Monday, September 9, 2013

Cotton Fields Becoming Aglow with Colorful Fiber Emerging

It’s beginning to look a lot like cotton
Everywhere you go
Take a look in the fields
Glistening once again
With puffy bolls aglow
It’s beginning to look like cotton
Bolls in every plant
But the prettiest sight to see
Is the fiber that will be
In your own harvest bin.

Yes indeed, ’tis the season for cotton fields across the San Joaquin Valley to start emerging with color as cotton bolls open up to reveal the bright fiber glistening in the backdrop of the deep green plants.
While this is a sight to behold, growers won’t be resting until after harvest. Right now, they will remain vigilant about protecting their crop from pests and taking steps to maximize yields. They’re hoping that pests will remain in check and there’s no need to spend more money on treatment.

Some cotton growers  have had persistent whitefly problems.
Whiteflies and aphids top the watch list. These pests are the main culprits for gumming up the fiber and bottom line due to sticky cotton. During the late summer and fall, these two pests will secrete a sugary substance on cotton plants, which can impact an open boll. Sooty mold develops on the fiber, creating what we call sticky cotton. The result is a poor grade in quality.

Field scout Carlos Silva is finding whiteflies to be worrisome at the moment. So far, their number hasn’t reached the threshold for treatment in most fields.

Of course, this is farming and there are bound to be exceptions. A couple of growers have experience persistent problems with whiteflies and have had to treat for the pest a number of times. In fact, one grower has sprayed his field four times already. The reason for the nagging whitefly problem is unclear. It could be nearby melon and seed alfalfa fields are contributing to this issue.
Right now, cotton growers are developing plans for defoliation. Some predict that process will start in two to four weeks with harvest coming about a month later.

The final alfalfa harvest is nearing.

Green lacewings are good bugs.
Meanwhile, Carlos reports alfalfa and pea aphid counts are increasing in alfalfa fields – although the numbers don’t warrant treatment at the moment. He’s finding beneficial insects – primarily green lacewings and lady bugs – are in healthy numbers. That will help control the aphid populations. In the coming week, we can expect growers to perform the final cutting of the season – although some will try to squeeze out one more cutting in the fall. It’s hard to believe another alfalfa season is coming to an end.
Of course, that means the cotton harvest is just around the corner.

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