Upper Coast cotton suffers from dry conditions, pest risk

The Upper Texas coast and crops are now showing signs of drought stress Upper Coast cotton update includes pest warnings. Forecasts are promising for next few days.

Editor’s note:

Conditions changed slightly after the following release was received. According to Clyde Crumley, Texas AgriLife Integrated Pest Management specialist, the Upper Coastal Bend area of South Texas missed significant rainfall that fell on parts of Texas Wednesday.

“Nothing in my immediate area yesterday,” Crumley said. “But there  was quite a bit of activity east of Houston. Some showers are drifting in off the Gulf and there is supposed to be a good chance in the next couple of days.  We will keep hoping and praying.”

Other reports indicate that less than a half inch fell this morning in isolated spots near Port Lavaca but more is expected Friday and Saturday, according to the forecast. Nothing more than a few drops fell in Victoria and around Lake Jackson Wednesday, but forecast indicates rain might be on the way.

Barely into the month of June and soil moisture from early spring showers has vanished along the Upper Texas coast and crops are now showing signs of drought stress. Adding to producer woes, in recent days pests have been identified that threaten to complicate the season in a few coastal counties as the summer season continues to heat up.

Clyde Crumley, a Texas AgriLife Integrated Pest Management specialist and editor of the Upper Coast Crop Improvement Newsletter, reports corn and grain sorghum crops are suffering from a lack of water across much of the Upper Coast region. He says immediate rain is needed to prevent drought damage in the days and weeks ahead.

He also reports most of the region’s cotton is at the one-third grown square stage and late planted cotton is still in the pinhead square stage. Early planted cotton is beginning to bloom, but he warns if cotton doesn’t get measurable water soon it will produce fewer nodes above white flower and could result in cutout sooner.

The results were collected from cotton acres across Matagorda, Wharton and Jackson counties, with much of the late-planted cotton surveyed in the local IPM program.

In addition to needed water, Upper Coast growers are monitoring for a host of pests including bollworms, fleahoppers, aphids and recently discovered verde plant bugs that were spotted in Brazoria, Ft. Bend and Matagorda counties last week. Crumley says so far populations do not warrant treatments, but warns the pest is capable of damage ranging from square to small boll loss.

Verde plant bugs

Adult verde plant bugs are a quarter-inch long, narrow-bodied, and light green. The insect goes through several molts or instars (nymphs). Differences between verde plant bugs and cotton fleahoppers make identification between these two pests easier for producers. Verde plant bugs are generally bigger than a cotton fleahopper, with the smallest verde plant bug nymph about the size of a large cotton fleahopper nymph.

Crumley also warns cotton producers to check for bollworms, especially in non-Bt fields. No worms have been detected across the region but 4 to 6 percent of cotton plants have demonstrated damaged squares with evidence of bollworm eggs in some fields. He reminds growers with Bt cotton that worms must eat until they consume a lethal dose; he currently recommends keeping a watchful eye on egg development or increased signs of damage before taking more serious action. Treatment for bollworm eggs is not recommended, largely because of the effective control by predator insects.

Beneficial numbers of predator bugs in cotton are currently moderate to high with lady beetle adults, big eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, green lacewing eggs, and damsel bugs being found across the Upper Coast.

Cotton aphids have also been detected in the Upper Coast region. Increasing populations of aphids are continuing to be found in many of the program fields, but, with a handful of exceptions, most are below the economic threshold. But Crumley says with the noticeable recent increase in aphids, populations can and will rise quickly. If they do, he says technology in recent years has provided a number of effective chemicals to fight aphids, including Centric, Intruder, and imidacloprid (Provado and Leverage).

More recently, he says, Carbine has shown good cotton aphid activity in other parts of the Cotton Belt as well as in Texas with fair results over the past few years.

To keep up with the latest in Upper Coast crop news, subscribe to the Upper Coast Crop Improvement Newsletter by emailing your interest and e-mail address to [email protected]. The electronic version is delivered to your inbox complete with color photos.

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