Older cotton in the Pee Dee has been blooming for about two weeks now. Rain has come to most areas over the last few weeks, though other areas are starting to get dry. A few fields have started to wilt, but for the most part our crop this year is looking good.
Here are some blooms below from a field in Dillon County. Cotton flowers bloom for three day and are self fertile, though bees are frequently seen buzzing from flower to flower. As the flowers age, they progress in color from white (first day) to pink to purple (third day).
Here is a square that is getting ready to bloom.
After the flower has done its job and the ovary is fertilized, the flower falls off (sometimes it stays stuck to the boll) and the boll can be easily seen. Here are the petals of a third day flower that were pulled off to reveal the boll below.
Once the bolls begin to develop, we should begin scouting for stinkbugs. Stinkbugs damage bolls by piercing them to feed on the seeds developing inside. Digestive enzymes are injected into the boll to soften plant tissues so the stink bug can remove them. Bolls the size of the one pictured above may be aborted if damaged by stink bugs. On larger bolls, lint can appear stained and the inner surface of the boll wall may develop warts where the stinkbug pierced it, as seen below.
Once damaged, the fiber may be stained and/or not fluff up once the boll opens, or if severe enough, the boll may not open at all. The best way to determine the level of stinkbug damage in a field is by checking the bolls for these internal signs of damage. Bolls the size of a quarter should be checked because these are preferred by the stinkbugs since they are still soft. Here is a chart from Clemson entomologist Jeremy Greene that shows the thresholds that should be used for determining treatments based on the timing of the crop.
If treatment is needed, labeled pesticides and their rates can be found here on page 108. To end on a high note, here are some good looking bowls with high potential.