Recent rains have been quite timely for most crops in the Coastal Bend, and accumulation of degree days for crops are currently running near normal.

Cotton, for the most part, began blooming the first week of June and at that time was at the stage of about seven to nine nodes above white flower, which sets the crop up for a good fruit load. This season, we have seen heavy pressure from fleahoppers, but with the rainfall and fruit set, a good cotton crop is in the making.

As we look at the vigor of the cotton plant, one should measure both the height and node number of several cotton plants and calculate the ratio of height to nodes by dividing. This ratio indicates the amount of stress, or lack of stress, that a cotton plant has encountered. In other words, the number of nodes is the age of the crop, and the height is an indicator of stress encountered.

If the crop is too tall during early bloom (height to node ratio above two), then use of a growth regulator such as mepiquat chloride or PIX may be needed. Many local fields are showing signs of excellent vigor with the need of some growth regulator.

Grain sorghum development is highly variable, ranging from the grain turning color to just emerging from the boot stage. Again, with the excellent soil moisture, the yield potential for our grain crop is very good. Stink bugs have been a problem and midge will soon be an issue for later maturing fields. Continue to scout for the rice stink bug until sorghum reaches the hard dough stage. A good rule-of-thumb for rice sink bug control is to implement control measures when you have one rice stink bug on every two heads.

Most damage by the sorghum midge occurs in sorghum that blooms three to four weeks later than other fields in a particular area, and we are approaching that time now. Consider control when midge numbers exceed one per head.

Closely inspect heads in the yellow anther area for the midge. It takes about nine days for all florets on a head to pollinate, with the second through the sixth day being most important for an individual head. Other insects to keep watch for on sorghum are the headworms (corn earworm and fall armyworm).

Demonstrations part of Beef Cattle Short Course in August

From brush control on the ranch to cuts of beef sold to the consumer, the 2010 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course will provide a number of beef cattle-production demonstrations Aug. 2-4 in College Station. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service sponsors the three-day program, which will be held on the Texas A&M University campus.

"One of the most exciting aspects of the short course each year is the cattleman's college," said Dr. Jason Cleere, conference coordinator and AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist. "There are 20 different Cattleman's College educational sessions, which will have a mix of information, addressing current beef industry issues and providing fundamental information on basic beef cattle and ranch management."

On Aug. 3, beef cattle specialists and animal health officials will give an overview of the cattle-tick program activities.

"Even if you are not in the quarantine zone, you need to understand the impact of this pest," Cleere said.

An overview of the history of the fever tick, its current management program and, economic impact, plus other topics will be discussed.

The Aug. 4 sessions take some of the information that was provided during the first two days of the short course "and demonstrate how it can be applied in working cattle operations," Cleere said.

"There will be demonstrations on brush control, cattle selection, cattle handling, vaccinating cattle, business management and cuts of beef," he said.

A tour of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine will also be offered "so that participants can see some of the latest technology that we have in livestock care," he added.

"Participants will also have an opportunity to receive a private pesticide applicator's license on Wednesday," Cleere said.

Training will occur before lunch on Aug. 4 and the certification test will be at 1 p.m. Short course registration is $140 per participant by July 26, and includes admission to the conference, a copy of the short-course proceedings (a 600-page reference book), trade show admittance, tickets to the special Aggie prime rib dinner, and additional meals and refreshment breaks. Attendees can earn at least seven pesticide continuing education units, 15 veterinary credits and numerous Beef Quality Assurance credits. For more information or to register, go online at http://beef.tamu.edu, or contact Cleere's office at (979) 845-6931 or email jjcleere@tamu.edu.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.