Attack Pests Early to Reap Returns at Harvest

cotton field

Control weeds and pests early to deliver premium yield and maximize profit


It’s often said that the best offense is a good defense. Cotton growers must trust in two additional corollaries: the best defense starts aggressively; the best season-long defense wins at harvest.

A three-pronged early-season attack targets those pests you can’t see (nematodes), those pests that are hard to see (thrips), and controls weeds before anybody sees them. These early weeks set up the rest of the crop season.

Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife cotton specialist, calls starting clean “the most economical use of your product.”

“Our Extension weed specialists talk about making sure you start clean and stay clean – the same message we emphasize to our growers”
- Kenny Melton, Agronomist

University Extension and Bayer experts recommend a program that includes Liberty® herbicide, glyphosate and residual herbicides. Overlap coverage prior to and throughout the growing season.

“Our Extension weed specialists talk about making sure you start clean and stay clean – the same message we emphasize to our growers,” says Kenny Melton, Western regional manager for the Bayer Agronomic Services Team (AST) “We used to operate on economic thresholds with weeds, but now it’s a zero threshold for pigweed.”

“From a resistance-management perspective in cotton, we’ve been doing a good job with Liberty,” University of Tennessee Weed Scientist Larry Steckel says. “We’re not just relying on Liberty. We’re also running hoods, adding residuals, doing post direct applications, and using chopping crews. There are a lot of things in the system.”

The Liberty program requires two effective residual herbicides plus paraquat pre-plant. Apply Liberty plus a residual when pigweeds are no larger than 3 inches tall. Timing is usually 10 days to two weeks after the first two residuals.

A proactive posture also holds true for getting a handle on pests early. After pigweed, a combination of pests – nematodes, thrips and plantbugs – are the second greatest area of concern for growers. Growers in the Southeast battle root-knot nematode pressures that wreak havoc on root systems and rob yields. To help growers combat yield losses from nematodes, Bayer introduced Velum® Total in 2015, and it now is widely available across the Cotton Belt. Velum Total is an in-furrow insecticide/nematicide application that controls nematodes, thrips, plant bugs, aphids, fleahoppers and whiteflies.

“Velum Total is sprayed down the furrow,” Bayer Southeast Regional Agronomist Keith Rucker says. “The biggest thing you can do in nematode control is to help the cotton plant establish a strong root system early. Velum Total does this, and trials indicate yield results equal to Temik®.”

Early in the season, thrips, nematodes, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium can be a major problem as well. Bayer seed treatments such as Aeris®, EverGol® Prime and Trilex® Advanced give cotton growers an added layer of protection for their cotton crop in those critical first 40 days.

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