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Familiar Insect Pests Will Be Back Again

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nobody has a better understanding of insect pressure on a cotton farm than a consultant. He is on the turnrow every day checking fields and making recommendations. Veteran consultants Wes Briggs (Georgia), Tim Roberts (Tennessee), Mark Nemec (Texas) and Ryan Tregaskes (Arizona) offer the following reports on cotton insect pests they expect to see in their regions this year.


Wes Briggs – Georgia

Every year is different when it comes to dealing with insect pressure in cotton acreage in my part of Georgia. We have had a cool and wet spring so that is definitely affecting crop development at this stage.

If I had to pinpoint the major pests that cotton producers will be seeing here, I would mention thrips, stink bugs and spider mites. Naturally, we see other pests such as plant bugs, aphids and fall armyworms, but I wouldn’t rate them as high as thrips, stink bugs and spider mites.

Because we’re surrounded by a lot of corn acreage, we have to be aware of insect pests that eventually migrate from corn over to cotton. We already know that our corn has a lot of thrips pressure, so I am anticipating some heavy thrips pressure on our cotton.

Plant bugs are a hit or miss proposition here. However, since we have a lot of field corn planted, I look for this to be a pretty tough pest this year.

We deal with stink bug pressure every year so it’s nothing new for us to deal with this problem. This insect will be with us for the entire season. I’m not trying to minimize the impact that stink bugs will have on our cotton. It’s just that this pest is with us every year, and we pretty much know how to deal with it.

Spiders mites are another story altogether. They have come on to the forefront the last two or three years. Initially, we started finding them behind seed treatments. I think mites will continue to be a problem in this area. The hotter and dryer it is, the more mite outbreaks that will occur.

Where did these mites come from? I don’t really know for sure. We’ve generally never had a major mite problem. I started seeing these pests about five to six years ago when we went to seed treatments. Like I said, the weather will dictate a lot. If we could get some rain, that could help with our mite control.

My advice to our Georgia and Southeast producers is be diligent and proactive in your insect control strategy. Don’t be reactive. There is simply too much money involved in the crop right now to be making late decisions and getting into the field late. Being on time is crucial with everything that we are doing. We need timely management in spraying of our herbicides and insecticides.

You also need to have some footwork on the ground to make this happen.

Contact consultant Wes Briggs via email at briggscropser@bellsouth.net.


Tim Roberts – Tennessee

We will have a lot of plant bugs in our area of West Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. All the corn planted in this region will contribute heavily to our plant bug populations. This is what you’ll hear throughout the Mid-South. It’s definitely our No. 1 pest.

We’ve also had major issues with thrips. I don’t know if 2013 will bring the same scenario or not. We planted cotton late here because of the cool, wet spring we had. I would also say that aphids are always in the background, and you never know when they’ll become a problem.

I work in the Missouri Bootheel as well as West Tennessee. Spider mites are becoming more of an issue in West Tennessee, and they are entrenched in Missouri. We have used a generic Zephyr on mites, and it has worked well. We’ll keep using these insecticides as long as we can. It’s easier to get a producer to spray an entire field with more cost-effective generics rather than a border treatment, which rarely works as we would like.

The mites are probably the No. 2 pest behind plant bugs in the Bootheel. In West Tennessee, they are probably further down the list, but they are steadily moving up on our list.

The advent of no-till has certainly had an impact on the flaring of spider mites. And don’t forget that we have a bad weed in this area called henbit. Spider mites love this weed as an over-wintering host plant. Our goal is to completely eliminate henbit prior to cotton emergence, but we aren’t always successful.

I also can’t say enough about how it affected us when we lost Temik. It definitely had an impact on how we were controlling spider mites.

I believe it’s possible that our intense approach to a residual herbicide program could have an effect on the insect pest situation. Some years this has an effect on the vigor of the plant. If cotton grows off well, and is healthy and vigorous, it will ward off the thrips, and you won’t have to treat them to prevent flaring. In other words, you can go further into the season without treating mites.

I have to say a word about corn being planted too close to cotton. I love my farmers, but sometimes they have short memories. They have landlords who want both cotton and corn. When you have corn fields too close to cotton, the plant bugs will be a problem for cotton. I do know that the delay in corn planting does not bode well for cotton. This wet weather couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

My final advice for farmers is to be diligent and ready. The plant bugs in our area are coming. I just don’t know when. With all of the rain we’ve had, the spider mites could be delayed a little bit.

With corn prices going down and cotton prices having a recent run up, cotton is more attractive with the yields we’ve had recently. Cotton looks pretty good right now.

Contact consultant Tim Roberts at tncotton@hotmail.com.


Mark Nemec – Texas

My best guess is that the insect situation in this part of Texas will be about the same as it’s been in recent years. Our early season cotton pests should be primarily thrips and fleahoppers, and those are at the top of the list for the early part of the season. However, I have noticed an increase in spider mites in the last few years. We saw a lot more mites last year than we had seen in all of our crops – cotton, corn and soybeans.

We are watching the mite situation very closely this year. I don’t know what’s causing the problem, but I am going to lay it on other host environments out there. Last year was a bad spider mite season for us, and, in fact, it was the worst I’ve seen in many years. We have our fingers crossed this year. Starting off with clean fields will certainly be one way of eliminating those host plants.

We have a lot of grain acreage this year, and I think that will mean more problems with stink bugs. With the boll weevil eradication program taking out a lot of our applications, stink bug outbreaks seem to be more pronounced than ever before.

As for fleahoppers, we’ll always have this pest in Texas. We have so many host plants for it that it will be impossible to eliminate.

Do all of our residual herbicide programs have any effect on insect pressure? I don’t think so if the farmer can keep his field clean by tillage. But if he doesn’t do a good job of managing weeds – especially during the off-season – a residual herbicide program would be needed to keep insect pressure down because of those host environments.

For example, let’s look again at spider mites and fleahoppers. In the past, we might have found a few spider mites in our fields here and there. Last year, it was almost area-wide. It was something that we didn’t plan on. Fleahoppers were the same way. Last year, the outbreaks were about average. The year before, I didn’t see much of anything. And the year before that, they were overwhelming. The pest pressure here fluctuates so much.

I am sure that my advice to farmers will be similar to what you’ve heard elsewhere. Be diligent in your insect control management. Start and stay clean in your fields. In our area, we try to set an early crop because we never know if we’ll get another drop of rain during the summer.

Contact consultant Mark Nemec via email at mjnconsulting@att.net.


Ryan Tregaskes – Arizona

The arch enemies of cotton here in Arizona will be lygus and whitefly. We have had pretty light pressure over the previous four years with the exception of last year. When the monsoons hit in the summer and the humidity kicks up, all of these insects go crazy. We normally spray about two and a half times throughout all of our acres. It winds up being about two applications for whitefly and sometimes two or three times for lygus treatments.

Which one is the worst pest? I think so much depends on the weather. From what we are seeing so far, we are gearing up for a more normal year – as we did in 2012.

The lygus can come in and wipe out your crop so quickly. They can blow up on you in a matter of a couple of days.  Whiteflies have more of a gradual buildup. I don’t think there is quite the yield loss with this pest as opposed to lygus. Spider mites have become a big issue with us. Toward the end of the season, when we have to use Orthene for lygus and we’re out of shots, that will blow up the mites and create a bad situation. It will wipe out our beneficials within about a week.

My colleagues over in California tell me that it was also a rough year in that state for lygus. But both lygus and whitefly are always a problem. One will be worse than the other, or both will be about the same in terms of outbreaks.

I can’t talk about insect pest problems in either state without talking about the pink bollworm eradication program. It’s been a real success story out here. Everybody was a bit skeptical about whether Mexico would be on board with us. But that country has been very cooperative.

The message that I would send to producers in Arizona, California and New Mexico is very simple. With the proper scouting and maintenance programs, we can stay ahead of the problems. New chemistries that are coming down the pipeline will be very beneficial to all producers.

Contact consultant Ryan Tregaskes via email at tregaskes@cox.net.


Suggestions On How To Control Insects:

• Start the season with clean fields.
• Be diligent in scouting.
• Don’t be late with insecticides.
• Know the history of a field.
• Protect beneficials.
• Avoid damaging the plant.
• Find a good consultant.
• Study university data.

For complete information on 2012 cotton insect damage, go to:
http://www.biochemistry.msstate.edu/resources/croplosses/2012loss.asp

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