The first week of June, Louisiana was hit with serious rainfall. Some areas recorded 25 inches-plus. Although it didn't get the deluge the southern part of the state did, there's still a lot of water in the cotton-growing central part of the state.
“We haven't been hammered as badly as further south, but we still got our fair share of water. It's hard to get around in the fields — they're way too muddy,” says consultant Randy Machovec of Pest Management Enterprises out of Cheneyville, La.
Any kind of ground rigging is out. All spraying is being done by airplane. The problem is that pilots are backed up — perhaps a week behind in spraying.
“We're also battling a phenoxy/2,4-D type syndrome that a lot of our cotton is getting. We're not sure where it's coming from but our cotton is injured and set back. There's probably 20,000 acres, if not more, that's affected,” says Machovec, who works fields up to 40 miles south of Alexandria.
Machovec says the phenoxy drift gets on a cotton plant and mangles leaves. “Leaves shrivel to nothing. If it's serious enough, the cotton is affected very badly.”
Cotton will normally grow out of it, but won't ever fully recover. There is some yield loss but there's no way to determine what that loss will be until harvest, says Machovec.
“It started to show up about five weeks ago. It appears to be coming from the south moving north. I walked fields today that from last week to this are twice as bad.”
There's no feasible, immediate cure for the problem, says Machovec. “The number one cure is taking 2,4-D off the market. The other thing is to put a stronger limitation on when it can be put out. We already have limits, but they're going to have to be more stringent — maybe no 2,4-D spraying from the first of April through October.”
The Mississippi cotton crop — at least in the Delta — is off to a good start, says Mississippi State University cotton breeder John Creech.
“Most people around Stoneville (where Creech works at the research station) seem to have gotten their cotton planted earlier than normal. Running up and down the roads, it looks fine.”
There have been reports of some fields being sprayed for thrips. “But there hasn't been anything yet that's really unexpected.”
Plant bugs, particularly in the southern part of the Delta, have been at spraying levels, says Creech.
Also weed control has been a bit problematic, “but overall farmers are happy — some of the cotton is already blooming.”
Only in the last couple of weeks has Arkansas gotten more summer-like weather. The cotton crop has responded, turned around and is looking very good. “Most everyone I've spoken with is pleased with plant growth,” says Arkansas Extension cotton specialist Bill Robertson.
“One thing that concerns me is we're seeing a lot of plant bug injury. Maybe we shouldn't assign the blame totally to plant bugs, though. We're seeing stinkbugs out in the fields, too, so they may be just as responsible.”
Regardless, Robertson says square shed is being seen. That's something to watch, he says.
“When you get a variety that's a racehorse — like Paymaster 1218 — and can grow off quickly, early-season fruit shed is problematic. Those plants want to take off and may need to be throttled back.”
Tennessee Extension cotton specialist Paulus Shelby says some of the earlier-planted cotton in the state is pinhead squaring.
“Just riding around, it's obvious that the crop is a little uneven. Some of the fields look great and some are a little ragged. It's odd how inconsistent it is. Sometimes it's hard to explain why. You might have two fields with the same type of soil, the same variety and you expect them to look the same. But one looks better than the other. Oftentimes, the only difference might be a planting 24 to 48 hours earlier. The uneven fields should catch up, though.”
Shelby says he's yet to see or hear of any square shed like his Arkansas neighbors, “but they've got cotton that's ahead of ours. We're just now getting to that stage. I'm guessing if they're seeing that, though, we ought to be on the lookout. We've got plenty of 1218 planted, and if there's any shedding of those first squares, the plants will take off like a rocket.”
It's been a “weird” year weather-wise, says Shelby, and the cotton has been affected.
“Cotton planted May 3-6 was affected by dry ground first. Then it turned off cool when the cotton was trying to germinate and that's what made our cotton look ragged. Chilly temperatures and clouds are the main culprits, I think.”
Still, there's no reason for major concern. “There's been no real scares other than plants taking off slow.