Cotton performance trials were conducted during 1999 at the Lubbock, Halfway, and Pecos TAES locations. The Dawson county irrigated variety test was planted southeast of Lamesa on the Donald Love farm and the dryland variety test was planted on the AG-CARES farm. Cotton variety tests were planted near Seagraves on the Alton Shipley farm and in Swisher County on the Dale Swinburn farm. Seed treatment tests were planted at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Lubbock, on the Dale Swinburn farm in Tulia and the G.W. Dill farm in Brownfield.
The Lubbock tests were planted in either Amarillo or Olton soils, and the Halfway tests in Pullman clay loam soils. Performance tests at Pecos were planted in Hoban silty clay loam at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
The 1999 season began with good deep soil moisture, and both irrigated and dryland acreages were initially planted in a timely manner. Approximately 3.7 million acres were planted (USDA, Districts 1N and 1S). Major weather events in May and June resulted in acreage losses of 200,000 and 635,000, respectively. Most of the May lost acreage was replanted to cotton. Except for some fields south of Lubbock, most June losses were replanted to alternative crops. These weather events included hail, flooding rains, wind-borne sand, and cooler temperatures. The cool temperatures resulted in further acreage losses due either to physiological stress and or various diseases. The final standing acreage taken to harvest amounted to about 2.93 million, 580,000 acres to the north and 2.35 million to the south (USDA). Quite a lot of the standing acreage, especially up north, was weather damaged and slow to respond to the return of favorable growing conditions. Yields are estimated to average 780,000 bales from the northern acreage and 2.22 million bales from the southern acreage (USDA). The average yield per acre was down 12% in the northern High Plains and 17% in the southern High Plains compared to 1998. Some of this yield reduction was due directly to weather events and some to insects.
Following the rains in June, there was no more significant rainfall until mid- September. By this time, the over committed dryland crop was stressed beyond redemption, which resulted in yield reductions. Heat unit (HU) accumulations were below normal for May, about equal for July and above normal in August. Early September HUs were average but below average for the latter part of the month. October HUs were at somewhat above normal averages while November was above normal. While the crop played catchup on HUs for the early season deficit, by the end of August HU accumulations were on par with long term averages and ended up ahead for the season. The rapid progress of the crop resulted in much of the southern acreage ready for harvest aids by the 3rd week in September with over 2 million acres harvested before the freeze. The threat of an October freeze resulted in many northern acres of less than fully matured cotton receiving pro-active applications of harvest aids. The use of boll openers on immature cotton prior to a plant killing freeze prevents most fiber stickiness problems associated with immature fiber caught by a freeze. The area-wide plant killing freeze occurred on November 24th, 12-24 days later than usual, depending upon where the cotton acreage is located in the High Plains.
There were early extended thrips problems on seedling cotton but May and June weather events significantly reduced thrips infestations. These same events produced soil-applied-systemic- insecticide-leaching rains which necessitated foliar application on some surviving acreage. The result of all this was a thrips problem much less than usual. The flooding rains however, did lead to higher than normal stand losses from the fungus Pythium. Cool soil temperatures led to moderate levels of black root rot, which slowed down early season growth of seedlings.
Early season rains coupled with good soil moisture conditions resulted in a flush of wild weed hosts which appeared to increase the incidence of both fleahoppers and western tarnished plant bugs. Fleahopper numbers were at an all time high, eclipsed only by infestation levels observed only once the previous 22 years. Timely applications of insecticides by growers for this pest as well as incidental control through numerous insecticide applications for emerging overwintered boll weevils appeared to reduce yield losses below the 23% observed on the previous occasion. Even so, there were many producers that failed to recognize the problem in a timely manner and suffered significant yield losses. This was especially true of the tarnished plant bug which infested acreage primarily to the west of Lubbock from south of Seminole to north of Hereford. The highest yield losses occurred in the northwestern acreage where growers and consultants were caught off guard. The already late crop was delayed even further by as much as two more weeks where plant bugs were not properly addressed.
There were virtually no widespread problems with caterpillar pests this year. Bollworm numbers were generally low with the exception of some fields in the northwest which had heavy infestations in late September and October. Normally the crop is not vulnerable to damage this late in the season Beet armyworm and looper activity was generally light with a few fields needing treatment. Section 18 insecticides Confirm and Denim were available. The section 18 for Pirate was not triggered for this area.
Emerging overwintered boll weevil numbers were again predicted to be at all time highs. Producers were warned about the need for overwintered weevil applications and the problems associated with the predicted extended emergence period. Even through rainfall events were rare after June, emerging boll weevil numbers were at record levels over much of the area. For the most part, producers did an excellent job with their overwintered weevil sprays and delayed the appearance of economically damaging infestations until September. Those growers that had succeeded with producing early maturing cotton escaped the late season weevil explosion. Those that elected to not spray overwintered weevils had to address problem fields as early as Mid-August.
In spite of the significant delay in appearance of in-season damaging weevil infestations, most of the acreage saw very high levels of boll weevil activity as evidenced by catches in the 850 trap grid established by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service in cooperation with Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Boll weevil damage to the crop was estimated to be less than in 1998, due in part to the advanced maturity of some fields, and the initiation of three eradication programs with fall diapause treatments beginning in September and encompassing approximately 1.8 million acres.
Any late planted and irrigated fields outside of these eradication zones suffered extensive top crop losses unless treated with 1-5 applications of insecticides. Because of the warm open fall, many areas produced a late season supply of squares that were available for weevil feeding. This could mean that a larger percentage of weevils moving into overwintering sites late in the season could have sufficient fat reserves to survive the winter host-free period. With the exception of the Western and Permian Basin eradication zones, late season boll weevil numbers were 1.5 to 1.9 times higher this year than in 1998.
Cotton aphids appeared earlier than usual in the growing season but were held in check for the most part by beneficial insects, primarily lady beetles. The greatly reduced numbers of caterpillar pests resulted in few pyrethroid applications and few field infestations reached economically damaging levels. A section 18 for Furadan 4F was triggered. This expired September 1. Because warm conditions extended well into October and November, regrowth was a problem in some harvested fields and harvest aids often failed to kill terminal growth. This resulted in persistent aphid infestations well into the boll opening period, sometimes at high levels.
Root-knot nematode was a significant problem on cotton, probably due to the water stress that occurred during July and August.
Harvesting was completed in a very timely manner under almost ideal harvesting conditions.
Fiber Properties were determined at the International Textile Center, Texas Tech University with financial support from the Texas Food and Fiber Commission.
Financial Assistance was provided by the Cotton Incorporated State Support Program for the Seed Treatment tests. The financial and moral support provided by the Plains Cotton Improvement Program is invaluable as we strive to become a consistent supplier of high quality cotton.
Plot harvesting, sample ginning, and data collection were performed by: Justin Alexander, Ginger Armacost, Monica Bellow, Benny Bundy, Joe Campbell, Chad Cochran, Johnny Fuentes, Janet Gardner, Melissa Grote, Steven Hague, Mark Hall, Ryan Heinrich, Brandon McFadden, Valerie Morgan, Ryan Olson, Eva Perez, Blayne Reed, Lyndon Schoenhals, Paul Seagraves, Jessica Smith, Tisha Sparks, Raymond Tillis, Paul Ward, Leslie Wells and Steven White. Sheryl Smith provided secretarial assistance with the typing and editing of the numerous tables associated with this report. Valerie Morgan and Lyndon Schoenhals performed table preparation and statistical analyses. The assistance of all of these people is gratefully acknowledged and truly appreciated.