Some of our early planted cotton soon will be producing the first square and thus enter a growing stage of critical importance as yield potential is being determined.

This time of development for the cotton plant is critical, as by the time the cotton plant begins to bloom, 80 percent to 90 percent of crop to be harvested is on the plant.

Currently our cotton is growing through a stage in which the roots grow faster than the plant parts above ground. A young taproot may extend 6 inches into the soil by the time the first true leaf is visible. Soon after the first true leaf appears the roots begin developing an extensive lateral system.

Roots grow where moisture, oxygen and temperature are optimum. As these three factors decline, root growth slows and the plant takes up less water and nutrients. This would explain why recent wet conditions in some parts of the county stressed the young cotton plants as too much water starved the plant of oxygen.

Before the cotton plant reaches the reproductive stage the primary insect pests include the thrips and the aphid complexes. Recent research has shown that cotton is extremely susceptible to thrips damage before squaring. By the time producers notice damage (crinkled leaves, leaf margins curling upwards), the economic damage has been done.

In general, weed control is critical during the first six weeks of the season. Although having a few weeds in a field generally has little effect on production and harvesting, many weeds can cause severe problems. Research has shown that if weed competition ends at four weeks, little yield is lost; however, beyond that 4-week time frame, competition from weeds begin to reduce cotton yields.

To address critical management issues during this time of crop development, the Gulf Coast Cotton Management Workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 12, 2010, with the focus on “First Square to First Bloom.” The workshop will be held at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at 10345, State Hwy 44, just west of the Corpus Christi Airport.

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m., followed by the program at 8:30 a.m. and will conclude by 11:30 a.m. Workshop topics and speakers will include the following; Overview and Current Crop Conditions by Dr. Juan Landivar, Resident Director of the Research Center; Physiology of Cotton Plant by Dr. Carlos Fernandez, AgriLife Research Scientist; Managing Fertility, Plant Height, and Square Retention, by Dr. Dan Fromme, Extension Agronomist; Insect Management by Dr. Roy Parker, Extension Entomologist and Dr. Mike Brewer, AgriLife Research Entomologist; and Using Computer Online Tools to Help Manage Crop by Jeffrey Stapper, County Extension Agent - Nueces County, and Carlos Fernandez.

Participants in the workshop will be awarded CEUs toward their Pesticide Applicator and Certified Crop Advisor Licenses. This workshop is one of a series scheduled throughout the growing season. The workshop is being sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas AgriLife Research. More details are available from the Nueces County Extension Office at 361-767-5223.