Palmer amaranth is the No. 1 resistant weed problem for North Carolina cotton, said Billy McLawhorn, McLawhorn Crop Service. Marestail is No. 2.

“We can’t overstate how bad resistance can be,” McLawhorn said. “And it continues to spread. ALS herbicide resistance is coming in as well. Most farmers are using pre-emergence herbicides and we are getting more aggressive.”

He said using hooded sprayers and keeping residuals “overlapped on the ground” to prevent pigweed from getting established are important options.

“A few growers are taking drastic measures to control pigweed. Some are resorting to using moldboard plows on land that’s been in conservation tillage. And they really don’t want to do that. They’re also using other herbicides and chopping weeds.”

He said harvest machinery moving from a field infested with resistant weeds into a clean field spreads the seed and the problem.

Consultants and the farmers they work for face other challenges.

Pilsner said 2010 was a tough year for pest management in South Texas. “We had the highest number of fleahoppers I’ve seen since I’ve been checking cotton,” he said. A warm, wet winter may have aided survival rate.

After the fleahoppers, farmers had to deal with Creontiades in larger than usual numbers. “Fortunately, they are not hard to kill.”

Stink bugs and plant bug also posed some problems and he and other consultants expressed concern over potential pest resistance to Bollgard II cotton.

Pilsner said one of the most damaging factors for south Texas crops the past few years has been a feral hog infestation. “They are wearing out milo and corn,” he said. “Feral hogs can wipe out a corn field.”

Some corn acreage may revert to cotton this year because of hog damage, he said.