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Insect Research Remains Strong

06-14CFcvrInsect pressure trends throughout the Cotton Belt are fluid and ever changing. Even with cotton acreage in a general decline in California and Arizona, producers and researchers have maintained a strong focus on controlling insect pests.

Cooperative efforts between USDA/- ARS labs and land grant universities, as well as state cotton organizations and private funding, have provided a reasonable resource for staying on top of cotton pest research needs.

Regional producer associations maintain a close watch to make sure researchers and advisors are providing the proper tools for pest management. And, these checks and balances are currently staying on top of current Western needs.

USDA/ARS Research Continues
When the USDA/ARS office in Shafter, Calif., closed in 2012, many producers were concerned that the cotton research needs of the San Joaquin Valley would not be met, specifically in the area of pest control. Dale Spurgeon, formerly with that station and now research lead at the USDA/ARS Arid Lands Research Center in Maricopa, Ariz., believes that is not the case. “We’re a national operation, not a state operation,” says Spurgeon. “They (California producers) are still our customers. We are developing our relationship with key stakeholders.” And, while there are no overwhelming pest issues in the Western region, Spurgeon emphasizes that now is the time to make sure researchers are looking at more creative ways to address pest control. “There is a real need to understand the ecology of a problem down to the molecular level,” he says. Future advances may come in the disruption of breeding patterns in lygus through pheromone use or growth disruption in white fly. He believes that is exactly where the lab can make some impact, while working on Bt resistance in pink bollworm.

Current Concerns In The Field
Jeff Hunter, a crop consultant in Buttonwillow, Calif., says he is waiting to identify how pest issues develop this season. “With the severe drought we’ve been having, insects can go either way,” he says. But, he is confident that current treatments, developed by producers, consultants and the research community will meet the needs in the field. So far this season, pressures have been mild in California. There has been some treatment for mites, but lygus pressure was low in cotton, as well as alfalfa. In Arizona, a mild winter and warm spring have raised issues in crops other than cotton. Aphid and mites have been vectors for some plant disease in produce. And, while that is not normally an issue in cotton, it does raise concerns.

Ultimately, with current technologies and continued research focused on cotton, producers are confident that insect pest issues can be readily addressed in the West as they arise.

Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. Contact him at bmurphree@cottonboard.com or (602) 810-1171.