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How To Combat Early Season Thrips

By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor
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The USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service says producers intend to plant 13.2 million acres of cotton in 2012, down 11 percent from last year. Lower cotton prices and strong competition from other crops are the main factors for the decrease in cotton acreage. However, it’s the warmer-than-usual winter weather that has producers concerned about a potential increase in pest pressure.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, the meteorological winter of 2011-12 was the fourth warmest and twentieth driest on record, which leaves the Southern states in a sustained drought. While the cotton plant can overcome a lot of situations, a lack of rain events this spring has producers most concerned and waiting on go for the weather pattern to change.

Planting Underway

At the end of April, Guy Collins, University of Georgia Extension agronomist, says producers were ahead of schedule for planting.

“We had a fairly significant rain over the weekend, and I think planters will be going full speed ahead tomorrow,” he says. “But, we are going to need another good rain shortly. The key will be getting seed to germinate and getting a good stand; then we’ll need several rain events to get the crop going.”

Thrips are the most consistent and predictable insect pest of cotton in Georgia, says Phillip Roberts, UGA Extension entomologist. Plus, thrips infestations are typically higher in early planted cotton and in conventional tillage systems.

Make Needed Adjustments

“Cultural practices such as planting date and tillage influence thrips populations, but most, if not all, cotton planted in Georgia will be infested with early season thrips,” he says. “Preventive insecticides such as Cruiser (thiamethoxam) and Gaucho (imidacloprid) used at planting provide a consistent yield response and will be used by most growers.”

In field environments where high thrips populations are present or extended, Roberts says residual control is needed and a supplemental foliar insecticide may also be helpful.

In a high risk thrips environment, which is in cotton planted prior to May 10 and in a conventional tillage system, yield was significantly increased when a supplemental foliar insecticide was applied at the one-leaf stage, Roberts says regarding research data.

He also concludes that there was no yield advantage to applying a foliar insecticide in low risk thrips environments, when cotton was planted after May 10 or in a reduced tillage system.

A perfect storm for greater nematode problems is brewing for 2012. The loss of nematode control products, coupled with the warm winter and spring, is likely to lead to more damage from this wily pest.

“I believe that the warm winter of 2011-2012 and the very warm spring of 2012 will increase the potential for damage from nematodes on all field crops, to include cotton, corn, soybeans and peanuts,” says Bob Kemerait, UGA Extension plant pathologist.

Use A Combination Of Controls

Considerations Regarding
Increased Thrips Pressure

• More likely in cotton planted prior to May 10 and in conventional tillage systems.
• Use a preventive insecticide at plan.

Problems with nematodes affecting cotton are especially challenging because of the loss of Temik 15G and the likely short supply of Telone II again this year. In known nematode-prone areas, Kemerait recommends the use of varieties with some resistance, the use of seed treatments and the use of Vydate C-LV applied during the fifth to seventh true leaf stages of growth. Especially where the reniform nematode is more prevalent than the southern root-knot nematode, and in heavier infestation situations, he recommends the use of Telone II.

Producers will need to be “on their game” for 2012 and timely with management efforts for pests that may seemingly have a head start with the mild winter and warm spring.

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or

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