Although thrips are still a struggle for a few growers and although some cotton has been beaten up by our recent rainy weather, most cotton is now beyond the thrips-susceptible stage of four true leaves.

In our thrips tests at Rocky Mount, N.C., all cotton planted with any seed treatment that required a foliar application is now safe from further thrips damage. This high moisture and warm days and nights really has cotton growing rapidly with squaring less than a week away for a few producers.

Abundant host growth: Although predicting what and how many insects will show up in the coming weeks and months is close to pure speculation, due to high moisture levels throughout much of the state, we have a large biomass of plant material in CRP land, ditch banks and in the general landscape. Many weed species are excellent hosts for plant bugs and stink bugs. A healthy corn crop with high soil moisture levels is also an excellent host for plant bugs.

Plant bug increases? In recent years, surveyed consultants have reported a significant increase in plant bug treatments, with approximately 6 percent of our cotton acreage treated from 2004 to 2007 and 16 percent treated averaged over the past two years. I realize these numbers would not impress our Mid-South brothers who sometimes are faced with 4 to 8 plant bug sprays annually (boll weevil reminiscing, anyone?), but it will still be interesting to see if our trend toward increasing levels and associated and damage continues.