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Rains Create Texas-Sized Weed Challenges

From Cotton Grower Magazine – July 2015

 

USDA’s Prospective Plantings report in late March projected 5.7 million acres of cotton for Texas this year – a drop of 8.1 percent from 2014.

Then the rains came. And everyone’s predictions for this season quickly washed away.

“The bad weather decreased acres further than we initially thought,” said Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension cotton specialist, College Station. “This crop is a complete mixed bag, all the way from the Rio Grande Valley up to the High Plains.”

After fields dried enough to work, growers across the state scrambled to get as much cotton in the ground before planting deadlines – including roughly 1.6 million acres in one week in early June. But many fields went fallow as growers opted for prevented planting insurance or were lost to other crops like sorghum.

“Growers were making decisions field by field, based on whatever seed and time they had available to get a crop planted,” noted Morgan.

But growers who stuck with cotton are now facing some management challenges they haven’t had to deal with in quite a while.

Cotton in parts of the eastern and southern areas of the state started well, but suffered from shallow root systems thanks to an abundance of surface moisture. The rainy weather also cooled temperatures down in May and early June, slowing cotton growth and maturity. In the High Plains and western parts of the state, the crop was planted late after fields dried out, leaving growers with their fingers crossed for a good summer and fall growing season.

And then, there’s weed pressure.

“South Texas has had a mess with weeds,” said Morgan. “Growers were good about getting their pre-plant herbicides down, because they know how important those are against glyphosate-resistant waterhemp and Palmer amaranth. But growers couldn’t get in the fields to keep up with weed management for essentially the entire month of May, and a lot of weeds just got ahead of the crop.

“Growers that weren’t able to get pre-plant herbicides down really have a mess to deal with.”

Morgan noted that Liberty has worked well in this part of the state, and growers who have the proper seed technology were putting the product to good use. Hoods also remain an option for overgrown fields as another alternative before hand weeding.

Growers in the High Plains got a good look at resistant Palmer amaranth over the last few years. According to Wayne Keeling, AgriLife Extension weed specialist in Lubbock, growers did a good job of getting their pre-plant treatments out, in spite of the wet weather and delayed planting.

“The rains we had are going to bring more weed pressure,” he said. “It’s a matter of continuing to do the right things to avoid some of the messes we saw last year.”

Keeling reminds growers that if rainfall and pigweed continue to be problems into the summer, a mid- to late-season residual application under a hood or with a layby rig may be needed to help carry control to the end of the season.

After four years of dealing with excessive drought, it might be understandable if Texas growers were grumbling after this spring’s record-breaking rains. Morgan said that’s not the case at all.

“I haven’t heard anyone complain about the rain,” he stated. “They know if there’s water in the soil, they can grow something. They’re fairly optimistic about the situation. And having a full moisture profile in the Rolling Plains and West Texas is priceless.”

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