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Patience Is Tough When Pests Are In The Field

It’s amazing what you’ll hear just shooting the breeze with cotton growers and consultants on the turn row.

Earlier this season, while visiting with a farmer about some trials he was doing on a new early input for cotton, he told me that one of the most troublesome pests this year wasn’t insects or weeds, but whitetail deer. With the dry summer keeping natural forage to a minimum, his cotton fields look like the salad bar at Ryan’s Steakhouse to the local deer population. I knew deer would sometimes eat cotton, but what he said next was news to me: “Believe it or not, the deer like the Roundup Ready Flex best. They go straight to it and just tear it up.”

I don’t know if there have been any university studies on the nutritional content of Flex cotton, and I’m not sure if blind tasting trials are coming down the pipeline. But I can see the advertising campaign already. “Tastes great, less fretting – spray all season long.”

At Drew’s Half Acre, my cotton pests have been a little more traditional (My deer management program, which I implement Saturday mornings during the winter, probably keeps the deer at bay). I planted on May 11, and a little more than two weeks later I had a stand – but things weren’t all perfect in Dixieland. Thrips and nutsedge were trying to keep me out of the cotton business, so I have been fighting back with a solid pest management program.

On June 5, I tank mixed 16 ounces of Roundup with 0.75 ounces of a pyrethroid to give me the one-two punch I needed. About five days later, most of the weeds and grasses were turning, and I couldn’t find as many thrips on the plants – but parts of the field still looked fairly green. Everyone told me to be patient, “you have to give it time to work” – but that’s easier said than done.

Waiting for my management program to work gave me a true appreciation for what farmers endure all season long. If my Half Acre gets overrun by bugs or weeds, I’ll just tuck-tail back to the office and hang another hat on the rack of experience. But for growers, that crop is their livelihood, and I can only imagine the pressures and stress they face.

The next weekend I went down to the field, and I was a little relieved. New leaves didn’t show any thrips damage, and most of the weeds were toast. I noticed quite a few ants on a few sections of the field, and a large amount of the grass was still alive – the Roundup stunted it, but it was still hanging on.

Assuming the worst, a knot tightened in my stomach. I just knew my field had some previously undiscovered glyphosate-resistant grass that would be impossible to kill. I pulled a couple of clumps to show to John Bradley at the Agricenter International in Memphis.

My fears were quickly mollified; I wasn’t dealing with a super-grass, just a hearty growth of nutsedge. John explained that it can take a few doses of Roundup to get nutsedge, and he said even the best farmers sometimes worry about the grass. He said another application or two of glyphosate should do the trick, but emphasized that I would need to stay on top of it.

As for the ants, John explained they were beneficial insects, and I didn’t need to worry about them. On another note, growers were starting to see plant bugs, he said, and I needed to be on the look out. That I can do.

Until next month, see you in the field …

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