Monday, May 25, 2015

Cotton Growers Sing Praises: It’s Hip to Have Squares

Mentioning the word “square” conjures up many thoughts and phrases.

There’s “Square peg in a round hole.” “Square deal.” “Fair and square.” “Square meal.” And my favorite: “Hip to Be Square,’’ the catchy hit song by Bay Area rocker Huey Lewis.
Ask some Valley growers and they’ll answer “cotton square.”

They’ll put you square on the fact the calendar indicates this is the time when the first squares start emerging on the cotton plants about a month into the season. Field scout Carlos Silva reports squares developing in early-planted fields. 

A pinhead cotton square.
The square is the flower bud of the plant. It signals the start of the reproductive growth period. The square becomes a bud, followed by blooming into a flower and eventually turning into a boll. 

Essentially, the square is the beginning of what will become the fiber picked at harvest time. It’s the money for the bank.

The first stage is a pinhead square. The next is a match-head square, which is described as one third growth. The last stage is called squaring. To have a successful crop, you need to have multiple squares per branch.
That’s why cotton experts stress that growers need to monitor their plant development. During early squaring, they should focus on plant vigor and square retention.

Spider mites on a leaf.
“Growers want to get off to a good start,” Carlos says. To growers, you might say it is “Hip to Have Squares.”

Meanwhile, Carlos reports the only pests showing up in numbers in the cotton fields are spider mites. The pest can cause the plant leaves to turn yellow or red and then fall off, which can hamper square maturity. Carlos is keeping an eye on some fields where mite populations could reach the treatment threshold.
In alfalfa, Carlos reports finding some weevils and alfalfa worms in fields, but not enough to warrant treatment. There are lots of beneficial insects living in the alfalfa fields. Growers should be harvesting again soon. Those growing alfalfa near cotton fields are reminded to leave uncut strips of alfalfa. This will provide habitat for lygus bugs and help keep them from heading into the cotton fields.
A lot of beneficial insects are  populating alfalfa fields.

“Almonds are doing well. I’m not seeing a lot of nuts dropping,” Carlos adds. Pests are in check and the crop progressing “a few weeks ahead of schedule.”

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