Monday, September 10, 2012

There Are Always Anxious Times in the Ag Business

“What, Me Worry?”

MAD's Alfred E. Neuman
That’s the popular saying by MAD magazine’s long-time cover boy, Alfred E. Neuman. Could the freckled face lad could be mistaken for a farmer? Indeed, it seems there is always something to worry about in the farm business.

They fret over the weather (it’s too cold or too hot) and over water (there’s too much rain, too little). They worry about commodity prices, expenses, plant diseases and, of course, crop-threatening pests. “What, Me Worry?” Yes farmer do.

Take cotton growers, for example. Just when they stop worrying over lygus, they start holding their breath over aphids and whiteflies. There’s no lack of anxious times in farm country.
Aphids are found on the back of a cotton plant leaf.
Right now the concern centers on aphids in cotton. During my field visits in cotton, I am seeing aphids coming on stronger in some areas, primarily in fields bordered by melons and tomatoes, which are still being harvested. As these fields are drying out and being harvested, the pests are heading for the greener fields of cotton.

 It’s not surprising to see a lot of tomatoes around cotton. Tomatoes are a good rotation crop with cotton. In Fresno County, tomatoes consistently rank as one of the top 3 crops in the area – meaning there are a lot of tomato fields around.

Right now, beneficial insects are helping keep the aphid numbers down. Some growers may be looking at spot treatments. Overall, I suggest growers keep a close eye on aphids and follow the management guidelines by UC Integrated Pest Management.

Greenhouse whiteflies may be migrating from tomatoes.
We’re getting close to the time to defoliate the cotton plants and get ready for the fall harvest. My estimate is some acala are a couple weeks away. The pima varieties, which are harvested later, are three weeks to a month away for defoliation.

Here is a close-up of a Silverleaf whitefly
Turning to whiteflies, I’m spotting them in different areas of the cotton fields.   I’ve heard of one grower treating for the pest in the past week. Other growers are holding off and considering applying insect growth regulators that attack the immatures. I suspect greenhouse whiteflies are coming from nearby tomatoes. It’s unclear where the source of the silverleaf whiteflies. Again, UC IPM is a good reference to managing whiteflies.

In alfalfa, the worm counts are going down. I haven’t heard of any treatments there. Some growers are cleaning up aphids, especially in fields that are next to cotton. We’re about a month away from the end of harvest here.
Spider mites spin a web in a small cluster of almonds.
On the almond front, field scout Jenna Horine says windy, hot and dry conditions are ideal conditions for spider mites to flare up. Some growers are dealing with mite issues. Experts say it’s still OK to treat if the nuts are still on the tree. Here’s a link to the UC IPM pest management guidelines spider mites.

The almond harvest continues with some trees now ready for shaking. Overall, things are going smoothly.
Cotton Tour Approaches: Don’t forget to spread the word about our annual Cotton Farm Tour on Friday, October 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour begins at the Best Western Apricot Inn at Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road, about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh. It’s a free event packed with lots of good information. You need to register to reserve a spot in this popular event. Go to the Sustainable Cotton Project website to sign up.

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