A late crop and weather adversities are creating problems for the few Mississippi growers who opted to plant cotton this year.
“Many growers are telling us this has been the toughest spring weather-wise in 30 to 40 years,” says Darrin Dodds, Mississippi State University Extension cotton specialist. “We had almost a two-month planting window, from April 22 on the early end to June 10-14 on the late end,” he said at the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau’s Cotton Policy Committee.
“Some of the cotton that went in early has had root problems,” Dodds says, “and growers will have to contend with that for the rest of the season.
“We’re getting calls every day about resistant weeds. Every year, we feel we have a handle on horseweed control, but then we’re hit with questions about it for months on end.
“We’re also getting a lot of calls about Italian ryegrass. About all we can say is, ‘Sorry — you can make two applications of very expensive chemical, but you still may not get control.’”
There have been some problems with pigweeds in the northwest Delta, Dodds says.
“Unfortunately, a lot of growers think because they get 99 percent control, they’re OK. All it takes is one or two plants to produce 400,000 to 500,000 seeds, and then you’ve got pigweed everywhere.
“We’ve got cotton all the way from 6-8 nodes to 16-18 nodes. Some of it’s already cutting out, which scares me to death. Most of that’s dryland, and it’s really suffering.”
Some of the latest figures indicate 285,000 acres of cotton in Mississippi this year, Dodds says. “We’re hoping this year will be the bottom and that acres will start climbing back up in the years ahead.”
Now that the boll weevil has been officially eradicated in Mississippi, major pest problems are plant bugs and spider mites, says Angus Catchot, Mississippi State University Extension professor of entomology and plant pathology, who also spoke at the meeting.
“Some growers, particularly in the Delta, have made four to five applications for plant bugs going into bloom, and the older cotton has a lot of nymphs showing up in it.
“Spider mites have been a persistent problem for the last four to five years, and they don’t seem to be easing up. I’m afraid they may be driving some people out of cotton.”
But there is “some light at the end of the tunnel,” Catchot says. “There are a couple of experimental products that look good for plant bug control — the first we’ve seen in a long, long time.”
A “silver lining” for growers this year is that generic chemicals for spider mite treatments are about half what they were last year, $8 per acre compared to $16, “so there’s no reason not to treat on a more timely basis.”
There has recently been a big bollworm flight in Louisiana, and some in Arkansas, Catchot says, “and we’re seeing extremely high moth numbers in some fields now as well. They tend to move north, so growers need to be watching fields carefully.”
Several growers have had to spray for aphids across the state, he says.
“We’re now getting reports from consultants that the aphid fungus is showing up in isolated spots in Grenada, Webster, and other hill counties. Before making an application for aphids, growers should check with their local Extension agent to see if there are reports of the aphid fungus near them.”