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Cotton is like a wild ride you must manage intensely all season long. In the end, if you take care of it, it will take care of you. Cotton is one of my main crops because it has so much going on, including thrips pressure as soon as it comes out of the ground, then tarnished plant bug to bollworm pressure, and carefully timing plant growth regulators and defoliation.
The 2020 season started out wet, then quickly turned hot and dry. Insect pressure was on the light side. Plant bugs were not as hard to deal with, and worms were spotty but seemed easy to control compared to other years. Although cool, rainy weather made defoliation difficult, we played the hand we were dealt and got the job done. As far as the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw some labor issues on a few farms where workers were not able to get out of their home countries. But for the most part, the wheels kept turning like they were supposed to.
Scout And Control Tarnished Plant Bug
As we jump into cotton planting and early season insect control, we need to get off to a good start. With commodity prices up, it would be nice to have a light insect year, but I always do my job to find what pests are out there. In my area, there’s going to be more corn where plant bug can thrive and then migrate into the cotton.
I always scout visually for this pest and typically start out with a sweep net. Once the cotton gets about knee-high, I use a drop cloth to find plant bug nymphs and adults. It’s my favorite method of chasing them down. I also thumb squares and blooms from beginning to end. Tarnished plant bug can hurt a cotton crop early by feeding on squares, causing them to abort and reducing square retention. If I don’t get a good fruit set on the first positions and the bottom part of the plant, it makes for a long year trying to play catch up. We want to hold on to all the boll positions.
I recommend my growers make an early application of Transform® WG insecticide at pre-bloom to knock back plant bug numbers and get residual control for as long as possible. Sometimes I hold the Transform card until the second or third week of bloom when both plant bug and aphids are present, and then clean up at 1.5 ounces per acre. This two-for-one clean up shot does a great job controlling these pests. Transform is also a good late-season option to knock back threshold numbers at the end.
As you navigate the 2021 season, remember this. If we grew cotton at 60 cents per pound last year, it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable growing it at 80 cents this year!