On Dec. 7, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. Clyo, Georgia time, Clayton Waller parked his cotton picker, filed some miscellaneous paperwork and headed to town to tackle the one thing woefully behind schedule — a haircut. After a long harvest, he was getting a little shaggy, and everyone around him seemed to agree.
Waller grows cotton, soybeans, corn and wheat (100% dryland) with his father near Clyo, 40 miles north of Savannah. All things considered, 2021 was a reasonably productive year.
“The weather cooperated for the most part,” Waller says. “You can hope and ask and pray for a lot of things going into a growing season, but if you’re a dryland farmer, weather is always the critical variable.”
Since a grower can’t control the weather, it always comes down to managing inputs. For Waller, that begins with an honest review of his production strategy by considering the previous season and the many seasons that came before.
“Like any grower who has been in this business for decades or generations, one of the advantages of experience is hindsight,” he says.
“Since I was a little kid, I knew that getting a crop to jump out of the ground and race toward the finish was what you wanted it to do,” he says. “A lot of variables factor into that process, and early season pest control is one of the most critical.”
There are at least two early season pests with a couple of b-team insects Waller knows he can count on to show up to wreak havoc — nematodes and thrips. Then there are pesky aphids and mites. “Nematodes and thrips are the ones that will keep you awake at night wondering if your little plants are happy and growing,” he says.
For the past two years, Waller has returned to a tried and true at-planting input to manage early season pests — AgLogic aldicarb pesticide. Formerly marketed as Temik, the in-furrow granular pesticide has more than 50 years of scientific proof to back performance claims.
Root-knot nematodes are a constant nemesis along the Georgia coastal watershed. There are a lot of advantages to living close to the beach, but nematodes flourishing in sandy soils isn’t on the list.
“A few million years ago, this farm was most likely a place you would traverse via boat, not by a planter,” Waller says. “Sand is a reality and root-knot nematodes love it. It’s a never-ending fight to keep them at bay.”
That’s where AgLogic aldicarb shines when the planter hits the field, according to Waller. “You can use treated seed, resistant or tolerant varieties or anything else you can think of, but AgLogic is the one thing that really stands out year after year,” he says.
That became apparent about the third year Temik (now AgLogic) was temporarily unavailable, according to Waller. In the absence of an in-furrow nematicide/insecticide, crop vigor, especially during the early season, began to noticeably decline, particularly in the sandier portions of fields.
“There was no doubt it was due to nematodes,” Waller says. “During those years, we just didn’t have our ‘go-to’ product to take them out of the equation. When aldicarb became available again under the name AgLogic and we started using it again, we saw above the soil surface what was going on in the root zone.”
Another problematic issue in the absence of aldicarb was thrips. “You know they’re coming,” Waller says. “They eat up your cotton and your time trying to manage them — especially if you have to resort to spraying when every other problem is going crazy. An in-furrow insecticide that gives you about six weeks of control makes it a lot easier.”
Treated seed is an option, and foliars will help, but there is no substitute for knowing what’s going to work.
“When we lost Temik aldicarb for a few years, we were stuck in a rut,” Waller says. “We couldn’t yield anything above an average of 700-750 pounds per acre for our entire planted acres at best. We might have some spots where cotton yielded over 1,000 pounds per acre. But other spots or fields would barely make 450 pounds in the same year. Now with AgLogic aldicarb we’re looking at yields that average 150-300 pounds higher across the board.
This increase could pay for a much-needed trip to the barber. And a trip to the beach to visit sand where it belongs.