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Pay attention to insect thresholds

Researchers are continually testing insect thresholds, they have been proven effective.

Brent Murphree, Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

June 20, 2024

2 Min Read
Bollworm in Cotton
Bollworm chowing down on a cotton plant. Aaron Cato, U of A System Division of Agriculture

I was sitting outside a couple of weeks ago thinking about how nice it was, when a big horse fly landed on my shoulder. I swiped at it, and of course missed. After exaggeratingly flailing by arms to keep the nasty pest away from me, it finally headed over to the dog to annoy him.

A couple of days later the gnats hit while we were enjoying a few minutes out by the pond.

These are the sure-tell signs that summer is here, and growers should have their integrated pest management plans in place. Actually, those plans should have been well in place before planting season started and the seeds went in the ground.

Mindy Ward of our sister publication, Missouri Ruralist, noted at the end of May thrips were an issue in Missouri cotton due to consistent overcast. Seed treatments and ThryvOn technology have been effective treatments for thrip, but foresight is needed to use both technologies ahead of planting.

Given that most cotton is now past the four-leaf stage, the thrip threat should be behind us. And from here, this season is anybody’s guess in terms of insect pressure.

The two major pests that crop specialists and Extension are telling us to keep an eye out for are bollworm and tarnished plant bug.

While Bt toxins have worked well for most cotton farmers, bollworms have developed resistance and are making management more challenging.

Planting a Bt cotton, with refuges, would have been the first step to alleviate pest pressure. Having a treatment backup safety net is a good plan. Scouting and paying attention to thresholds is important.

Most universities have studied the thresholds for bollworms because over time they may have changed given the resistance environment. You and your crop consultants should be aware of those thresholds.

Unfortunately, some of our treatment products have either been taken away from us or are in the process of relabeling. Pay attention to make sure you’re not applying something you shouldn't be using. That’s very important as misuse can result in stiff fines.

It is interesting to me how what we thought were minor pests have risen to the top of the problem list. For me, tarnished plant bug is one of those. As soon as we moved away from broad-based insecticides, we discovered that lygus was a big problem.

We knew they were there, but the impact was secondary to the worm complex. These things can replicate and move fast. We saw that on our place when we cut alfalfa and overnight we would have issues in our cotton.

Again, watching thresholds is important, and while ThryvOn technology has been a big help, it pays to watch for signs that there may be a problem.

Bottom line: Watch your thresholds and be ready to jump on your treatments.

Have a prosperous and profitable season.

About the Author(s)

Brent Murphree

Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

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