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Dry Stage Approaches As Cotton Develops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When cotton growers look down, they see plants full of potential. When they look up, growers see little hope of much-needed rains arriving in the next several weeks.
"Cotton needs rain soon to help the plants grow and fill out the bolls. Without a rain, we will start seeing boll losses," said John Coccaro, Sharkey County extension agricultural agent.
"Although the crop started well with few insect problems and extremely good weather in May, we are entering a time when rainfall is rare," Coccaro said. "Most growers haven't gotten a general rain since May, and they really needed some in June to boost them through this dry spell."
Coccaro said growers are hoping they aren't seeing a repeat of 1995 when the crop fell victim to a late season drought and produced hundreds of thousands fewer bales.
Following 1995's catastrophic tobacco budworms, growers will continue to watch crops closely throughout July and August.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomologist at Mississippi State University, said many growers opted for Bt cotton varieties that are resistant to tobacco budworms and bollworms.
"Budworm numbers were high again this year in June in the hill section, but Bt cotton should reduce the risk of last year's disaster," Layton said. "Non-Bt cotton continues to have significant budworm pressure in some areas of the state."
The state's increased corn acreage is causing more bollworm problems for cotton growers. Layton said two generations matured in corn fields before they recently started moving into cotton.
"Although Bt cotton provides good control of bollworms, it won't give 100 percent control. Against high populations, enough bollworms could survive in Bt cotton and require treatment," Layton said. "We won't know how well Bt cotton will handle high populations of bollworms until this generation is completed around the first of August."
The entomologist said boll weevil numbers are down significantly. Most areas still will need spraying before the season is over.
"Bt cotton growers will not be able to ignore the need to spray for boll weevils," Layton said.
The June 1 planted acreage data reported Mississippi with 1.05 million acres of cotton, down 28 percent from 1995. Corn acreage is around 630,000 acres, up 110 percent from last year.