Evaluating Potential Benefits Of Thrip Protection Technology


Grant Saum

During the past two springs, many Mid-South producers faced cold, wet temperatures when planting their cotton crop. These harsh weather conditions can cause young cotton plants to grow slowly and sit idle waiting on more sun and warmer temperatures.

As if that situation wasn’t grim enough, producers often face another obstacle during that crucial time — insect pressure or infestation from thrips. Thrips are known to start feeding on young, vulnerable cotton plants causing new leaves to crinkle, which further prevents photosynthesis from occurring.

This year, producers and researchers alike noticed this happening to virtually all the young cotton crop when planted in cold and wet conditions, except for one field that was planted with seed that had been genetically modified to fight off these pesty thrips. This new biotechnology is called ThryvOn and was developed by Bayer Crop Science.

ThryvOn Technology started out as a technology to deter tarnished plant bugs. However, as researchers have continued to evaluate the technology, they have found that its true uniqueness and benefit comes in protecting early season cotton from thrips.

Unlike other methods, ThryvOn Technology is bred into the plant, thus decreasing the need for insecticide applications. It doesn’t cause thrips or plant bugs to die from eating on the vegetative growths, instead, it makes the plant less desirable, thus causing a lower population of adults to lay their offspring. 

Reduce Sprays, Maintain Yields

Dr. Ryan Kurtz, Senior Director, Agricultural and Environment Research at Cotton Incorporated said, “While our team hasn’t funded much research previously because the ThryvOn trait was stewarded and still in development, now that ThryvOn is closer to being in commercial fields, we are funding research to evaluate how it will fit into existing management programs.” 

Now the question is, what kind of potential benefit can ThryvOn provide to cotton production in the Mid-South and beyond? “Anything that could reduce Lygus and thrips sprays while maintaining yields will be beneficial to Mid-South growers,” Kurtz said.

Sebe Brown, University of Tennessee, presents results from ThryvOn trials at a cotton breeders’ field day.

According to research performed by the entomology team at the University of Tennessee at Jackson, ThryvOn cotton has key benefits that could change how growers in the Cotton Belt will manage insect pressure moving forward.

Their research has shown that ThryvOn cotton leads to better square retention, a 30% reduction in insecticide applications, and ultimately adding leniency into producer’s spray routines. Growers will also appreciate that ThryvOn Technology can stand alone during the early season when plants are most vulnerable without the need for elite seed treatment. 

A cotton plot planted in West Tennessee during May of this year revealed results showing 250 to 300 thrips per five plants in non-ThryvOn cotton compared to only 50 thrips found per five ThryvOn cotton plants. 

New Research Planned

Cotton Incorporated is committed to funding new research aimed at making the best use of this trait in management systems for growers and has several university-level research trials going on now.

“Having a new tool for managing lygus and thrips will be great for the Mid-South not only for protecting the crop but also resistance management. This trait has the biggest potential for benefit in the Mid-South and Southeast but any growers across the belt with thrips and Lygus problems could potentially see benefit.” Kurtz concluded. 

Grant Saum is the Mid-South Regional Communication Manager for The Cotton Board. Email him at gsaum@cottonboard.org.

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