AND either had a quick wash off, or did not have acephate in your last trip, you should use the black sheet to check for current plant bug levels if your cotton is not safe.  


The safe cotton is the fields that have bloomed out of the top with the highest large piece of fruit as a small boll.   Thresholds for boll damage in the top of the plant into the 6th week of bloom or above the 10th fruiting branch is 30%.  There could be a few inches of growth from the recent rain with some tiny squares but they will not bloom till September and will not contribute to yield.  Most of the cotton planted prior to May 18th or really light soil in areas that were heavily stressed in July falls into this category.  I think the bloom progression of this week will advance cotton planted through May 25th towards safety such that primarily only June planted or early stunted cotton could be sensitive during that last week of August. 

Third to Fifth Week of Bloom - Highest Sensitivity to damage

Tracking the advancement of the cotton crop indicates that we are beginning the 5th week of bloom for the first planted cotton that began blooming on July 13th.  In fact, because of heat records set in July, we are even more advanced than that.  This 5th week of bloom is the last of the three most insect sensitive weeks in cotton production which begins during the third week of bloom.  The main reason for this sensitivity is that the bolls from blooms during the third, fourth, and fifth weeks of bloom produce the majority of the yield that we will harvest and there is less opportunity for compensation if they get damaged.  The boll damage threshold during this period is 10%.  Once we get to the 6th week of bloom, we can tolerate 3 times as much damage to the top of the plant.  The youngest cotton which includes June planted cotton is beginning the third week of bloom now.  So all of our cotton is in the high sensitivity period.  Strategies are a little all over the board with some fields just getting the first spray since it started blooming, while fields sprayed two weeks ago are being evaluated for a second trip.  I would expect if you spray anything blooming out the top of the plant, it should stay safe as all the bolls will be set in a matter of days to a week.  I was seeing a very few fields that are already finished blooming at the end of last week.

Late Season Pix Applications
Does pix help divert energy to bolls late in season? Improve defoliation? keep regrowth off? This article covers all the questions



Scout, Spray, Decision time.  Cookie Cutter approach - NO One size Fits all approach for 2020

(The whole point of this blog is to decide what to spray on 1646 which is at the end)

The approach we like to take for the choice of insecticides as well as the decision to spray as a sort of “cookie cutter” method.  (shout out to WG from Capron for the idea).   This year is not a cookie cutter year; nevertheless, here are some ideas to help navigate through all the decisions.

Timing - (the plant physiology approach)

First of all the timing of the 3rd through the 6th week of bloom represents the time that the cotton plant has much of the bolls susceptible to damage without time for recovery.  So damage during this stage directly correlates to yield loss.  The cookie cutter approach is to spray on the front side of this period with a ”‘Clean up” spray.  Then during the backside of this period, we consider a second spray (usually a couple weeks after the first spray) when the cotton continues to bloom and set a top crop, soil moisture is good, yield potential is high, and insects are still active. The Dry July weather disrupted our cookie cutter approach and caused a rapid advancement of fruit this year and there are some fields planted early that are so advanced and blooming right out the top that they are getting safe and may not need spraying if they are clean right now.

Don’t forget the insects - Of course, a proper application of insecticides is based on scouting and thresholds which creates the variability of when some folks are spraying and some folks are not.  This year has remained one of the lowest insect pressure years we have had since the last dry July.  Having spotty insects when it is time to spray disrupts the cookie cutter approach.

Insecticide Choices - We are primarily targeting three insects (bollworms, Stinkbugs, and plant bugs).  3 Bt gene varieties practically take care of the bollworms so we can simplify our choices for these varieties.  I like a pyrethroid and/or acephate.  Each one is good individually and probably adequate by themselves for this year.   And together they are excellent.

PHY 333 is the only W2 variety that needs a premium worm material (Prevathon or Besiege) plus one of the above for bugs.

THAT LEAVES THE BG2 varieties that are less cookie cutter.  DP 1646 is our most planted variety.  The BG2 has held up for bollworm and worked though last year in Virginia, although mainly because of lower moth pressure.  This year there is more corn, and moth numbers are building, but eggs have been low, but now are building.  THE QUESTION IS: Do I treat it more like the 3-gene varieties and trust that it will continue to hold up, or do I treat it more like PHY333 and offer the protection of the premium worm product?  By all means do what your consultant advises, talk to Dr. Taylor and use the expertise of your distributor.

JOHNNY’S RECOMMENDATION - For Me, I think I would use the plant physiology approach and let the crop tell me whether or not to use a premium worm material.  Younger cotton or cotton that has been getting rain in July with more than 5 nodes above white bloom would get the premium product and cutting out cotton with blooms right in the top of the plant would be treated with just a pyrethroid/acephate approach.  I am expecting worm pressure to continue to build and just in terms of numbers, I think over time, they could overcome the BG2 genes.  The cutting out cotton will be safe but the greener higher potential cotton will still be susceptible.

FINAL COMMENT - The Compromise solution is also treating it with a pyrethroid, then making a second trip if things keep looking good and the moths are building.

Crop Potentail,,,well, its better than it was.


The 2020 cotton crop lines up quite well with the uniqueness of everything else that seems to be going on this year.  Strange events create a good bit of variability in our fields and also our strategies.  Late planting followed by extreme heat have allowed the crop to advance to be a little bit ahead of the long term averages.  However the variability in rainfall may be the one item that gives us the identity to characterize fields for the rest of the year.  I see three scenarios to give us a little insight for the coming weeks.  First, cotton that went through most of the 12 day July heat wave without rain has lower fruit numbers.  Later planting dates have helped it by having more fruit than it would if it was early.  The second scenario has at least one and possibly two rains during the second half of July prior to the hurricane and is holding a lot of fruit.  The final situation is cotton planted late and has been blooming less than 2 weeks.  It can grow aggressively if it also got some of those earlier July rains.  It all has better potential now and is worth investing in.  Insects are coming out of corn.  Some of the scenario 2 cotton was sprayed in front of the storm. The lowest insect numbers recently have been in areas with not corn close or either very advanced and blooming out of the top.  At this point in August now, it is time to scout intensively or spray.  It is also typical for a trip with pix and insecticide to hold for a couple of weeks and maybe 3 before evaluating the need for another trip based on young fruit with good potential in the top of the plant.

The fast moving tropical storm is going to cause the problem that everybody has been hoping for.  In the drier areas, folks have been waiting on the rain before investing more into this crop.  Part of the region in the more northern area has been getting some rain for a couple weeks, then last Friday primed the pump for almost everywhere.  Now, as we expect full restorative moisture from the storm for which nobody can pronounce the name, we might have to wait another day or two.  After that, a lot of cotton that has not been sprayed in the last couple of weeks will be targeted for insect, pix, boron and possibly some weed control strategies.  The timing is good based on the crop stage with the oldest cotton finishing the third week of bloom and most of the younger is about a week or 10 days later. The insect pressure has remained as some of the lowest we have had here in a decade and began increasing out of corn late last week.  A lot of fertilizer is still around, so if there are not enough bolls to use the resources, it will go into new growth.  August is beginning to look promising, but busy.

Evaluating Prematurely Cut-out Cotton, As Well As, the good spots.

When I look at the forecast today, It looks like everybody is going to get some rain during the next several days to a week.  However, we have faced this type of forecast two other times in July and some got it while other communities have missed it all.  One farmer told me yesterday, “I don’t need rain, I need mud”.  Overall we are entering the third week of bloom with three scenarios with our cotton.  The best cotton has gotten a good amount of rain a couple of times in July and cotton is growing.  Over half the cotton has gotten enough rain in July to keep it hanging on but is blooming high, and needs rain quickly to make a good crop.  The other extreme represents cotton that has missed everything for the last three weeks.  In front of what looks like a promising chance of hopefully ‘some mud’, folks are waiting on significant rain before they spend any more money and even then, the question is “does it have a chance?”.  The best approach is to evaluate this more stressed cotton after it gets good rainfall.  Since even tiny squares have time to produce a mature boll, count everything on the plant in early August with moist soil and you can judge the potential.  Of course it will take more rain in August to fill it out to realize the potential, but a lot of this stressed cotton still has more than 200 pieces of fruit/10 ft. and that can make 2 bales.  It will also probably start regrowing and that is a topic for another day.


Some observations to help put a plan together:

Weeds:  Some Liberty plus Roundup sprays several weeks to a month ago are showing that typical recovery of goose grass and redroot pigweed.  Roundup does not kill as good when Liberty is mixed with it. Although Roundup improves Liberty performance, Liberty hurts roundup and we are missing some big stuff that Roundup alone would have taken out.  Some people think they have some resistant Palmer when they see that recovering pigweed and it might just be redroot that roundup kills fine when used alone.  Use roundup alone for general cleanup. Address fields with a history of palmer individually. (Liberty is not labeled for blooming cotton, plus it does not kill big weeds and antagonizes roundup)

Insects:  It's been a long time since we have had a low bug year.  I think they do not do well on drought stressed plants so may not have built up in corn or just not able to have as many children on a poor diet.  Beneficial insects and predators are also devouring aphids, plant bugs, spider mites and eggs in fields that haven’t had an insecticide in several weeks or ever.  The dilemma is that we have a building moth flight expected to be large and long, and we are beginning the third week of bloom by the calendar and perhaps further based on heat units and it is time to clean up any cotton with a good yield potential (most cotton has more than 200 fruit/10 feet.  Plus soil moisture is improving, slowly but surely. So for me it is a question of yield potential and protection.  Scouting will let you know where not to spray.  Check Your email for specifics on Insect Management ideas.

Growth Management: The yield benefits of pix as well as the harm from pix is about gone and our main goal now is to keep cotton in check.  Specific ideas are in the Cotton Letter Email.

Third week of Bloom will begin this Week for oldest cotton

The first blooms in cotton were being found during the week of July 14th.  That means almost half of our cotton will be finishing it’s second week of bloom this week.  This would be the cotton that was planted from around May 10th through the 20th. Once it gets to the third week of bloom, there will be about 6 or 7 reproductive branches that have already bloomed and there are numerous bolls on the plant. This load makes it more difficult to add growth as the bolls start taking priority for the available resources.  Third week of bloom also represents the time when most of the cotton that we will harvest is on the plant as a boll or large squares and all of it is susceptible to insect damage so the thresholds for cleaning up bugs drops.   Each week though we start again with our scouting activity.  Check for boll damage, dirty blooms, and of course insects.  The moth flight is picking up quickly with Holland reporting 48 for a 2 night catch.  A lot of insects that we spray for come out of maturing corn.  For growth management, nodes above white bloom is one of the most helpful plant indicators.  Having more than 7 NAWB with good moisture would benefit from a pix application.

Is the cotton too big or growing fast?  Not much

Pix applications have been reduced quite a bit during the last few weeks with this heat and lack of rain except in a spot or two that either is able to maintain moisture and grow or has been irrigated.  And rightly so because pixing drought stressed cotton reduces yield.  However, I am hopeful that we are going to get some rain soon and the question of whether Pix will be necessary after a rain event will arise.  Some folks are saying that they have never put any pix on and perhaps are wondering if there still could be some benefit from an application even when the plant measurements do not suggest it is needed.  Simply put, pix does not add anything to the cotton plant, it simply reduces gibberellic acid which is a growth hormone.  Dry weather and heat stress also do this, so it is like all of our cotton has been ‘weather pixed’.  If gibberellic acid is already low and pix is applied further reducing it then harm can be caused.  It might be helpful if you made a decision about applying pix now the same way you would make a decision about applying a second or third shot at this point.  In general, it will take multiple rains and wet ground to change the character of these plants.  Here are some thoughts to guide decisions between now and the third week of bloom (early August).

Characteristics of Cotton that will not need Pix even after rain:

  • Red main stalk at the 4th node from the top that has woody tissue and is not tender growth

  • Larger squares in the upper part of the plant that have the yellow part of the flower bud starting to swell.

  • Blooms up high. Less than 6 Nodes above first position white bloom in July.

  • Open Middles

If you get even an inch, this type of cotton is approaching its final height for the season and growth management has been taken care of by the weather.


Characteristics of cotton that may need Pix prior to early August:

  • The internode between the 4th and 5th node is tender and more than 2.5 inches

  • Small squares 8 inches into canopy

  • 8 NAWB

  • Moist ground prior to rain

  • Canopy closing

  • Planted after May 25th (that means it just started or not quite started blooming)

Overall height after bloom is less important and even if it is 36 inches if it has the characteristics of the first scenario, then it will not need pix for a while if ever.  We will probably revisit August Pix applications once we get through this weekend and get closer to where we are making a third week of bloom trip.

Planning for Insect Buildup. 

I've been hoping this buildup would wait coincide with the third week of cotton bloom which will occur during first half of August, but corn is looking mature and it could be close. I hate to spray anything right in front of a moth flight.
Bollworm moth trap are just being set out.  I was in a field with a lot of moths yesterday but the overall buildup should not be occurring yet.  The main 2 Bt gene variety is 1646 and will have some susceptibility to worms, but the 3 Bt gene toxin varieties should remain below economic concerns.  We need to consider strategies now to help the technology last.  Selection for resistance occurs in corn.  Planting corn refugees is the best strategy to protect our cotton crop.  Second, protect the beneficial insects in the field just prior to the moth flight by not spraying or delay spraying for bugs until you can also include a worm product.  Thirdly, include a pyrethroid during moth flights on 3-gene as well. 


Bollguard 2

If heavy moth flight - Prevathon/Besiege in conjunction with a bug product .  

If low moth flight, a pyrethroid approach with automatic second trip if eggs continue .  

3-gene varieties, use a pyrethroid in that 3rd week of bloom spray.  Plan A is using Orthene as your primary plant bug material, then adding a better bollworm pyrethroid like Baythroid makes sense.  Plan B is using just a pyrethroid with no tank mix, then Bifenthrin is the best choice.  Some populations of plant bugs are resistant to pyrethroids so check behind it to be sure you get them if not using Orthene.


Spider Mites are present but have not been flared yet.  Hopefully some soaking rain is on the way and the beneficial insects will finish them off.  Avoid Orthene until the rain pattern returns.


Stink bugs present and will be coming out of corn as it matures or dries down.  They are rarely a concern until the third week of bloom when high numbers of susceptible bolls are present. Both or either Orthene & pyrethroid will take care of them when you go out for that clean up spray.

Plant bug numbers are increasing.  With low boll numbers, it is still about fruit retention.   It looks like maybe a third to half the fields that have never been sprayed are borderline to slightly above threshold but continue to have high fruit retention.  If threshold fields are not blooming, I would use AdmirePro now.  If they started blooming last week, and you have high bug numbers, use Transform, or if borderline, I am thinking we might drag our feet slightly and go a little early with the cleanup spray.  That would look something like spraying the second week of bloom (around July 25-30) and again a couple weeks later or keep it scouted.

Something over half of our cotton began blooming last week and a good portion of the rest will begin this week.  Assuming we can begin to catch some rain showers this week, the delayed planting could turn out to be a bit of a blessing as the cotton crop is just now starting to move into a period where it requires more water.  The height of cotton is fairly good at this early bloom period, but in fields with blooms already within 6 or 7 nodes of the top, even with several inches of rainfall, it will be difficult for high blooming cotton to get too big unless we stay wet for several weeks.  If blooms are deep or squares in the top are small, growth is more aggressive with moisture. During this last 10 day period of July, we can still get benefit from adding more nodes and squares on all the cotton. This makes me want to hold up on Pix until good rainfall comes. And even then, growth shouldn't explode until we get several rains. Once August gets here, there are no negative yield aspects related to Pix because adding new squares in August adds little value.  Without rain, we would be in a waiting mode for that third week of bloom spray if it weren’t for those darn plant bugs. 

Thanks to Dr Taylor’s leadership we have learned a lot about them over the last three years.  Prior to bloom and even during early bloom, the name of the game is to keep squares on the plant.  During the second week of bloom and certainly after this, we can begin using the black sheet to check for bugs. As far as what I am finding, it seems fairly typical of what we get during these dry July months. Our square tetention is good but there are some bugs, just not heavy. Also, back in the day, I used to only look at square retention, and now that we scout more, you can definately pick some spots or fields that are heavier with actual plant bug numbers to address, even when the big picture looks ok. I have also seen very good results with AdmirePro and all neonics this year on the early sprays. Transform is going to be the go to product on threshold fields that have been blooming until we get to the third week of bloom. I don't see enough fields at threshold to support spraying everything with Transform. (cost is $10 at low rate to $13 at the medium rate) Then we will use a cleanup spray for worms, stinkbugs, and plantbugs. I am seeing spider mites in a lot of fields so spraying orthene can flare them and make them more noticeable.
Tranistioning To Bloom.

This week we should see cotton begin to bloom that was planted during the middle of May.  It is sort of the halfway point of cotton development and marks the beginning of the main event.  Cotton will continue to grow for about 2 weeks into bloom with moisture, but by the third week of blooming, a good boll load should pull all the energy away from growth and into boll development.  This brings me to the important focus of this blog and that is what we should be doing now so that cotton has a good boll load in the third week.  The primary focus points are having good fruit retention, maintaining a good vegetative growth but not too much, and not harming the plant.  Typically we have good square retention in our area and while plant bugs are easy to find, they are not everywhere.  We know we can tolerate at least 20% square loss with no adverse yield impact. I would not assume they are not a problem or that they are a problem.  AdmirePro will quickly give way to other insecticides as we start blooming.  Admire does not work well on blooming cotton.   Managing growth with Pix is also a trick.  You certainly don’t want to stop it now at the onset of blooming, nor can you let it go where soil moisture is decent.  The fields that missed rain last week and this Monday’s rain and otherwise older cotton that is only 24 inches will be fine to let it go for a while. The biggest dilemma is going to be 30 inch cotton that is getting dry.  Second pix applications are not going to be necessary until cotton begins closing the canopy, or there is enough moisture to ensure that it will.  I usually like to see a bloom in the field before applying the second application, and if the middles are wide open when it blooms, hold off.

Finally, herbicide burn is not a concern during the early vegetative stages, but right before or during bloom, it will have a higher risk. Avoid Dual/outlook/Warrant tank mixes with other herbicides on cotton transitioning to bloom

Recap Prior to bloom


Two back to back periods of rainfall are expected to begin Wednesday.  The predicted accumulation on any given day does not look too high and hopefully this will be a nice restorative rainfall for most of us at a perfect time.


Cotton Growth

The oldest plants are ranging around 11 or 12 nodes with 6-7 fruiting nodes with squares on them.  I would expect this crop to begin blooming with 9 or 10 fruiting branches so we could see a bloom by the second half of next week.  With 90 degree temperatures, we make a node every 2.5 days. FIRST BLOOM EXPECTED AFTER JULY 14


Pix/Mepiquat products

Our cotton crop is not large by the calendar, but some has gotten large based on the growth stage.  Cotton that has activated nitrogen will grow more than 1 inch per day with good moisture AND good fertility.  PRIOR TO BLOOM, 6-8 ounces of pix when cotton is in the low 20 inches or 10-12 ounces for cotton that is 25 to 28 inches will be useful.   

Pixing light land that has a history of drought stress, leaching or just normally short cotton is more risky.  Pix can hurt yield if it stalls out the cotton and I would rather see a better canopy forming first prior to pixing.


Plant bugs and insects

Prior to bloom, neonics are the first line of defense.  AdmirePro is the cheap one and is fine for threshold or sub-threshold fields.  IF you have heavily infested fields, then investing in Centric or Belay can be considered.  Once we start blooming, discontinue use of neonics. Also, neonic performance increases in failure as the season progresses. Using Orthene in this window is discouraged.

Just before bloom into the second week of bloom is the Transform window for the product of choice.  This product is not better than adults than the neonics, but is considered better on the green plant bug nymphs.  Using Orthene for this window can create more severe issues for the approaching worm invasion.

Then the main event is still the third week of bloom where we have a high percentage of the crop we will harvest as a boll and the corn is maturing and bollworms, stinkbugs, and plant bugs explode.  This is the window for pyrethroids, orthene and prevathon/besiege on the two gene varieties.

These windows are not intended to bypass scouting.  Rather it is a guideline on what chemistry to use based on the development of the plant.

Virginia cotton is not a high plant bug pressure state and rarely needs all three of these windows to be protected.  Usually, either using the neonic OR the transform window will get you through to the third week of bloom spray and sometimes we don’t ever need these early protections.

Extension Recommendation:

  • 1/2 pound in the top dress nitrogen for a soil application fully meets the boron need
  • 1/4 pound sprayed twice as a foliar application fully meets the requirement
  • any combination of the above or also some at planting can substitue for part of the above.
The choice of products varies and usually the high percentage materials are more economical.  Sol-U-Bor is 20% is the cheapest but does not play well with other tank mix partners like Roundup,  It is fine with Pix.  10% liquid usually is the best value for liquid.  Some debate has existed in the marketing departments for years about using lower rates for foliar will still meet the requirment.  Research has not proven or disproven these claims.



The most advanced cotton has 10 nodes and we should see a few blooms after mid-July, but nothing on the 4th.  The biggest I have seen is around 21” at the end of June.  Thanks to Dr. Frame, I was able to get a first hand observation of the impact of applying Liberty plus Dual across the different variety technologies and there definitely are some predictable differences that can have implications to our tank mix decisions.  The primary observation is that all of the Xtend Bollguard varieties have more injury from this tank mix than either the Liberty/Twinlink or Enlist/Widestrike traited varieties.  It is enough difference that if you have any other type of stress like a fertility type stress or water logged cotton, then this injury is quite concerning and probably more than just cosmetic.  Our state is also showing variation in cotton development related to variable rainfall.  The drier areas have bigger cotton with fields reaching the Pix stage, only … they are dry.  The wet areas are finally getting some fertilizer out which will help, only even though it is wet, they need a light rain to help the fertilizer do its job. 

At least the plant bug issue is low for now.  Random surveys indicate thresholds in less than 5% of the acreage. Thanks to Dr. Sally Taylor for being out in the field and giving us her expertise and time to conduct these surveys.  I’ve only seen one situation so far that treatment was a priority with heavy square loss.  The sweep net is a quick check to determine if you have any concerns.  Plant bugs prior to bloom are not traditionally an issue over wide acreages in our region, unless you reach those big numbers in those hot pockets.  This year is setting up to be somewhat normal for the stage of growth with high square retention in 95% of our fields.  The threshold is 2 plant bugs per 25 sweeps or losing 20% of squares.  I would hold up on a spray even if bugs are present prior to bloom if I had good square retention.  If you treat, the focus should be on using neonics prior to bloom.  Hold off on the silver bullets like Orthene until well into bloom unless you have crazy high numbers.


Side-dress topics

The cotton during the first week of planting is all at about the 7 leaf stage and the 8th leaf is clearly visible in the bud.  This has brought us to the window to apply the layby nitrogen, and none too soon.  We have had various amounts of rain over the last two weeks with some areas approaching 5 inches while some spots have only had around 2.  The average has definitely been over 3.  Our lightest land that has not had any fertilizer since before planting is showing nitrogen deficiency symptoms with red cotyledons at the bottom.  Some saturated land also shows these symptoms because the root system is hurt and cannot access the nutrients close by.  For both of these situations, a little bit of Ammonium sulfate broadcast will be the best and fastest cure.  It only takes 100 to 150 pounds.  If you are planning on dribbling nitrogen in the middles, this light land or cotton with damaged roots will not pick up that dribble quick enough and I still recommend some dry material broadcast.  If you make this as an additional trip that you were not planning to do, be sure to account for this nitrogen as we do not need to apply extra nitrogen on this later than average crop.  We have not really had leaching, and I believe the nitrogen we have applied up til now is still there just too deep for small plants to pick it up, but it will find it later.


Applying a half pound of boron at sidedress will eliminate the need for foliar applications, or you could apply a quarter pound to the soil and the remainder in one foliar trip.  Basically the recommendation is for a half pound “in season” which can be made to the soil or foliar although the foliar trip can only have a quarter pound at one time.


Sulfur is readily available if you have organic matter in soil or clay within 12 inches of the surface.  Our main concerns are on deep light soils.  Similar to nitrogen, sulfur can leach, however, only about 20 pounds is needed at sidedress time.  If you have 35 pounds of sulfur on light soil or 20 already on loamier soil, you are probably in good shape; otherwise use some sulfur in your side dress to meet these goals.


Potassium should not have leached.  If you had planned on adding potassium with your sidedress application to meet the soil sample recommendation, just continue as planned.  I like splitting potassium on the white sand that typically has the light land syndrome and this year it is showing up just like almost every year.  You cannot put out enough at planting to last on these spots.  Splitting is not necessary on our typical sandy loam, productive soils where leaching only comes from monsoons like we had May of 2016.


The Layby rig or Injection rig is considered to be the best way to apply sidedress nitrogen but is also slower.  One big advantage is that it stabilizes nitrogen against environmental loss so you do not need to add stabilizing products that reduce leaching or volatilization.  This in part likely explains its efficiency rating of 120%.  In other words there is a 20% gain over broadcasting or dribbling.  We don’t recommend cutting nitrogen when using it although you could.  Rather there is some evidence that it puts that efficiency towards added yield potential if the rain pattern favors higher yield.  Another advantage is that it puts nitrogen closer to the plant than dribbling and it does not need rain to activate it.  Being closer to the plant can help some of these current symptoms we are seeing on white sand and from damaged roots, although broadcast is still a better cure for this problem.


Using urea in blends or by itself is has some pluses and minuses.  Ammonium sulfate is stable and provides a lot of sulfur, but creates so much acidity plus is the most expensive way to add nitrogen.  Some are looking for other options, and for dry broadcast, urea meets some goals.  Urea is fairly unstable and melts from humidity plus if you put it on top of wet soil, it will turn to gas and you can lose a lot of it.  For this reason, we recommend coating it with a urease inhibitor product.  1.5 pounds of NBPT/ton of urea provides the best happy medium between cost and effectiveness.  If you have already met the sulfur requirement then using pure urea is simple and economical.  If you blend it with some Ammonium sulfate to meet the sulfur requirement, treat the urea first before making the blend, because only the urea needs treating.  Apply it the day it was blended as the AMS breaks down the coating.


ESN is urea with a physical coating for slow release.  It may require as long as 6 weeks to completely release so it needs to be applied early.


Most of our cotton was planted from May 11th to May 25th this year which represents 14 calendar days, but only 7 degree days.  This is going to bring a little bit of a different spin on our cotton management, and I think it will make decision making more straightforward because cotton will be very close to the same age.  The blooming dates will be bunched up closer together.  Just for figuring purposes, and since we plan some of our management based on weeks until bloom initiation or weeks after bloom, I would predict our first bloom won’t appear until July 15th.  Then over the next week or so, most of it will start blooming.  That also means that we will not be insect safe until the end of August on the first planted cotton until perhaps the first week of September on the late cotton.  That correlates to the 5th to the 6th week of bloom which is the amount of blooming time we need to lock in 2 to 3 bales per acre with timely rain.  Weed control and fertilizer on light land are going to be our upcoming top priorities.  We still have several weeks to finish final nitrogen applications, but riding around this week, I can already see that white land showing smaller cotton and some typical paleness from the light land syndrome of pH, potassium, nitrogen and sulfur challenges.  It's not always a lot of acres, but that 5 acres in a 40 acre field draws your attention. I’ll send an email to address a few detailed fertility and weed control questions.


Periods of rainfall for much of this week will reduce our opportunity for field work.  Most farmers are on schedule with chores, although being caught up may not be attainable during periods of rapid plant development like June.  June actually is one of our busiest months as we have all of our crops each having their own needs.  Peanuts and cotton are our biggest money makers, but wheat harvest will have her way and not be treated second during June.  Hopefully the early beans are planted and corn has been topdressed so that we will be able to get back on our money makers as the ground allows.  Most cotton fields are finished with thrips management and the first round of weed control, but with this rain will come new flushes of weeds and also some dilution of our most water soluble herbicides like Reflex.  We might even be able to slip in between showers with a residual herbicide like Dual/Warrant/Outlook on fields that haven’t gotten sloppy.  Outside of that, it will be a good week to walk some fields and put a plan together. 



After Thursday’s rainfall, the next and perhaps more voluminous rain event is expected for a good part of next week.  Leaching concerns are not too high at this point since our final nitrogen applications have not been made.  There always seems to be some concern for light sandy soils with the low CEC for holding nutrients as well as maintaining pH.  These fields do not hold much water so they are very droughty, and at the same time when large amounts of water come, they get washed out.  When we apply all the potassium and sulfur at planting, any leaching rains create concerns.  This common situation has us implementing strategies that include potassium applications after crop emergence or in topdress.  This current weather event has me thinking we need to think through sulfur and potassium with our layby nitrogen trip on these super light fields.  The majority of our land has more loam or organic matter and does not have potassium  leaching issues.  These more productive fields will not need potash in the topdress as long as the soil test was already followed.



Rainfall moving in Thursday evening is expected to deliver between 1 to 2 inches through the region.  Some communities will be in the path of some heavier thunder storms that could bring rainfall totals closer to 3 inches locally.  Through the weekend into early next week, we could see several rain events delivering a quarter inch or so each day.  Needless to say, field work in agriculture is going to come to a halt for several days.  It leads me towards anticipating where our cotton crop might be once this system clears out and also what we might need to plan for.  One of the observations I have already made is that the cotton that was planted in May is all at about the same stage ranging from 2 to 4 true leaves.  Then June 1 planted cotton is only about a week or so behind being at the cotyledon to one true leaf stage.  A week from now, all cotton will add about 2 true leaves.  

When we can go again, we are going to continue facing weed control as the top priority followed by fertilizer applications.  By the calendar, we normally have more done by this point, but we won’t be behind.  I would say the earliest cotton will not bloom until July 15th and it will be closer to the 20th of July before we see cotton blooms easily.  So we have time.  

With the potential loss of dicamba, we might have to rely on Liberty a little harder and this product needs to be applied to small weeds.  The weed control issues will have to take priority over fertilizer in order to catch the weeds before they get too big.


For Nitrogen. I usually recommend targeting the timing of single sidedress applications to occur between the 6 and 9 leaf stage for a happy medium.  That also correlates to being able to find a few small squares and a canopy around 12 inches tall with a range of 8 to 20 inches.  If you have low leaching concerns and high nitrogen levels at planting, then the final sidedress could be delayed a little longer.  When splitting fertilizer applications we focus on an early trip on seedling cotton prior to the 5th true leaf and a second application around 3 weeks later.  I expect after this rainfall, sandy land cotton is going to start looking hungry pretty quickly.

Hot, Humid, Moist - Herbicides will work Well

This week will offer more opportunity for field work as the chances for rainfall are lower and less frequent.  Nevertheless we will have to pay attention to pop-up afternoon thunderstorms which add the risk of wash off.  Roundup is safe after 30 minutes, but Liberty, Enlist and the Dicamba products need 4 hours for good results.  Leaf Scorch with Dual, Warrant, or Outlook is also back on the radar.  The environmental factors which include humidity, temperature, and soil moisture are all going to be high through Wednesday which creates a tender leaf, particularly in the morning.  After the sun hits that cotton for several hours, it gets tougher and we do not see as much scorch as the day progresses.  It is also more scorch when adding two other herbicides with the Dual/Outlook/Warrant compared to just one, and by themselves, scorch is low.  Leaf scorch up to 25% is cosmetic on this fast growing cotton and in a couple weeks, it will have 4 or 5 new leaves out to cover up the burn.

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