From an insect pest standpoint, these could be viewed as the best of times for Alabama cotton producers, says Ron Smith, Auburn University Extension entomologist.

“We need to just admit up front that cotton insects in our state are not the problem they once were,” said Smith at the recent Cotton & Soybean Scouting Short Course held in Autaugaville, Ala.

“Insects are taking a backseat now to weed problems like resistant Palmer amaranth and to some extent, disease problems.”

It used to be that cotton varieties had the potential to yield 750 pounds per acre in a good year, he says. Now, they have 1,500-pound-per-acre potential.

“Even though insect problems are not as significant as they used to be, we still need to fine-tune our control programs,” says Smith. “There’s still a place for fine-tuning cotton insect control rather than fighting for our lives. We can focus on growing cotton for yields.”

Alabama cotton producers have about a $75-per-acre advantage when it comes to insect control over their counterparts in Mississippi.

“We don’t want to go down the same road they’re going down. They’re spending a lot of money for insect control that we’re not spending,” he says.

Even though Alabama cotton producers have learned that worms are of little to no consequence, it’s helpful to be able to recognize the different species of caterpillars when they occur, says Smith.

On the other hand, stink bugs have the potential of being by far the most damaging insect pest from central to southeast Alabama in the Coastal Plain region, he adds.

“There are a number of different insects that damage cotton, but there are certain pests we focus on only during certain times of the season,” says Smith.

The cotton bollworm and the tobacco budworm used to be common caterpillars, he continues.

“At some point in the season, rather than looking at a lot of terminals and not much else, you want to switch and look at fewer terminals and fewer plants because you’ll have to spend more time per plant.

“You’ll have to open a number of squares and examine white blooms and red blooms for worms that have hatched and are starting to mature.”