Rains create harvest, pest control problems for central Texas farms

Persistent rains for more than three weeks kept Texas Blacklands farmers out of cotton, corn and grain sorghum fields and delayed wheat harvest far beyond normal cutting dates.

As skies cleared in mid-July, growers began to play catch up with fleahoppers in cotton, grasshoppers in corn and heavy weed pressure in all row crops. They also took advantage of any break in the weather to harvest what will be a disappointing wheat crop.

“Fleahoppers have been the most prevalent pest in cotton,” says Glen Moore integrated pest management specialist in Waxahachie. Moore works both Ellis and Navarre Counties.

“Weather delayed timely insecticide applications for fleahoppers and we lost a good bit of small fruit during the consistent wet weather,” he says.

For three weeks or more in June and July farmers could do nothing in the fields. “When we got some open days cotton farmers concentrated on applying plant growth regulators. That’s our biggest concern in cotton now.”

Moore says some farmers have applied 30 to 40 ounces of Pix already and may add another 8 next week. “It’s unusual for us to apply that much Pix,” he says. “We’re just beginning to see the plants slow down. But some stalks are from waist high to mid-chest high already.”

He says the Boll Weevil Eradication Program also faced weather delays. “In some cases, they couldn’t check traps because they couldn’t get to them,” he says. “The Foundation switched to spray applications based on field history and then started spraying all the cotton. They did not want to lose ground. The program has made a lot of progress in its second full season. Trap catches are way down and punctured square numbers are running from zero to 5 percent. That’s light.”

Moore says cotton acreage in Ellis and Navarre Counties is down about 40 percent from last year.”

Grain sorghum took a good chunk of that acreage. “We have a lot of maize this year,” Moore says. Rain also delayed some insecticide treatments on sorghum. “We had sorghum midge coming on around the first of July but most of the crop had bloomed by then. We’re more concerned about head worms and stinkbugs. We’ve sprayed a lot for those.

“We’re beginning to see grasshoppers in corn fields, also in grain sorghum and other crops. Stink bugs are showing up in soybeans.”

Moore says farmers have sprayed soybeans for stinkbugs. “But the threshold is low, about one bug per foot of row.”

He says bean acreage is also down, to about 5,000 acres in Ellis County.

“We’ve seen tremendous weed pressure, complicated by the extended period of rain. We couldn’t do anything about weeds for a long time. Now, a lot of cotton farmers are running hooded sprayers to clean up the fields.”

He says pigweed tops the list of bad weeds, followed by morningglory, Texas panicum, Johnsongrass and occasionally sunflowers.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen weed pressure this bad,” he says. “But we’ve had 38 inches of rain in two or three months. Annual rainfall normally totals 32 inches so we expect more problems with weeds.”

Moore says farmers should watch for flares of beet armyworm, fall armyworm and stink bugs. “We sometimes see increased numbers of secondary pests with eradication treatments,” he says.

In spite of the unusually heavy rains, Moore says most crops in the area are doing well. “Overall, we’re in pretty good shape with corn, sorghum and cotton. We have some injury because of standing water and bottomland has been difficult all season. Some was replanted and some was lost.

“Our biggest disappointment is the wheat crop. It offered so much potential and we also had a good price.”

He says wheat farmers who anticipated yields of 50 to 60 bushels per acre likely will make 20 to 30 and most of that will be docked because of sprouting and moisture problems.

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