Monday, December 3, 2012

Cotton Growers Plowing Down before Plowing Ahead to 2013

 The last of the Valley cotton came off the plants just in time before the late-fall rains arrived at the end of last week. That should give growers plenty of time to meet this month’s deadlines for growers to plow down their fields.
California cotton growers have been doing a
good job keeping the pink bollworm at bay.

The Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s office reminds growers about the importance of complying with the program to provide a host-free period for the pink bollworm. This year, 334 bollworms moths were caught in 2012 – a record high capture rate in the county. The deadline is December 20 for fields north of Shields Avenue and December 31 south of Shields.

Growers that harvested early are way ahead, having plowed down their fields already and even setting up beds for next year’s tomato crop. Here is how the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner describes how cotton plants should be destroyed, or plowed down:

(1) Shredding. All cotton stalks and debris shall be shredded by a power driven shredding device in a manner which effectively reduces stalks to a particle size permitting burial and decomposition and assures that bolls remaining in the field are broken open and the parts scattered.

(2) Tillage. Following shredding as required above, the land on which any cotton plants were growing during the preceding season shall be tilled in such a manner that stubs are uprooted and loosened from soil around their roots. Roots, plant stubs, shredding debris and trash remaining from harvesting or clean-up operations shall be mixed with surface soil.

Pink bollworms can over-winter in plant debris, the cotton stalk base or cracks in the soil.  They will damage squares and bolls. Plow-down will kill these pests. You can learn more about the pink bollworm from the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.
Cotton yields per acre are better than average this season.

Growers certainly want to produce another good crop next year. The 2012 season is shaping up to be very good one with many growers getting yields averaging 3.5 to 4 bales an acre for acala varieties. I saw two fields yielding an extraordinary 4.6 and 4.9 bales an acre. Three bales per acre is usually the norm.
For pima cotton, I’m seeing fields come in producing 2.5 to 3 bales an acre, better than the usual average of about 2 bales.

Why the above-average yields? It’s tough to pin down a single answer. There were a lot of different factors, including better sustainable farming practices, hot weather and no major problems with lygus. I’m glad to see growers becoming more knowledgeable about monitoring their fields closely before hastily treating their fields.

Almond crack out samples revealed no major pest issues.
Meanwhile, here’s a final update from our almond scout, Jenna Horine. She has completed cracking and inspecting the almond samples collected in various orchards – more than 5,000 in all. The good news is Jenna didn’t find any surprises. The pest damage numbers were low. For example, about one out of 100 samples had evidence of navel orangeworm damage. “For most, we have very, very low numbers,” she says. These results will help growers develop their pest management strategy for next year.

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