What is in this article?:
- Peanuts promising, cotton ÔÇťall over the board,ÔÇŁ in Gaines County, Texas
- Cotton complications
A few timely rainfall events over the summer helped Gaines County farmers make the best of what started out as a very dry summer. Peanuts “seem to be one of the best crops in years,” says IPM specialist Manda Anderson. “Cotton is all over the board.”
MANDA ANDERSON examines a cotton leaf, looking for kurtomathrips, a tiny pest that thrives on drought-stressed cotton.
She says cotton also has some issues other than kurtomathrips. Root-knot nematode is one. “I’ve seen them in a lot of cotton fields, but we have technology to manage them. The question is whether farmers will adopt it. I don’t know.”
Several cottonseed companies offer nematode-tolerant varieties and at the morning field day Deltapine officials announced two more that should be available for 2014.
“Varieties are a key,” Anderson says, “especially in the sandy soils we have here.” She’s not certain of the overall loss cotton farmers suffer from nematode infestation, but she’s seen a difference of as much as 400 pounds per acre with a tolerant variety compared to a susceptible one.
Rotation is another part of the puzzle and the decline in peanut acreage has affected rotation options. “People seem to forget why they need to rotate,” she says.
Controlling nematodes also helps farmers manage thrips, which seem to be attracted by stressed cotton.
Other pests, including “a flush of bollworms in non-Bt cotton,” caused some concern. “Other than that, insect pressure has been light. We are seeing some aphids and the kurtomathrips but not at treatable levels.”
Cotton potential is directly proportional to the amount of rainfall received, the availability of irrigation water and a cover crop, Anderson says.
“Cotton that survived the harsh conditions early and then caught good rains in June and July may make a good crop. With a little more water and a cover crop, the better it looks,” she adds.
Cover crops made a big difference. “The wind never stopped,” setting up young plants for significant damage without cover crop residue to protect them. “A lot of fields without a cover crop were knocked back. It’s a fine line for farmers to determine whether to water wheat in the fall to get residue or to save all their water for cotton season. But it is hard to make a crop without that cover.”
The issue is complicated by a water table that continues to decline.
Anderson says weeds have also been an issue this year, partly due to Mother Nature and a drought that prevented pre-emergence herbicides from activating properly, but some farmers did not apply those herbicides and continue to rely on Roundup-only to control weed pressure.
“We have to use products other than Roundup,” she says.