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Articles from 2003 In May


NCC urges trade negotiators to put U.S. interests first

The comments of Bobby Greene, a farmer and ginner from Courtland, Ala., are born out of years of the Cotton Council’s experience with free trade agreements such as NAFTA, China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and other preferential trading agreements.

Greene said that the NCC agrees that increased trade with countries in the Western Hemisphere through the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA and other preferential trade agreements is "of great importance to the U.S. cotton industry."

But Greene cautioned that free trade agreements "need to be carefully constructed to ensure that farmers, workers and companies in the United States and Central America are the beneficiaries of the agreement, not entities in third party countries."

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics, Greene cited the "very strong economic link" between this nation’s cotton production and textile manufacturing sectors, saying those two sectors have much at stake in Western Hemisphere trade negotiations.

Unfortunately, consumption of cotton by U.S. textile mills has declined dramatically due to a flood of low cost cotton imports from Asia. Greene said that the U.S. cotton industry believes that increased trade in this hemisphere is one of the few options available to help combat the ever-rising tide of Asian apparel imports into the United States.

Two-way trade

Greene told the panel that trade agreements have created substantial two-way trade in textiles and apparel with NAFTA and Caribbean Basin countries, but trade between the U.S. and South American countries still is relatively small.

"Future trade agreements should seek to expand trade in cotton and cotton textiles in a manner that is beneficial to all participating countries," he said.

"The National Cotton Council supported NAFTA – and that agreement has been beneficial to our industry. Likewise, regional preferential trading arrangements with the Caribbean Basin countries and the Andean countries can be beneficial to the U.S. cotton industry if properly implemented and administered. The industry is following with great interest the negotiations for a Central America Free Trade Agreement and is working to gain a better understanding of the economic impact it can expect from a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA)."

Greene told the panel U.S. cotton welcomes a hemispheric focus to trade policy, "but is concerned that further progress toward enhanced trade is being jeopardized."

Chief among concerns the NCC has is that negotiations designed to place disciplines on domestic agricultural programs should not be undertaken within a hemispheric free trade negotiation.

"Negotiations on agricultural support programs are properly within the purview of the agricultural negotiations being carried out in the World Trade Organization," Greene said. "The United States will place its producers at an extreme disadvantage in world agricultural markets should it agree to changes in its domestic agricultural programs in order to secure free trade agreements in this hemisphere."

Use rules unfairly

Greene also expressed concern that countries in this hemisphere and around the world are increasingly using phytosanitary rules to unfairly restrict imports of agricultural commodities.

"In this hemisphere, we have most recently noticed Brazil changing phytosanitary requirements in an unpredictable fashion, threatening U.S. exports to that country," he stated. "Instead of having to respond to each new rule or edict individually, the United States should reserve the right within trade agreements to broadly withdraw trade concessions when its trading partners begin erecting barriers based on unfounded phytosanitary concerns."

Greene stressed that regional agreements must:

—Contain a consistent, workable rule-of-origin for cotton fiber and textile and apparel products that is no less restrictive than NAFTA rules of origin for these products.

—Include provisions that would establish effective rules to deal with intellectual property rights.

—Disallow preferences for products made with components from non-participating countries.

—Preserve important aspects of trade preferences already established with the Caribbean and Andean countries.

"There will be no free rides in these negotiations," he said. "There should not be any tariff preference levels (TPLs) and other exceptions that undermine the basic rule-of-origin."

In his testimony, Greene also renewed a NCC request that a separate negotiating group on textiles be established within the FTAA, and he said more needs to be done to ensure that competitive financing tools are available to U.S. exporters of yarn and fabric, and USDA’s export promotion program must be adequately funded.

e-mail:flaws@primediabusiness.com

Texas food, fiber worth $73 billion

During the four-year period, the food and fiber system accounted for 10 percent of the state's total economy, "a sizeable fraction when you consider the size and diversity of the Texas economy," said Ed Smith, associate director for agriculture and natural resources with Texas Cooperative Extension and one of the members of the study team.

The study was presented recently to the state Agriculture Policy Board, chaired by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, with members representing both the State Senate and House of Representatives.

"Even in challenging economic times, Texas agriculture is an engine of economic growth," Combs said. "This study confirms what we've always known – that our state's robust agricultural sector contributes to the economic well-being of all Texans."

Texas' food and fiber system encompasses all the economic activities related to agricultural production – the inputs purchased by farmers, production and processing, distribution and retail. Examples include machinery repair, fertilizer production, food processing and manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail distribution of products, and restaurants. Also included are economic activities that link the production of plant and animal fibers and hides to fabric, clothing and footwear.

To measure the economic impact, the study looked at the Gross State Product.

"The Gross State Product is the value added in production through the use of land, labor, capital and management resources of the state," said Gene Nelson, department head for agricultural economics at Texas A&M University.

Since 1997, overall food and fiber system contributions to the Texas economy have remained consistent despite periods of drought and low prices. From 1997 through 2000, the food and fiber system's contribution to the Gross State Product grew by 22.8 percent and the rest of the Texas economy grew by 21.9 percent.

The food and fiber system accounted for 9.7 percent ($59.3 billion) of the total economy in 1997, 9.9 percent ($63.5 billion) in 1998, 10.2 percent ($69.6 billion) in 1999 and 9.8 percent ($72.8 billion) in 2000.

Nelson said the components of the food and fiber system are "much more interrelated than in the past." The food and fiber supply chains have become more integrated and closely coordinated.

"There are important reasons for that in terms of quality control, efficient delivery of product, food safety and the ability to trace a commodity to the retailer or food service industry," Nelson said.

"The food and fiber industry is very dynamic, with hundreds of new food products being introduced monthly," he said. "That's an important source of value-added and economic activity. Consumers are interested in convenience and in nutritional qualities. Food processors are developing new products to respond to that demand."

Nelson said that trend will continue as more value is added to agricultural products produced throughout the state.

"This study recognizes the way the whole food and fiber system has evolved over time," he said. "As we look at this integrated system, it becomes an important contributor to our economy. The processing adds value to our economy, and consumers also benefit as we add convenience and more nutritional products to our food system."

The report may be viewed on the Web by clicking on http://tcebookstore.org/pubinfo.cfm?pubid=1771

Blair Fannin is a writer for the Texas A&M Extension Service.

e-mail: b-fannin@tamu.edu

Tractor tire needs may vary in no-till, conventional farming

Compaction is caused by the weight of the tractor tires pressing down on the soil. When operating tractors, farmers try to minimize compaction because it can hinder infiltration of water to crop roots and increase soil erosion and water runoff.

Thomas R. Way, an agricultural engineer with ARS's National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Ala., led the study in cooperation with Tadashi Kishimoto at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Japan. In the study, the researchers used a tractor tire equipped with six sensors on its tread to study tire pressure on tilled and no-till soils. Surprisingly, they found that the pressure was least uniform on untilled clay soils, and was actually more uniform on tilled soils.

This research is expected to help manufacturers adjust the tire contact pressure and the size of tire lugs, which are the raised bars on the tread. The lugs have considerable contact with the soil and they also can affect compaction. Changing tire pressure and size could help minimize compaction on no-till fields, an important consideration because of the increasing popularity of no-till farming.

During the study, the researchers were also surprised by the similarity of another factor called "tractive efficiency" on tilled and no-till soils. This is a measure of the efficiency with which the tire converts the power that's applied to the wheel to useful work.

A tractor's fuel efficiency increases with its tractive efficiency.

Before the study began, the researchers thought that tractor fuel efficiency would be greater on no-till soils. But the study showed that tractive efficiency was the same on tilled and no-till soils, meaning there was actually little difference in fuel efficiency.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research

agency.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Brock Online Notes

U.S. Could Ease Canadian Beef Ban Soon

The U.S. and Canadian governments may begin talks to partially lift a U.S. ban on Canadian beef in about a week if no new cases of mad cow disease are found in Canada, a Canadian official told Reuters News Service on Wednesday.

A U.S. industry source, who asked not to be identified, said the USDA is looking at several options for easing the ban on Canada. "Certainly a limited resumption of importation of, let's say, young feeder cattle or whole muscle meat...are definitely under discussion at USDA," the source said.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman, when asked by reporters about changes to the ban, said, "It is really too early to talk about that. At this point we've got to let this investigation progress."

The U.S. banned imports of all beef and cattle from Canada on May 20 after Canada confirmed that one cow from a herd in Alberta had tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Canada's government will slaughter and test more than 700 more cattle from seven quarantined farms in western Canada, as it continues to investigate the single BSE case.

The expanded diagnostic testing program for BSE will proceed, even in the wake of negative test results from more than 80 calves investigators traced from the diseased cow's last herd. One of the calves was the sick cow's offspring, government officials said.

Editors note: Richard Brock, The Corn and Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.

Spring rains down on fields; farmers adjusting management

Nobody has reported seeing one in the fields, but few would be surprised if Mother Nature didn't include the kitchen sink in the weather she has thrown at west Tennessee and southeast Missouri cotton producers this spring.

After several seasons of unusually dry weather, farmers are having a difficult time adjusting to the almost weekly deluge of rain and severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that have swept the upper Mid-South since early March:

Missouri

Even as Missouri Extension cotton specialist Bobby Phipps talked about the adverse effects of rainy weather on the progress of the Bootheel cotton crop, another round of thunderstorms were on the way. That's the way it's been almost every week of the planting season so far.

Emerged cotton has been flooded, hit with hail and besieged with seedling disease. About half of the Missouri crop had been planted by May 16, but about half of that will likely be replanted because of Rhizoctonia solani, which is thriving in the cool, wet conditions.

Last year at this time, Missouri cotton producers had planted virtually all their intended cotton acres. “We're way behind where we have been the last two years.”

Phipps says cotton producers who can't get planted until after the first of June “might be better off planting soybeans. The last two years, we had a real warm season, and last year, we had 400 more DD-60s than normal. We had the worst crop ever on June 1, and we came back with the second best ever. You can always end up with a terrific crop, so don't get too discouraged at this point.”

On the other hand, “we could have a cooler than average year,” he said.

One piece of good news is that thrips pressure has been reduced so far this year, noted Phipps, musing that the insects might have drowned in all the rain. “Maybe they didn't know how to swim, but I'm sure they're going to be out in force when it dries out.”

Rising costs are concerning many Bootheel growers, especially seed costs. About half of Missouri's cotton acreage is being planted to Bt cotton this year, compared to 5 percent to 10 percent in 2002.

“After we had so many tobacco budworms last year, we're going to more Bt, but the engineered seed is so expensive,” says Phipps. “Our growers are dropping their seeding rates.”

Planting delays have put the crop about 10 days behind at the time of this writing (mid-May).

“Growers should keep the thrips off and pamper the plant,” Phipps advises. “When Aug. 15 comes, pull the water off and force it to mature so they can harvest at a normal date. Don't count on any late cotton. If you get caught in a rain like the growers did south of us last fall, you pay the price.”

There are some inexpensive things producers can do to improve quality in their cotton crops, according to Phipps.

“Irrigate the crop to improve staple length, which in turn will help micronaire and yield.

“If you do a good job of defoliation, you can keep the trash out. If you use the Lewis method of defoliation timing, you can keep the mike down if it looks like it's going to be high.

Tennessee

“You name it.” These three words best describe the planting season in west Tennessee so far this spring.

“We've had a little bit of everything,” said Craig Massey, Extension area specialist with the University of Tennessee. “We're still trying to plant cotton, we have cotton coming up dying, cotton that has been washed over and crusted over due to the river overflow. We're replanting cotton, and we have some cotton that looks good and is getting sprayed for thrips.”

Fortunately, most of the intended cotton acres for west Tennessee were still in the bag when severe weather, including tornadoes, struck the region the first week of May.

One reason, “Many cotton producers backed off planting early this year because the later planted cotton last year had a better yield and a better grade,” Massey said.

The southern growing part of the state was about 45 percent planted by mid-May, compared to about 25 percent for the northern region.

The spread-out planting progress created situations where growers were spraying some Roundup Ready cotton and waiting on fields to dry up so they could plant cotton in others.

The recommended planting window for west Tennessee is April 20 to May 10, noted Chism Craig, University of Tennessee Extension cotton specialist. “We can make a good crop if we get planted by May 15 or May 20. We don't want to go much past that.”

If you are delayed and don't get cotton planted until the May 25 to June 1, “then you need to start thinking about real aggressive earliness management,” Craig added.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com.

Marked shift in cotton: Once-secondary pests move to fore

Since the arrival of Bt technology and boll weevil eradication, there has been a marked shift in the spectrum of pests seen in cotton fields, say Extension entomologists in both Louisiana and Arkansas.

“It's kind of hard to separate the amount of impact of Bt and boll weevil eradication since they've come on the scene at essentially the same time,” says Ralph Bagwell, LSU AgCenter entomologist. “Where we are today is a function of both, I think.”

In the past, Louisiana's primary cotton pests were boll weevils and tobacco budworms. Now, with eradication eliminating boll weevils and Bt technology taking care of tobacco budworms and, to an extent, bollworms, other cotton insect pests are rearing their ugly heads.

“Louisiana has been planting about 80 percent to 85 percent of the total cotton crop is in a Bt variety,” says Bagwell. “So these pests that we used to not be as worried about have come to the forefront.”

One such pest, surprisingly, is the bollworm. Through some of the difficulties in finding the insects and adjusting thresholds, “we've had to put a bit more emphasis on timing and new scouting procedures,” says Bagwell.

“Our thresholds are a bit different than in the past. Before, we suggested concentrating on the terminal area of the plant. Now, what we recommend in scouting pre-bloom Bt cotton, is sampling squares and treating when you get around 5 percent damaged squares with live larva present. I've never actually seen that occur in Bt cotton.”

More often than not, says Bagwell, scouts see an infestation that takes place after first bloom. At that point, the Extension Service recommends a sampling procedure that's based on evaluating multiples of fruiting forms — be it squares, blooms or bolls on a plant.

“Or we recommend treating if there is 2 or 3 percent live larva found on fruiting forms. My preference in scouting is to actually go back and look at white blooms. If I find enough larvae inside the blooms, it's time to treat.

“Others prefer to concentrate on looking under stuck bloom tags. Either way, scouting well is important.”

For treatments, Bagwell says primary products used will be pyrethroids.

“Pyrethroids remain the most effective means of controlling bollworms regardless of whether the cotton is Bt or otherwise. Pyrethroids are very efficacious, are fast acting and growers are confident using them.

“Almost all pyrethroids are very effective on bollworms.”

When you remove a pest from the scene, something will take its place.

That doesn't mean what shows up is as bad as its predecessor, but Bagwell has seen tarnished plant bugs move up the “major pest list.”

Another pest Louisiana growers are seeing more of is stinkbugs.

“There has been a really big stinkbug increase. Prior to eradication and Bt cotton, stinkbug infestations were hard to find in cotton fields. Now, a stinkbug infestation is fairly common.” Fall armyworms are also showing more vigor.

“These are all insects that have populations that tend to flourish in lower spray environments like we have today,” says Bagwell. “In the past, the spectrum of activity with the insecticides we used took care of a lot of primary pests but they also knocked back the secondary pests. Stinkbugs and plant bugs are excellent examples of this.

“In the 1980s and early 1990s, the multiple shots of pyrethroids put out for bollworm and tobacco budworm were giving us excellent control of fall armyworms and other pests. We just didn't recognize that fact at the time.”

On beet armyworms, newer labeled products are the ones most used, says Bagwell. Tracer is probably first in line followed by Intrepid, Denim — “assuming it's available for use (through a Section 18 or Section 3 registration)” — or Steward.

For fall armyworms, there's not a big advantage of these newer materials over just a regular pyrethroid, says Bagwell. Generally, by the time scouts find an infestation of fall armyworms, it's going to be rather hard to knock them back.

“It's hard to gain control of fall armyworms. More often than not, most insecticides will only control 50 percent of the population. Lately, producers have moved towards tank-mixes to control fall armyworms — something like a pyrethroid and Intrepid.”

On stinkbugs, in Louisiana producers see a mix of green, southern greens and browns. It could be a mix as balanced as 50 percent browns and 50 percent greens.

“There are a lot of brown stinkbugs down here. Unfortunately, because browns are so hard to control, that really limits the insecticides we're able to use for stinkbug control. To deal with browns, we usually employ methyl parathion, Orthene or Bidrin,” says Bagwell.

Arkansas is also seeing an increase in plant bugs and stinkbugs “that we didn't have big problems with before,” says Glen Studebaker, Arkansas Extension entomologist. “I think that's not just due to Bt cotton, but also Roundup Ready crops.”

Why?

“Because often producers wait a bit longer to control weeds and that allows pest populations to build up more than normal,” says Studebaker. “I've seen situations where the pests — especially plant bugs — have come off weeds onto cotton after the Roundup applications.

“Also with the Bt cotton and boll weevil eradication, we're seeing these secondary pests moving into primary status. These pests have always been around but since we're not spraying early like we used to, their numbers are able to rise unmolested. Stinkbugs are particularly problematic lately. We used to rarely see stinkbug troubles.”

On plant bugs, Studebaker says Arkansas producers often use Centric, Trimax and Intruder. Producers “really lean” towards those products if there are also aphids in the pest mix.

“But we also still see pretty good control using Orthene and Bidrin.”

Last year, Studebaker saw mostly green stinkbugs and the year before, “we had mostly browns. It seems to vary yearly probably due to what the weed host is early and how populations build. With brown stinkbugs, we usually go with Orthene and Bidrin.

“Organophosphates seem to do a better job with browns. With green stinkbugs, pyrethroids do a good job.”

Arkansas had a fairly good run of both bollworms and tobacco budworms last year — particularly in the northeast part of the state. Studebaker wonders if there will be a repeat this year.

“We've had some traps out catching fairly high numbers of budworms. It's hard to know if that will translate to problems later in the season. I am concerned about the trap catches being high, though.

“And not everyone is planting Bt cotton around (the northeast). There are plenty of growers going all conventional cotton. Since we had a bad situation last year, a lot of producers were geared up to plant Bt last fall. But then we got a cold winter and there was a lot of thinking that the cold dropped budworm numbers. So some producers went away from their Bt plans. I don't think the winter affected budworm numbers too much because of the trap numbers we're seeing even though there's not a lot of cotton out yet.”

Any changes to the Arkansas pest scouting guidelines or thresholds?

“The main changes have been in the Bt/Bollgard cotton,” says Studebaker. “We still recommend scouting but we don't treat on eggs. We have tweaked guidelines trying to get scouts — particularly when flights come through — to not just scout terminals but to look at bolls. We had a little of that last year. After a few years of this new technology, scouts are doing better now — looking at blooms and lower on the plant.”

Scouting stinkbugs has also been refined. “We like to see a good number of bolls sampled — 25 to 50 at least. And we'll not just look on the outside but we'll cut the boll open and see if there's any damage to the seed.

“We treat on 20 percent damage or one per 6 row feet.”

How about resistant management strategies? “We still recommend staying away from early season pyrethroid sprays on conventional cotton,” says Studebaker. “We also lean towards the new chemistries — Tracer and Denim and others — for bollworms. Tracer is a little weaker on bollworms.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com.

Monsanto names Grant president, CEO

Grant, who was also elected to the biotechnology firm’s board of directors, has served as its chief operating officer for the past three years. His selection followed a five-month search conducted by the global executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

“Hugh Grant has been an integral part of Monsanto’s strategic transition from a chemistry-based company to a company based largely on seeds and biotechnology traits,” said Monsanto Chairman Frank AtLee, who made the announcement late yesterday afternoon.

“Hugh’s strong operational background, coupled with his keen knowledge of the business and his ability to earn the trust of a wide range of stakeholders in challenging situations, made him the board’s choice to lead Monsanto going forward.”

“We’re at an important crossroads for our business,” Grant said. “Agricultural biotechnology and genomics have great potential, and Monsanto remains at the forefront of these technologies. However, we will continue to balance this longer-term potential by maintaining our cautiously optimistic approach as we focus on delivering near-term results.

“We are continually looking for ways to create longer-term value for our shareowners, our customers, and our employees,” Grant said. “The next three-to-five years are especially important to our company as we continue on our journey of becoming the high-tech solutions provider to farmers, agricultural retailers and distributors, grain handlers, food processors, food companies, and all those interested in agriculture around the globe.”

AtLee said Monsanto was fortunate to have a highly qualified candidate within the company. “Even so, the board of directors agreed that we had the responsibility to interview external candidates. Several excellent and qualified candidates were identified.

“But in the end, our conclusion is that Hugh Grant is extremely qualified and the best person for this job. He has done an exceptional job of building trust internally and externally during a challenging period for Monsanto.”

Grant, a native of Scotland, joined Monsanto in 1981 as a product development representative and spent the first 10 years of his career with Monsanto’s agricultural business in a variety of European sales, product development and management responsibilities.

In 1991, he relocated to St. Louis as global strategy director of the agriculture division and was responsible for global management of the Roundup herbicide franchise. In 1995, he was named Monsanto’s managing director for the Asia-Pacific region, where he had responsibility for the company’s agriculture, nutrition and pharmaceutical business in Southeast Asia.

He was named co-president of the company’s agriculture division in 1998, a position in which he jointly oversaw global business operations and led the business and product strategy. As the co-president, he reported to the president of Monsanto and was responsible for the operational and commercial performance of all agriculture division business units and brands worldwide.

Since 2000, Grant has served as the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer with overall responsibility for leading the operations and performance of the commercial seed, chemistry and biotechnology traits business inclusive of sales and marketing, information technology, distribution and manufacturing worldwide.

AtLee, who served as interim president and CEO since December, will continue to serve as chairman of the board of the company.

The company also reconfirmed its full-year 2003 earnings per share guidance in the range of $1.25 to $1.40, and its second-quarter 2003 EPS guidance in the range of $0.91 to $1.05. The full-year EPS guidance excludes a 5-cent per share cumulative effect of adopting the asset retirement obligations accounting standard.

Management also reiterated its expectation of generating free cash flow in 2003 in the range of $350 million to $400 million. Management anticipates cash from operating activities will be in the range of $530 million to $560 million, and that cash used in investing activities will be in the range of $160 million to $180 million.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Louisiana corn, grain sorghum in need of water

The big story with Louisiana corn thus far is lack of water, says David Lanclos. Producers had optimum planting conditions, although a lot of the crop was planted a bit late. But since planting there's been a long span of time without rain. As a result, “a lot of our earlier corn has been in a moisture-stressed situation until a couple of days ago,” says Lanclos, Louisiana AgCenter soybean, corn and grain sorghum specialist.

Lanclos has had a lot of reports in central Louisiana regarding chinch bugs.

“We've had some corn hit hard by the pest and, coupled with drought stress, it was too much for some fields to handle. Those fields, in my opinion, probably need to be disked under. There aren't thousands of acres of this sorry-looking corn, but it's enough to be a bother.”

Louisiana grain sorghum acreage is tough to monitor in terms of percent planted, he says.

“Talking to folks in parishes that traditionally plant more acres of sorghum — Catahoula, Concordia and a couple others — they're saying they still plan on planting the crop. By the end of this week, they should be planting fast and furious. The big story again has been drought stress but the sorghum has been handling lack of moisture better than corn.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com.

Buried under water: Rain leaves Arkansas cotton stressed

Bill Robertson says Arkansas is wet, muddy and full of stressed cotton. “There are some areas that got a whole lot of rain — and when I say ‘a whole lot’ I mean fields that are completely under water,” says Robertson. “Then there are areas that only recently got much-needed moisture. For the most part, though, the state is buried under water.”

Robertson, Arkansas Extension cotton specialist, says it's safe to say that the northeast part of the state has been the hardest hit with wet weather.

“From what I'm hearing, Crittenden County, Mississippi County, Poinsett County (where a falling tree hit the county Extension office) and a couple others are in bad shape. Trees are down all over the place, ditches are flooded — it's just a major mess.”

After the latest major weather system on Saturday night (May 17), “you could drive around areas of northeast Arkansas that looked like one big lake,” says Robertson.

“I talked to a farmer around Manila (in northeast Arkansas' Mississippi County) just today. He said a lot of his cotton is up and while the ground is very wet, there isn't a lot of standing water. Seedling disease has thinned his stand some but he's pretty sure the emerged cotton will be okay provided no new storm systems hit.

“The cotton he's worried about was planted just prior to all this rain. He says it's likely all that acreage will have to be replanted.”

There is plenty of seedling disease right now. But Robertson says there's nothing producers can do.

“The conditions right now are almost ideal for seedling disease. A few farmers I've talked to say their stands are thinning out. But I'm still not hearing anyone say they've lost a field to seedling disease.”

One concern is the state is going to be planted to “well over” 80 percent Roundup Ready cotton. Producers are counting on having two shots of Roundup over the top.

“But there are some fields I have to push the weeds back to see cotton plants. Farmers are struggling to get Roundup out.”

And when they do get Roundup or other herbicides out, producers often return to find a crop that looks worse for the wear. While the spotting of plants is probably cosmetic, producers unprepared for the sight are calling Extension personnel with numerous queries.

“Cliff Coker (Arkansas Extension plant pathologist) and I were just talking about what all these stresses we're putting on our cotton crop is really doing. Today, Cliff said he saw fields around McGehee like I saw in Pine Bluff — I think this cotton splotching is being seen everywhere,” says Ken Smith, Arkansas Extension weed scientist.

“When cotton is stressed and we come in and add another stress to it — and herbicides are a stress — the crop can't help but be affected,” says Smith.

The crop has to metabolize herbicides and that takes energy to accomplish — energy the plants simply don't have right now. As a result, Smith and colleagues are seeing a lot of sick cotton.

“And when this water finally recedes, we're going to see even more sick cotton. I think the reason is that herbicides are just more active under these conditions: cloudy, wet weather and the leaves don't have a good cuticle or wax layer. I doubt we'll ever see a time when herbicides will work as well as they are right now — whether on targeted weeds or otherwise.”

Smith said he just saw a morning glory plant with a 3-foot runner that was “fried” with glyphosate.

“That's unheard of. We aren't supposed to be able to kill morningglories that big with glyphosate. But that'll give you some indication how well herbicides are working right now,” he noted.

“Our main fear is we've got weeds and cotton coming on at the same time,” says Smith. “We're afraid much of the cotton will get to 4-leaf stage before producers can get back into the field. If that happens, we won't be able to spray like we want.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com.

Newly emerging pests: Reduced sprays open door to insects

Newly emerging insect pests in the Mid-South are giving new meaning to the phrase “Nature abhors a vacuum.” The rapid adoption of transgenic cotton varieties combined with a successful boll weevil eradication program, have allowed many growers the luxury of spraying fewer insecticides. Unfortunately, today's more environmentally friendly production practices also may be enabling aphid, plant bug and stinkbug populations to flourish in the Delta's cotton fields.

The low insecticide regimes that often go hand-in-hand with transgenic varieties and boll weevil eradication can flair the populations of secondary insects, says Aubrey Harris, a Mississippi State University entomologist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Miss.

“The aggravating thing is that tarnished plant bugs and stinkbugs normally would be considered occasional pests, because they are not adequately controlled by natural enemies,” Harris says. “Spraying insecticides actually would help control these insects. Insecticide treatments targeted for the control of other pests were killing them before growers reduced treatments for worms and weevils.

“We truly could have very low insecticide use without stinkbugs and plant bugs.”

While plant bugs often made early-season appearances in many cotton fields, they generally were not considered a season-long pest. Because the insecticides that were killing them are not being used as much anymore — plus the fact that tarnished plant bugs have developed resistance to pyrethroids — grower opportunities to fully practice integrated pest management have been limited.

Scouting guidelines for plant bugs recommend that before cotton is squaring, growers should walk either along or across rows and scout visually for the presence of the insects. Adults are the primary concern at this time. Record counts as the average number of plant bugs per 10 feet of row.

After squaring, adult plant bugs are best quantified by using a 15-inch diameter sweep net. Take several 25-sweep samples per field, and record results as average number of plant bugs per 100 sweeps.

“Because adult plant bugs are very mobile and easily flushed, it is important to space sweeps widely apart and move quickly down the row while sweeping,” advises the Mississippi State University insect cotton guidelines.

Plant bug nymphs can be sampled using a 3-foot ground cloth spread between two adjacent rows, vigorously beating plants over the cloth, and counting the number of nymphs that are dislodged onto the cloth. “Take several such samples per field, and record counts as the average number of plant bugs per 6 feet of row. During the period between square initiation and early bloom it is also important to monitor percent square retention,” Harris says.

Growers can conduct insect counts by examining 100 potential first and/or second position square sites and counting the number of missing squares, as indicated by the presence of an abscission scar. On plants with more than five fruiting branches, limit counts to potential fruiting positions on the five uppermost fruiting branches.

Stinkbugs were being controlled coincidentally by insecticide treatments targeted for other pests, says Harris. “But they are emerging as a significant pest under the current insect management systems of lower insecticide use for bollworm and tobacco budworm, and no insecticide use evolving for weevils. As a result, stinkbugs are becoming elevated in their importance as a cotton pest.”

The stinkbug is an “opportunistic” type of insect, explains Harris, and fewer insecticide applications have created an opening for it to move into cotton. Stinkbugs prefer other plants, including soybeans, he says. But when soybeans get past the stage desirable for stinkbugs, they move into cotton, damaging young bolls.

“There has been some difficulty in coming to terms with the threshold for stinkbugs, probably because of problems with how to scout them,” says Harris. “The damage they cause, however, is something that's not going to fly away and is more easily observed. Treatments can be economical because stinkbugs can penetrate fairly mature bolls. Look for scarring inside the bolls as a sign of stinkbug damage.”

In Alabama, stinkbug thresholds were developed from scratch, says Ron Smith, Auburn University Extension entomologist.

“We started with a certain number of stinkbugs per row feet. But, eventually we saw that you can't catch stinkbugs in waist-high cotton. Now we've identified the exact size of the boll they prefer. We slice those bolls and look for internal damage — about a quarter-size in diameter.”

Scouting techniques, says Smith, have been modified to meet the demands of sporadic and emerging insect pests. “We've modified our thresholds for when growers should treat for certain pests,” he says.

Secondary cotton pests, like aphids, normally would be controlled by natural enemies if it weren't for insecticides controlling those natural enemies, says Harris. “Aphids have a lot of natural enemies that would normally reduce their populations. The less you spray cotton, the less likely aphid populations will explode.”

When scouting for aphids, entomologists stress the importance of noting any additional stress factors that may be affecting the crop. In addition, growers need to be aware of predators, parasites, and pathogens that may be affecting the aphid population.

Growers can scout for aphids by randomly selecting fully expanded leaves, and counting the number of aphids present. Record counts as the average number of aphids per leaf. Also, note the general distribution of the aphid infestations within the field and the degree of honeydew present.

Cotton scouting has evolved as the number and type of insects has evolved. It used to be that insect scouts could focus on one or two pests, like bollworms and weevils. Now, however, there may be 15 different potentially economically damaging pests lurking in your cotton field.

“Rather than having broad-spectrum, dominant insect pests requiring multiple pesticide applications, growers are now confronted with sporadic pests,” Smith says. “We're into a stage where we do more monitoring than treating.”


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.