What is in this article?:
- It's a good year to maximize cotton yield potential
- Requires a lot of expertise
- Accurate system, but time consuming
• This may not be the season to try to cut cotton input costs
• Weed control costs generally are going to be a little more if you don’t have Roundup Ready cotton.
• The bottom line with planting conventional varieties, based on research results from the past several years, is that economics will vary greatly depending on the weather, the severity of the insect pressure — particularly caterpillar pests — and the location.
Requires a lot of expertise
If you’re going to grow conventional cotton, says Smith, it’ll require a lot of expertise, a lot of monitoring, and selecting the appropriate chemistry for the specific worm that is in the field at that time.
“You’ll need to have a top-notch scout, and if it was me, I’d be losing sleep at night in fear that I’d be getting behind on some of these. You have a high risk with conventional cotton when you get into some of these caterpillar pests like tobacco budworms and fall armyworms,” he says.
Looking at the evolution of Bt cotton and new varieties that are on the horizon, Smith says it’s important to add new genes to provide improved effectiveness across the various caterpillar species.
“With the single gene alone, we’d have escapes in the bollworm species and in the fall armyworms. The big thing is to manage resistance and preserve the technology. Have you ever considered the significance if resistance had occurred to the Bt gene when we had only the single Bt gene?
“I know we all loved 555, but we were living on the edge with that variety. If they had ever documented resistance in 555 or in Bollgard, beginning immediately there would have been no more Bt cotton sold in the county where resistance was found. There was a plan worked out with EPA, and it would have been a disaster if we had seen resistance before we got the stacked genes.”
Looking at other insect-related issues facing cotton producers, Smith says many growers have moved to seed treatments for controlling early season pests.
“And even though they may not be as consistent as Temik, we can make an early season foliar over-spray and get adequate early season thrips control.”
In the future, he says, the bigger impact of losing Temik might be for its control of spider mites. “Back in the 1940s through 1960s, spider mites completely defoliated fields of cotton. In 1970, the problem went away, and it pretty much had been gone away until recent years. In some parts of the Cotton Belt, spider mites are flaring up almost every year. Temik was the best suppression tool we ever had for spider mites. That will be a big long-term impact of losing Temik. We’ll have some new materials for spider mites, but they’ll run you about $18 to $28 per application, and you’ll be buying yourself only about 10 days of protection.”
Researchers, says Smith, also are looking at a faster sample system than is currently available for stink bugs. “We have a good system but it’s not fast. We’re trying to come up with a more rapid survey technique. Our current method is very good. We pull from 25 to 50 or more quarter-diameter or larger bolls per field. We crush them and we examine them for internal injury. That’s either boll rot, stained lint or the carpel wall warts that you get, which later deteriorate either one lock or the entire boll.