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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Early Season Thrips

          Thrips pressure in the area is higher than I have seen in several years and they are rapidly moving into cotton as it establishes.  At this early stage, predators are a little slow in following the cotton migration. 

Adult thrips are straw colored insects 1/12 to 1/16 inch long.  The wings are fringed and held flat directly over the body when at rest.  Immature thrips look somewhat similar to the adult but have no wings and are somewhat lighter in color.  All thrips have rasping mouthparts which include a single mandible which the thrips uses to scrape and jab host plant tissue.  The thrips then consume the resulting ‘bleeding’ of plant juices.  Thrips often feed in the more sheltered and tender terminal or growing point of the cotton plant requiring very close inspections to acquire an accurate population count.  The ensuing damage causes scaring and malformation of the young leaves at a time when plants need healthy leaves for energy and a good start.  In the worst cases heavy and un-checked thrips damage can become severe enough to damage the terminal and delay squaring for several weeks. 

            Economic threshold (ET) for thrips remains at one thrips per true leaf stage, but there are multiple factors to consider in conjunction with that threshold.  The presence or absence of thrips larva should represent the primary additional consideration.  The presence of thrips larva indicates that the thrips are reproducing in that field and will be there causing damage for some time.  Some other factors include the recognition of light thrips damage, plant stage, and predator populations.  Thrips are one pest producers may want to consider treatments for before thrips reach ET if reproducing populations are confirmed.  Because thrips can move and reproduce so rapidly, thrips can cause serious damage faster than timely applications can be made.

Thrips pressure is progressively higher as we move north across Hale and Swisher Counties.  Our lowest thrips pressure area so far is in southwestern Hale.  Here we are still finding thrips at or above ET.  Cotton planted in dry wheat stubble that have been able to establish a stand, regardless of location, has so far shown the lowest thrips numbers.  Seed treatments and in-furrow insecticide treatments are showing good control for the dollars spent this season.  We have found little or no reproduction in these preventatively treated fields yet but, overwhelming numbers of adults are moving in causing light to moderate damage before being controlled.  I would recommend vigilance in the scouting of these fields for early thrips damage.  If producers will already be treating these fields with herbicides for weed control this week, they may want to consider adding a treatment for thrips to aid the preventative control measures.

Cotton fields with no preventative thrips control applied need to be scouted very quickly.  These fields might be at risk of developing serious and economic thrips damage much earlier than normal this year.  In many of these cases, thrips will need to be controlled as soon as possible. 

Please call or come by if I can help in any way,





Thursday, May 16, 2013

Controlling Mosquitoes Through IPM

              With spring and early summer rains hopefully coming our way soon and both large field and small flowerbed irrigations firing up, controlling mosquitoes and the threat of disease transmission that they bring is something worth taking a close look at for all of us.  From an integrated approach, mosquitoes are no different from any other targeted pest causing problems.  We need to try and implement as many varying and uniquely different control measures as we can to affectively control our enemy-pests so that they do not become a serious problem. 

For mosquitoes, many of the control measures I will be recommending are preventative in nature and should lower the overall mosquito population in your area and lessen our dependence upon chemical control alone.  We must have a plan in place to control mosquitoes before they try to ‘carry us off’ from our backyard activities or we hear reports about the alarming numbers of West Nile cases in our area hospitals.  Preventative control measures do require a proactive effort.  None of these mosquito IPM strategies I will be sharing are very time consuming, nor do they cost a tremendous amount to implement and I feel that you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

                Understanding our enemy is the first step toward sound IPM.  There are multiple and numerous species of mosquitoes that haunt our area.  All of these species of mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle.  The aquatic larval life stage of mosquitoes are referred to as wigglers.  These wigglers are harmless.  In most aquatic ecosystems, wigglers form the base of the food chain.  Even most adult mosquitoes pose no threat to humans.  It is only the female mosquito that parasitically feeds on blood, and she only does that when she is ready to lay her eggs.  These females utilize blood for a protein boost to both give them the energy for the monumental process of laying possibly hundreds of viable eggs.  When these female mosquitoes are ready for a blood-meal, they become almost super parasites with some truly amazing abilities to seek out and successfully feast upon unsuspecting victims. 

These facts usually set people to thinking about just how many mosquitoes there really are around us all spring and summer.  It can be staggering to think just how bad mosquitoes would be if they were full time parasites.  That fact set aside, hopefully we can make note of some weaknesses in the mosquitoes’ life cycle that we can attack. 

Mosquitoes must have water to complete their life cycle.  My first recommendation for lowering the mosquito population in your area is to deny them that water.  That is easier said than done.  Even in the midst of the current drought, we have not been mosquito free.   That is because mosquitoes do not require very much water.  In fact, some of our most dangerous disease vectoring mosquito species can complete their wiggler larval stage and be ready for adulthood in as little as a cup of water and in about five days, temperature depending.  That ability makes completely denying mosquitoes access to water impossible.  However, with vigilance we can significantly lower the mosquito population through limiting the availability of that standing water. 

                We can limit that water by doing a few little things.  Mosquitoes can easily reproduce in things we often overlook.  A child’s toy left unattended in the back yard that catches rain or yard sprinkler water, a pet’s outdoor drinking bowl, livestock tanks, uncovered rain collection barrels, or that water holding pothole in the back alley are all viable examples of places that mosquitoes will choose to lay eggs and successfully reproduce.  In every one of these examples, we can limit mosquito reproduction.  The child’s toy can be picked up or water emptied, the pet’s drinking water can be changed every four days, livestock tanks can be stocked with predatory fish, rainwater collection barrels can be made air tight, and potholes can be filled or drained. 

                Another opportunity to lessen the mosquito population occurs when they are young adults.  Young adult mosquitoes do breathe air, but remain partial to cool, damp, and shady areas.  Locations like tall grass, weedy patches, or horticulture features that include tall plants are all prime haunts for mosquito hideouts.  By keeping the grass and weeds mowed or controlled near your house or barns should seriously limit mosquito’s access to your family and livestock.  A nifty horticulture feature in your yard that involves tall, shade offering plants can be treated with insecticides to kill mosquitoes before they move to attack.  Often cities, communities, and owners of county homes proactively treat large areas for mosquitoes.  The product Malathion is commonly used for this purpose.  While Malathion is proven to be predictably safe to humans and the environment it should be handled with respect and with adherence to safely.  If this is an option for you to treat an area for yourself, please follow the label.

                Finally we come to dealing with the female mosquitoes that are actively seeking a blood-meal.  You might have heard of some of these before but they still make good sense.  When venturing out doors, always wear a proven form of mosquito repellent.  Products containing the active ingredient DEET are all proven to repel mosquitoes.  Picaridin is a newer, differing active ingredient and shows some real potential as a mosquito repellent.  

There are several ways to limit our exposure to mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes prefer to remain inactive during hotter hours of the day.  For this reason we could avoid going outside during dawn, dusk, or night time hours during mosquito season if possible.  Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when venturing into mosquito habitats can also prevent some mosquito bites.  Making use of light traps or bug zappers, sticky traps, etc. will also nab several mosquitoes before they are able to find a blood-meal.  

Hopefully we have shared some ideas with you that will keep those mosquitoes at bay this summer for our community and families.  Please call or come by my office if I can help in any way.  Good luck,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Soil Temperatures - May 15, 2013

This should be our last soil temperature reading shared here and it is the one everyone has been waiting on.  Planters have already been rolling for the majority of this week getting cotton in the ground and rightly so.  Soil temps have been just warm enough that when the upcoming weather forecasts were considered, the conditions are considered finally advantageous for cotton seedlings.  Just in case a grower has been waiting on planting cotton until temperatures were just right, I took one reading yesterday, May 14 at 2 pm, and one this morning at 7:45 am. 


-          69°F.  Halfway, Texas (5-14).  Potential cotton / moderate moisture / plowed / pivot irrigated.

-          64°F.  Three miles north of Kress (5-15).  Potential cotton / good moisture behind irrigation / plowed / pivot irrigated. 


The 64°F degree reading was taken less than 24 hours behind a pivot application of water.  This may represent how the temperature of the water cools the soil.  In situations like this, with hot days forecasted, the soil will warm well before the ground will support a tractor.  Just a few degrees cooler and there might be some concerns.  Now most of our concerns about soil conditions and planting can return to seed bed moisture content, early season pest and weed considerations. 

Please call if I can be of assistance.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

May Wheat Assessments

                Assessing wheat for freeze damage had become a broken record for the last month.  Accumulated head, growing point, and stem damage from almost weekly damaging freezes last month has already forced a good number of intended grain fields into hay, cover, or grazing uses.  Now we should be ready to assess the latest and hopefully final freeze event for the remaining fields.  I expect many more fields over the next few weeks to be swathed or cut for ensilage as additional damage is evaluated and yield potential versus continued irrigation costs are assessed.  There is been a growing concern over next season’s wheat seed availability as a result of the damaging freeze events this spring.  Despite accumulated damage, I still feel there are some decent to good wheat fields in Hale and Swisher County but they are becoming more difficult to find. 

                Fields vary widely from location to location and there is no substitute for checking each field individually and at multiple sites.  Just as an example: This week I found several fields with 80% plus damaged heads and stems from northern Swisher.  Numerous duplicated reports confirming this finding for that area have come in.  Meanwhile, I found one field in the same area with only 30% head damage and moderate yield potential.  I have found and have reports of similar situations across both counties.  The exact circumstances around the reasons for these field differences are too numerous in possibility to mention here and are likely site specific.  Damage can also vary wildly within fields, adding some confusion to the decision process.  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension now has a wheat freeze injury update website / blog to help get producers the latest from the wheat experts.  The link to that site is here.

                Evaluating wheat’s potential grain yield and comparing it to hay before wheat is headed out is difficult at best.  For this we are forced to look at the percentage of damaged versus healthy growing points and do the best we can based on experience and field history to get a bushel per acre number and yield potential.  Dr. Calvin Trostle reminds us that, “One economic factor that may sneak up on the average ‘unexpected forage producer’ is the loss of nutrients that will be pulled off a hay field that normally would have gone back into the soil if the field had been utilized for grain.  This could be as high as 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre just for starters.”   

Once wheat heads out it becomes a little easier to evaluate potential grain yield but it remains difficult.  Producers and consultants will need to watch for healthy pollen and grain fill as these fields progress.  Wheat is self-pollenating.  By the time we see any exposed pollen, there should already be notable grain development.  Un-healthy pollen will be a dead giveaway to a very poor yielding grain field.  If a field passes the quick pollen test, evaluating a representative seed sample is the next step.  Sometimes after just a few days post pollination some seeds can be found by feel alone.  But to truly confirm the presence and health of the developing seed we should gently work open the protective seed covering to view the seed.  There can be 0 to 3 seed for each site with multiple sites per head.  Freshly pollenated and healthy seeds will be small but fairly noticeable and fine details can be viewed with a hand-lens.  Un-pollenated or missing seed sites will be absent of seed and can appear much whiter in color.  Freeze damage occurring post pollination will result in an incomplete or shrunken seed. 

Producers that must salvage some wheat seed for next season’s planting might be willing to sacrifice additional water on a moderately damaged and relatively low yielding wheat field.  Determining each field’s realistic yield potential becomes extremely important in these situations.  The sooner this determination can be made the better so as many acres as they need for grain can be set aside from swathing etc. 

Wheat pests seem fairly quiet this week.  Greenbugs and other aphid pests can still be found but look to be under-wraps from applications or the predator / parasitoid complex.  Now is the time to be scouting for fall armyworms (FAW) and cutworms.  I have not seen or heard of any reports of these Lepidopteron pests being a problem so far this season but I urge those producers and consultants staying the course to make wheat grain to remain vigilant in scouting. 

Please call if I can be of assistance.



Soil Temp Readings for May 9, 2013

We have had some warmer days recently, but that is a relative term.  Night temperatures are still dropping fairly low and we have not had a solid warming trend to pull our area soil temperatures up substantially.  I have noted this week several area potential cotton fields receiving a last dose of pre-irrigations, and unfortunately, some re-pre-irrigations to better wet the seed zone.  In these situations we can expect the soil temperature will hold at the irrigation water’s temperature for a few days longer, even when a substantial warming trend begins.  This morning I took two soil readings at 7:45 AM.

-          61°F.  Four miles north of Kress, Texas.  Potential cotton / dry topsoil, wet subsoil via recent irrigations / plowed / drip irrigated.

-          61° F.  Four miles north of Kress, Texas.  Potential cotton / moist topsoil / plowed / furrow irrigated. 


Please call if I can be of assistance.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7th Soil Temperature Measurements

This morning between 7:45 and 8:30 I took two soil temperature measurements in some area potential cotton fields.  Cool and somewhat cloudy days seem to be holding soil temps down somewhat and extending the effects of the recent cold front last week.  The area also experienced some driblets of rain last evening and night that may have aided in holding temps lower than I would have estimated this morning but did not provide much soil moisture. 

·         51°F.  Halfway Experiment Station, Halfway, Texas / Potential cotton / recently heavily irrigated and wet topsoil / plowed / furrow irrigated.

·         60°F.  Two miles southwest of Hale Center, Texas / Potential cotton / fairly dry topsoil / plowed / under pivot.

I would expect that with a few warm sunny days soil temperatures should rebound fairly quickly toward our minimum soil temp for planting cotton (68°F).  A decent chance of rain is in the forecast for this week and weekend.  Showers may prolong any warming trend, but without another major cold front expected, once soils reach a warm state, they should at least remain at or near our base acceptable soil temperatures. 

Please call if I can help,


Friday, May 3, 2013

May Freeze Soil Temperatures

Post May Freeze Soil Temperatures
May 3, 2013
                Currently producers seem to have one eye on the weather forecast, one eye on the soil thermometer, and one hand on the tractor door, ready to head to the field to plant cotton.  Soil and weather forecasts do indicate a warming tread as we exit the deep freeze one more time.  For the next week I plan to post some additional soil temps from around Hale and Swisher Counties in locations that I am working near in an effort to help anyway we can.  All of my readings are taken with a 6 inch soil temperature gage and may not be ‘weather station precise’ but is site specific and mobile. 
                Today, the first day to start that warming trend, I took one soil temperature reading.

-                    -            52°F.   At the Halfway Station.  Potential cotton ground / plowed / moderate moisture / under pivot.

Dr. Ken E. LegĂ© with Americot had a chart that appeared in PCG’s e-news.  I like the thoughts he shared and will provide a link here.

Please call if I can be of assistance. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cotton Planting Soil Temp Follow-up

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog, I took some additional soil temperature readings this morning during the ideal, early morning time frame.  Please keep in mind that this area is expecting another cold front this week, in fact the wind changed direction and intensified drastically while I was taking these readings.  The soil temperature will drop and need time to return to our recommended consistent cotton planting ideal of 68°F.  These readings were as of 7:45 AM:

-          64°F Four miles north of Kress, Texas.  Potential cotton field / plowed flat / dry topsoil / drip irrigation.

-          61°F Four miles north of Kress, Texas.  Potential cotton field / plowed with rows / recently pre-irrigated with moderately moist topsoil / furrow irrigation.