Specialist: Cotton pest, disease solutions on horizon

Alisa Boswell

More effective methods for dealing with cotton pests and diseases are on the horizon, according to Texas Agri-Life specialist Monti Vandiver.

Before hungry seminar attendees lined up Tuesday for the Portales Rotary Club’s Chuck Wagon Lunch at the Roosevelt County Ag Expo, they listened to a presentation on cotton production.

Vandiver told his audience that a cotton farmer’s goal is to meet production goals in the most economically and environmentally sound manner possible, but the drought over the last year has made this easier said than done.

“Last year, we had a lot of cotton that just didn’t want to come out of the ground,” Vandiver said.

Vandiver talked about cotton pests, such as thrips, aphids, lygus, bollworms and nemotodes, microscopic worms which live in soil and feed on the root of plants.

He said there are three treatments for nematodes: Variety selection, seed treatments and vydate.

Vandiver said vydate is a pesticide used specifically for nematodes and pests, which suck fluids from cotton plants.

“If you have nematodes, you need to consider all three of these treatments,” Vandiver said.

Vandiver said he and colleagues have heavily researched what products work best for certain pests.

He said qualities tested in disease and pest prevention products include how they impact the production system and suppress pests.

He said a process called variety evaluations appraises the genetic potential of the staple (length of the cotton fiber) and micronaire (thickness of the cotton fiber wall).

Vandiver said farmers have rapidly adopted the use of transgenic cotton for its weed and insect management attributes, which include the chemical technology Roundup Ready and Bt, which is a cotton bred with a gene taken from bacteria.

“Basically, it creates a protein toxic to pests,” Vandiver said. “And with it’s bred in resistance to herbicides, the chemical kills weeds and not plants.”

He said the main herbicide technologies currently available in transgenic cotton are called Round Up Ready, Liberty Linked and Glytol.

Vandiver also discussed a pest new to eastern New Mexico and west Texas cotton crops called the Kurtomathrips, a small insect, which feeds on developing plants and potentially defoliating them.

He said these thrips are different than the thrips species commonly found in seedling cotton, the western flower thrips. Early infestations of western flower thrips are an annual problem in area cotton production.

“Over in south Texas, they’ve got a different species which are easier to manage and many times the cotton will simply grow through them, but we don’t have that luxury,” Vandiver said of the western flower thrips.

He said chemical seed treatments, called aeris and cruiser, as well as foliar acephate, are affective against the pest.

Vandiver said in his trials, he found that foliar treatments for thrips were most affective when applied early on in crop season.

“The ones that made the money are the ones that were treated in week one or two,” Vandiver said.