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Cotton Is On Track For Good 1999 Year
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton appears to be headed for an above average crop in 1999 as insect pressures are low and the weather is favorable for cotton production.
Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the overall crop looked very good by mid-July.
"At this point, the crop has good moisture, vegetative growth, fruit set and light insect pressure," McCarty said. "With still months before harvest when anything can happen, the potential of this year's cotton is definitely above average."
By July 11, about 97 percent of the crop was setting squares, compared to 87 percent for the end of June. This maturity level is slightly behind last year, but ahead of the five-year average of 95 percent.
The crop is setting bolls on schedule, with 61 percent blooming, compared to 55 percent for the 5-year average. Seventy-seven percent of the crop is rated good or excellent and another 17 percent rated fair.
Heat and rain have served the cotton well so far this season.
"We are still above average in heat unit accumulation, but below last year which is good," McCarty said. "Last year was a very hot year and cotton suffered some head damage."
Rains in late June and early July were perfectly timed for the cotton. Most fields across the state averaged 1.5 to 2 inches of rain, but isolated areas got more than 5 inches.
"The spread of maturity concerns me," McCarty said. "We had an eight to 10 week planting season instead of four to five weeks. However, good growing conditions have narrowed this maturity spread."
Dr. Mike Williams, Extension entomologist, said the crop is under very little insect pressure, although heavy rains flushed some boll weevils from hibernation.
"We intensified some boll weevil eradication sprays during the last few days based on trap numbers," Williams said. "Right now, there's almost nothing going on in cotton in the way of insects and we're looking real good. We're expecting a bollworm moth flight because most of the corn has matured and bollworms in the corn will probably come to the cotton fields."
Bollworms can be treated with pyrethroids, which are less effective on tobacco budworms. These insects require more expensive insecticides.
"With heavy egg lay and developing larvae in conventional cotton, we'll put out the more expensive materials insuring control of both insects. It's very difficult to know which one is infesting the field," Williams said.
Aphid populations are dropping, thanks to an earlier-than-usual onslaught of a naturally-occurring fungus. This fungus kills aphids and usually appears around July 10 to 12, but this year it surfaced around July 4.
"Observations made on July 8 indicate that aphid populations have crashed in the fields we visited," Williams said.
White fly populations are building in areas, but overall insect pressures on cotton are low this year and farmers are expecting a good crop.