Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer-like Spring Weather is Just Cool with Cotton Growers

Even by San Joaquin Valley standards, the weather has been rather hot for this time of year with our local temperatures surging to near-record highs. With Mother’s Day weekend seeing the mercury approaching triple digits again, this springtime hot spell means ideal weather conditions for young cotton plants.

Leaving strips of uncut  alfalfa is a good IPM practice.
It also is helping the alfalfa crop. Some growers are cutting alfalfa in their fields for the second time this season. The rest should be harvesting soon. In my sweep nets, I am finding an increase of aphids and lygus. It could be an early season for aphids in the cotton fields around the Valley.

Now is the time for alfalfa growers to start making plans for managing these pests and keep them from migrating to nearby cotton fields during the summer. Aphids are troublesome when the cotton bolls start opening.

Here are  young cotton plants at the true leaf stage.
A key Integrated Pest Management strategy involves keeping threatening pests such as lygus and aphids from migrating from alfalfa during cutting to nearby cotton fields. One of the best management practices is leaving strips of uncut alfalfa as habitat to attract natural predators such as green lacewings and parasitic bugs. In mid- to late June, growers should start leaving one 8 to 12-foot wide strip during the third cutting. So far this season, beneficial insects are keeping the aphid populations in check.

Cotton plants per acre are on target.
Throughout the Valley, all the cotton has come out of the ground. The plant population is good. I’m counting 46,000 to 56,000 plants per acre. Generally, the optimal per-acre count is in the 30,000 to 60,000 range.
Plant development is progressing well. Many plants are coming into the true leaf stage. It seems fields in the Dos Palos area are developing a little faster than in the Firebaugh region. Many Dos Palos growers are seeing their plants reach the first node stage.

Six rows of black-eyed beans along a safflower field will
create a natural habitat to keep bad bugs out of cotton.

The natural habitats we planted this season are also looking good. We just finished planting a habitat of six rows of black-eyed beans along a safflower field to keep lygus from going into nearby cotton later this season.
I want to thank all the growers who worked with us to put in the habitats. This extra effort should pay off in the long run as we strive to reduce pesticide use, protect the environment and health of fellow community members and improve crop yields.

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