Friday, December 17, 2010

Cotton Market Update - Bob Goodman

As I write this last Cotton Economics Update of my career, the Dec 2011 contract is just a tick below 97 cents. Prices for all our commodities are just amazing, and seem to be supported by the fundamentals. However, the only USDA statistic I wish to comment on is the projected 1.9 million bale domestic ending stocks for the 2010-2011 crop. As you know, that number is a record, at least since 1965, and anything older than that doesn’t matter. Last years number was 2.9 and there have never been two consecutive years with less than 3 million bales of carryover. The US cotton fundamentals are in uncharted territory, but on the plus side for once. Having spent most of my career with cotton around 50 cents, this is wonderful. If I had known this was going to happen, I might have stuck around another year. Remember, in 2001 the season average price for cotton received by farmers was 32 cents.

In my last column I parroted the advice of other market commentators who advised farmers to lock in some prices on next year’s product as well as the inputs especially fertilizer and fuel. I just want to add here a comment about a conversation we had here at Auburn, sitting around at coffee break with Ron Smith, Dale Monks, Dennis Delaney, Austin Hagan, and all the crops gang. As you can imagine, we could only squeeze in a few minutes to talk about the crop between sessions on Cam Newton and the coming championship bowl game. But I think two thoughts the specialists had regarding the coming year bear repeating here.

First, obviously prices are good. It will take less cotton to pay for a crop protection product than ever before. The rewards for good crop management have never been higher. Mistakes have never been costlier. You should plan carefully and pay close attention to detail. Just as an example, and not to pick on anyone, but John Fulton, an Agricultural Engineer here, just showed me some data from a cotton conservation tillage / plant population experiment. It was a good idea for an experiment, but the final plant populations were so far from the intended target that the results were perhaps less useful than they might have otherwise been. All I’m saying is that it’s easy to mess up, and some things can’t be fixed. Put yourself in a position to make top yields. Cover the basics; fertility, variety, timeliness, pest control.

Second, there will be opportunities to waste money on this crop. This is never a good idea. I will go out on a limb here in my last column and say that my personal recommendation is that you should not even consider any product without an extensive research pedigree from your own State Land Grant University. If you choose to buy and apply such products, I would offer you the same assessment that Dale Monks commonly offers in these situations: “It doesn’t cost much and it probably won’t hurt your crop”.

Bob Goodman, Retired Cotton Economist, Formerly Auburn University, with thanks for all the help and friendship. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I hope to try something where people are glad to see me when I show up. Thus, it will probably not involve agricultural economics.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cotton Insect and Crop Report - Alabama 2010

Cotton was planted on 345,000 acres in 2010, an increase of about 25% over the previous year. Over 96% of the acreage contained the RoundUp gene and approximately 90% contain genes for lep control. Due to the phase out of DP555, market share was gained by Phytogen, Fibermax and Stoneville varieties.

Early season insect pressure (thrips, aphids, cutworms, grasshoppers and plant bugs) was below historical levels for the second year in a row and very limited foliar applications were necessary. More than 80% of the acres were planted with insecticide treated seed, with the remainder planted with Temik in-furrow. Midseason pests included bollworms, at below normal numbers, which dictated fewer oversprays over the varieties with stacked lep genes. Very few lep sprays were made statewide, even in fields planted to conventional varieties. 2010 was one of the lowest pressure years in history for all lep species.

Stink bugs were by far the most economic of all cotton insects. Two to four foliar sprays were needed over most of the state to hold damage below threshold level. The dominant species in 2010 was the brown stink bug, Euschistus servus. The stink bug complex remains a complex issue to many growers and fieldmen, especially as it relates to scouting techniques and thresholds.

Weather during the production season was good until about July 15-20 at which time rainfall ceased and temperatures increased to 96-102° F (days) and 78-82° F (nights) for the following two months. This combination of heat and drought took its’ toll on yields since only about 10% of the state acreage is irrigated. Therefore, an 800-1000 lb potential yield deteriorated to about 500 lbs. Certain fields in several regions of the state yielded as low as 200-250 lbs of lint/acre.

Research continued in 2010 with the newer chemistries against the bug complex, sucking pests, and leps. Also, the newer genetic technologies were also evaluated both, agronomically and entomologically, within the state.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Plataspid (Kudzu) Bug Found in Alabama

You may now add a second county to our Plataspid bug finds in Alabama. I captured a single specimen while sweeping kudzu in Cherokee County, Alabama, on Monday November 2nd. The location was on US Highway 278 about 4 miles from the Georgia state line. This site by air is just a few miles north of Dr. Charles Ray's finding on October 23rd in north Cleburne County.

In my last blog on 10/27 I stated that no damage to soybeans was observed from 2010 infestations. However, based on information from Dr. Phillip Roberts, University of Georgia, yield losses may have occurred. Additional information will be available in the following months. Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plataspid (Kudzu) Bug in Alabama

Surveys of kudzu were conducted in Lee, Chambers, Randolph, Cleburne and Cherokee counties on October 26, 2010, and no kudzu bugs were observed. These particular counties were selected for surveys since they are adjacent to Georgia counties where the bug has been reported.

However, when I arrived back in my office on October 27, 2010, I had an email from Dr. Charles Ray, Auburn University Plant Diagnostic Lab, reporting a single find, an adult plataspid (collected Oct. 23) on kudzu in northern Cleburne county. To our knowledge this is the first find in Alabama.

This insect, a native to Asia, was first reported in October 2009 in nine northeast Georgia counties near Athens, Georgia. Since that time they have spread to more than 60 north and central Georgia counties as well as most South Carolina counties and a couple in North Carolina.

The adults are 4-6 mm long, oblong, olive-green colored, and produce a mildly offensive odor when disturbed. In the fall this bug attempts to overwinter in houses, churches and other structures. Therefore, they become a nuisance pest as they congregate on walls and windows of buildings.

During the spring and summer they feed on kudzu and were observed in heavy numbers on soybeans in 2010. They are known to feed on legumes in general. No damage was observed or measured on soybeans. Dr. Phillip Roberts conducted several control trials and found that a number of our row crop insecticides gave good control.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cotton Insect Loss Estimates Made

2010 was one of the lightest insect years on record. Loss estimates range from a total of 5.2% of yield in central and south Alabama to 3.6% in the Tennessee Valley region. Most of these losses were attributed to one insect (pest) in each region. For the southern region it was the stink bug, predominately the brown species (3.5%), and for the north it was spider mites (2.3%). Other insects that caused measurable losses were the bollworm (lowest in 38 years), plant bug, and thrips.


Older beans mature and shedding leaves. Younger (wheat) beans filled pods rapidly during the past 2 weeks.


Harvest continued at a rapid pace during weeks of 9/12 to 9/18 and 9/19 to 9/25. Many fields are falling into the range of 500 lbs +/- 100 lbs lint.


Continued hot with 90°+ days and 70°F nights through 9/25. The first significant rainfall in weeks occurred on 9/26. Rainfall was not uniform but varied from 0.1 inch up to 4.0 inches.

Monday, September 13, 2010


- Looper populations seemed to have peaked out. In most instances defoliation was between 5 and 20% where no controls were applied. Therefore, populations were below threshold level in most fields.

- Velvetbean caterpillars were found at damaging levels in one field of late maturing beans (R-4/5) in Baldwin county on September 12th. Velvetbean caterpillars are much more economic to control than loopers since pyrethroids do a nice job on VBC.


Conditions remain extremely hot (95-97°F) and dry (no rainfall in past 30 days in some counties). Some of these areas only have had two measurable rain events since May.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Harvesting is picking up speed, especially in the more droughty areas of the state. More fields are turning brown as each day passes. These early harvested fields are producing some low yields. The plants were “knee” high or less and the bolls were small. In fact, small bolls have been noted statewide. Likely due to the environmental conditions they were produced under.


After a couple of cool nights, we are back about 90°F each day and over 70°F at night. No rainfall has occurred in a couple of weeks, which lends itself to a “fall” type of drought.


Loopers are the dominant soybean insect, up to 30% defoliation and damaging levels in some fields. A few velvetbean caterpillar and green cloverworms are in the mix. The “grass” strain of the fall armyworm does not appear to feed to a significant degree on soybeans. And, stink bug populations are not as high as anticipated.

Red banded stink bugs were discovered on the Wiregrass Research Farm, Headland, AL (Henry Co.) this week. Since they were found about 180 miles west of Headland last month, they likely may be present in other locations across south Alabama.

Interesting Observation of Stink Bugs

Friends of mine were fishing about 80 miles out in the Gulf over Labor Day weekend and observed hundreds of stink bugs in the water and on their boat. These stink bugs apparently rode a weather front that far out into the Gulf.

Friday, September 3, 2010


- A few late maturing fields are still being scouted for insects, primarily brown stink bugs and soybean loopers.
- Defoliation is proceeding on more fields each day and week.
- Harvesting has begun in a few locations. I observed a picker running about 8:00pm yesterday (9/2) in southeast Dallas county.
- Yield potential is all over the board (250 lbs- 1600 lbs/ac.)


Economic levels of soybean loopers, fall armyworms (FAW) and velvetbean caterpillars (VBC) are as far north as Marion Junction in Dallas county and FAWs are occurring near Prattville in Autauga county. Soybean loopers, usually a southern latitude insect are occurring at all points within the state. Both VBC and FAW can be controlled with less expensive chemistry than can the loopers.


Fall armyworm populations are “hit and miss” at damaging numbers all over the state. Some fields have been hit twice within 2 weeks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Soybean Loopers Occurring over the Southeast

Soybean loopers are the dominant caterpillar species occurring over a multi state area of the southeastern United States. Several states, including Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas are all experiencing looper outbreaks. I observed my first soybean field with treatable levels of loopers in Baldwin county on 8/26. Based on what is happening over a large area, Alabama growers need to be very alert for looper outbreaks.

Soybean loopers may occur at damaging levels in soybeans, peanuts, or late maturing cotton fields. Looper eggs are deposited on the underside of leaves in the lower part of the crop canopy. The tiny, hair like, early instar larvae can go undetected for several days. As they mature they move up the plant canopy with their defoliation. Therefore, the foliage loss is often unnoticeable for a week or more. A high percent of the total foliage consumed is during the last 3-4 days of the larval cycle. I have always considered somewhere between 5 and 8 larvae per row foot as an economic level. The amount of canopy available in a crop like soybeans would have some bearing on the economic threshold. I will have to depend on my entomology friends to set a sweep net threshold for drill soybeans. I’ll be checking around for that threshold since late planted drill beans behind wheat may be at the greatest risk.

Insecticides that work well on soybean looper are: Steward, Intrepid, Tracer, and recently labeled Belt. Both Diamond and Dimilin (Insect Growth Regulators) also give adequate to good suppression. Products like pyrethroids, Lannate, Larvin, Sevin, Lorsban and methyl parathion do not give measurable control of soybean loopers in Alabama.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Many fields are beginning to open and the plants have few developing bolls near the terminal. Therefore, insects are of little concern. The extreme heat coupled with drought a few weeks back took care of our top crop. Late maturing fields that caught a scattered thunderstorm should be watched for stink bugs until the last bolls we expect to harvest are 20-25 days old. Several growers have expressed concern about the number of hard locked lower bolls due to boll rot. What began as a promising cotton crop has turned into a below average yield potential for the state as a whole. The southwestern region of the state had the best rainfall pattern and will likely have the best yields.


A sub-threshold level of several caterpillar species can be found in most fields statewide. These include green cloverworms, soybean loopers, podworms, fall armyworms, and in the southern areas of the state, velvetbean caterpillars.

If the fall armyworms should occur at treatable levels, growers need to know that they are likely the “grass” strain which can be controlled rather economically with pyrethroids, Intrepid or Dimilin.

Stink bugs, especially the brown species, are at treatable levels in some bean fields. Growers should remember that stink bugs affect the quality of beans more so than the yield. Where brown stink bugs are the primary target, I would suggest a high rate of one of the labeled pyrethroids. These include: Baythroid XL, Brigade (Discipline), Prolex, Karate Z, or Mustang Max. Several of these have multiple generic brand names.


Many of the same caterpillar species found in soybeans are also at sub-economic levels in peanuts. The one exception is fall armyworm. Another “flush”, about 20-30 small larvae per row foot, was found in peanuts near Shorter, AL (Macon county) yesterday (August 24). These armyworms do not always occur in all fields on a given farm. The same products – pyrethroids, Intrepid and Dimilin also provide good control of fall armyworms in peanuts. The quickest kill will come from pyrethroids while the longest residual will come from Intrepid and Dimilin.

Recent Field Tours

More than 100 growers, ag suppliers and related agencies were in attendance at a recent Field Day. The 34th annual East Central Tour was held on August 13th. This tour began 34 years ago primarily to view the “magic” cotton insect control obtained with Ambush, Pounce and Pydrin pyrethroids. They provided better control than anything that generation of growers had ever observed.
The annual Wiregrass Research Farm field day was held on August 20th. The latest research results on peanuts, cotton, corn and soybeans were presented.

Twin Link Field Day

I had the opportunity to participate in the Bayer Twin Link dual-Bt technology field tour near Blackville, SC, on August 23rd. Research on this technology was observed on the Clemson Edisto Research and Education Center and on the Carolina Ag Research farm (Dr. Mike McCarty). Both locations have had some of the highest bollworm pressure I have ever observed. Untreated conventional cotton had 100% boll damage and some foliage loss to bollworms. The Bayer Twin Link Bt technology did not give perfect control under this level of pressure but showed impressive results.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Insect Blog 8-16-10

Weather- Temperatures remain high 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit and rainfall extremely scattered statewide, as of today (8/16). Hay, pastures, peanuts and soybeans in many areas would profit greatly from rainfall. Most cotton fields are beyond benefit from water.
Fall Armyworms- Populations continue in hay, pastures and peanuts. However, in many south Alabama locations the previous generation has cycled out. Another generation may be possible 2-3 weeks ahead.
Tobacco Budworms- An extremely heavy moth flight and egg lay was observed on cotton in Seminole County, GA on 8/11. Only late planted conventional cotton will be at risk from this pest. However, it might be noted that budworms are now infesting soybeans in sizable numbers in some southern locations.
Podworms/Soybeans- Soybean growers should be very alert for corn earworm infestations on beans that are anywhere from R1-R7 (blooming to filled pods that are still green).
Bean Leaf Beetles/Soybeans- Several Tennessee Valley fields have subeconomic levels of bean leaf beetles in soybeans.
Lesser Corn Stalk Borer/Peanuts- Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, Extension peanut entomologist, has issued a high alert for LCSB in peanuts based on a sharp increase in moth numbers captured in traps. Counties in extreme southeastern Alabama are also very hot and dry, which is ideal weather for LCSB outbreaks.
New Registration (Belt)- Belt insecticide, marketed by Bayer, received registration on soybeans on 8/12. The label rate is 2-3 oz per acre. Belt has activity on most all caterpillar pests and is at its best on foliage feeders.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fall Armyworms

The most significant agricultural insect event of the past week has been the explosion of fall armyworms (grass strain) across Southern Alabama. They were reported from the Mobile county area of the west and personally observed in the Elba-Kinston area (Coffee County) on Friday (8/7) and the Eufaula area (Barbour County) in the east on Saturday (8/8). This outbreak can be found on pastures, hay fields, lawns, athletic fields and peanuts. Numbers observed range from 5 to more than 20 per square foot in grasses or per row foot in peanuts. Some of the most commonly used controls include Intrepid, Dimilin, pyrethroids, Traces and Steward.

Other then stink bugs, no significant insect numbers were observed or reported in cotton last week. Soybeans continue to be infested with grasshoppers and three cornered alfalfa hoppers as reported by Dr. Tim Reed. Low levels of stink bugs, loopers, green cloverworms and bean leaf beetles are being observed. No widespread outbreak of podworms (corn ear worms) have been reported

Friday, August 6, 2010

Soybean Insect Update-Tim Reed


Tim Reed, Extension Entomologist

August 5, 2010

During the first week of August I inspected soybean fields in Tuscaloosa county that had significant numbers of both grasshoppers and three-cornered alfalfa hoppers (3CAH). Grasshoppers feed primarily on the foliage but they can also feed on pods. No noticeable pod feeding was found on the plants the farmer and I inspected. 3CAH feed around the stem of young plants, girdling the stem near the soil surface. Young seedling plants may lodge from the girdling. When bean pods are set, maturing plants may break over from early seedling damage. Both adult and nymph 3CAH’s will also feed on the petioles of leaves, blooms, and pods. Pod petiole feeding will cause pods to drop to the ground, reducing yield. Soybean plants are most susceptible to main stem girdling when plants are 10 inches or less in height. Once the plant is taller than 10 inches, the main stem is not the preferred feeding site, but the leaf, bloom, and pod petioles may be fed upon. It should be noted that often plants that have been girdled and do not lodge will produce normal yields. The literature reports that 3CAH feeding on leaf petioles and pod stems interferes with photosynthesis and the flow of nutrients to developing seed. Sweep net sampling indicated populations of both insect pests were as high as 3 per sweep. The treatment threshold for grasshoppers once soybeans are in the bloom to pod –fill stage is when plants have 20% defoliation . The pod feeding threshold for grasshoppers in Mississippi is to treat when 50% of plants have one or more pods fed on by grasshoppers. The treatment threshold for 3CAH is one per sweep when plants are more than 10 inches tall.
Treatment decisions for the Tuscaloosa county fields were complicated by the fact that high temperatures had resulted in a significantly reduced pod set to date, even in an irrigated field. (More information about the effects of high temperatures on soybean pod set can be found in the Mississippi Crop Situation Newsletter for July 16, 2010 at After consulting with Dr. Ron Smith the farmer decided to treat the soybeans with the maximum labeled rate of a pyrethroid since many of the grasshoppers were immature and will be much easier to kill now than when they become adults. I had one soybean farmer tell me that one year he could not kill the grasshoppers in one of his northeast Alabama soybean fields and they ruined the crop. The goal of this treatment decision was to hopefully reduce the grasshopper numbers sufficiently to avoid a potential yield loss later and to significantly reduce the numbers of 3CAH’s. Inspection of more soybean fields in Marengo county revealed that a high level of plants (in a field with a 40% stand of soybeans) had sustained a high percentage of girdling when the plants were small. Sweep net sampling broke over many of these girdled plants. The 3CAH population in this field was less than one per sweep and I recommended that the grower wait another week and check the field again before making an insecticide application. The farmers in both Tuscaloosa and Marengo county were reminded that once they treated their soybeans and eliminated the beneficial insect/spider species they faced a greater risk of incurring damaging populations of “worms”.

Mississippi State Extension Entomologist Angus Catchot recently reported that over the last several weeks Mississippi Extension workers have had numerous reports of tobacco budworm moths being flushed in soybeans in the delta region of the state. Ryan Jackson and Clint Allen with USDA-ARS in Stoneville have been collecting populations of bollworms missed with pyrethroids in soybeans. Three populations collected the week of July 25th in the delta behind a pyrethroid application turned out to be 7%, 28%, and 60% tobacco budworms. Tobacco budworms are resistant to pyrethroid insecticides in MS (and in Alabama). Angus stated that although, in some areas of the state budworm numbers may be high in soybeans, most populations are low compared to the bollworm numbers. If high numbers of larvae are left behind a pyrethroid application it is recommended to get a positive ID on the larvae before retreating the field. Two characteristics that can be used to distinguish tobacco budworm larvae from cotton bollworm larvae are depicted in the July 30 Mississippi Crop Situation newsletter which can be viewed at ( Some Mississippi farmers have chosen to let remaining worms cycle given the cost of treatment for tobacco budworm. Cotton bollworm (i.e. pod worm) populations have thus far been much lower than normal in Alabama soybeans.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Effect of Heat and Drought on Cotton Crops

Last week's heat and drought was devastating to a high percent of our cotton crop in Alabama. Fields that had good moisture up until July 23 were shedding everything from stress by July 30. In my opinion this stress has cut about 4 weeks off of our cotton production season. Within a few more days the only fruit remaining on the plants will be bolls that are more than 20 days old. Plant bugs, bollworms, and budworms are likely a thing of the past for the 2010 cotton season. Even stink bugs will shortly find that the remaining fruit is too hard to penetrate internally. Growers may wish to watch the swag or greener areas of their fields. Insects may congregate in the lush areas for a while longer. We have plenty of time to recover and set more fruit but scattered thunderstorms will not provide the moisture to turn the cotton around.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Statewide Cotton Insect situation

We have reached the point in the season that it is difficult to generalize about the cotton insect situation statewide. Some fields have been sprayed while some have not. Some of those sprayed have received a pyrethroid while others have received a phosphate such as Bidrin for bugs only. Scouts are reporting that behind pyrethroid sprays they are finding escape worms in some fields and escape bugs (both plant bugs and brown stink bugs) in others. More escape worms are being reported in DP555 (sirge gene) then the Bollgard II varieties. As each day passes more field people are reporting Fall armyworms in blooms. It is suspected that the extreme heat has reduced the effectiveness of the pyrethroid chemistry. This happened in the early 1980's, with the earlier generation pyrethroids, when the temperatures approached 100° F.

My suggestion would be to target the insect that is potentially the most damaging. If the problem is escape bollworms I would continue to select a pyrethroid. Use a high labeled rate, add some crop oil to the spray mix, and add a phosphate if high levels of bugs are present. If the problem is primarily bugs, then just go with a phosphate such as Bidrin at 1 gallon to 21-24 acres. If Fall armyworms are in the mix the pyrethroids will not give acceptable suppression. Under this condition, I would go with Diamond (9 oz) Steward (11 oz), Belt (3 oz) or Tracer (2.5 oz).

Soybeans- A few green cloverworms and soybean loofers can be found in many fields at non damaging levels. The greatest insect threat statewide is likely stink bugs. The stink bug population has been primarily brown's up to this point. However, yesterday at the Gulf Coast Research Station, the southern green stink bugs were out numbering the browns. Also, at this site the recently discovered red banded stink bug was present and had done heavy damage to beans at the R-5/6 pod filling stage.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stink bugs and plant bugs

Cotton- A heavy bollworm moth flight has been ongoing this week (July 19-23) in the Florida Panhandle and areas of south Alabama. Small larvae have been observed in white blooms as far north as Montgomery. Many of the eggs are being deposited on large squares and three days later the small larvae are moving immediately into white blooms.

A low number of Fall armyworms are now being reported in cotton in central and south Alabama.

Both stink bugs and plant bugs (both adults and immature) (tarnished and clouded) are in most of all central and south Alabama fields that have not been sprayed since the first of July. A good clean-up spray is needed in most fields and probably should have been made 7-10 days ago.

The drought and heat has taken its toll on cotton that escaped scattered thunderstorms.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Red Banded Stink Bug in Alabama Feeding on Soybeans

Another significant insect event this week was the discovery of the red banded stink bug (Piezodorus sp.) feeding on soybeans in Baldwin County. This species had previously been reported from most other southern states, except Alabama. They have been reported to be very damaging to soybeans in Louisiana and other mid-south states. This species has the ability to be more damaging to beans than the other more common stink bugs (brown and Southern green). Most reports indicate the red banded may be more difficult to control with insecticides. All entomologists agree that populations can rebound greatly within 7-12 days after a spray.

Stink bugs, tarnished plant bugs and "worms" in cotton

My cotton insect observations this week were as follows: many fields have a number of immature (late instar, soon to be adult) tarnished plant bugs. This stage of immature, along with the adult stage, is what will be giving us our “dirty” blooms in the days ahead. Mixed in with these immature TPBs are a few fleahoppers (both immature and adults) and a few immature clouded plant bugs. Many fields would profit from a plant bug complex “clean-up” spray if it has not already been done during the past two weeks.

Aphids have built rapidly during the past week in a number of fields. Where cotton is currently under drought stress, the presence of aphids and honeydew on all plants might influence the choice of chemistry for this bug clean-up spray.

Several fields of April planted cotton in southeast Alabama had treatable levels of “worms” this week. These worms were likely already about a week old on July 15, which means the eggs were deposited around July 5. This was during the period when most moths observed were tobacco budworms. Appropriate chemistry would be needed if targeting these worms. By next week (July 19-26) the eggs deposited will likely be bollworms and pyrethroids would be the most economical chemistry.

Even though the percent internal boll damage may not have increased in recent days, the brown stink bug problem has not gone away. My thought as to why the percent damage hasn’t gone up is due the fact that peak boll production is close in cotton planted in late April. Let me explain. A week or two ago we had about one boll per row foot about 10-12 days old (the size stink bugs prefer). Some of our stink bug damage levels at that time were running 20% or more. At one per foot this would be about 14000 bolls per acre x 20% or 2800 per acre with internal damage. At present these same fields have up to 3 or more 10-12 day old bolls per row foot. This would mean that 42000 bolls per acre are at risk, but the stink bug population hasn’t increased greatly at this point. The percent internal stink bug damaged bolls has gone down in many fields but that doesn’t mean we are not taking economic damage. Ten percent damage to 42000 bolls per acre is 4200 bolls. Percentages can be misleading. The damage we are incurring is a function of two things – the number of bugs present and the number of bolls at risk. In the old days this situation existed with the number of squares and the number of boll weevils. The damage percent would go down prior to increasing rapidly.

Not only will we wake up one day a couple of weeks down the road with more internal stink bug damage than we thought, but also with a sharp increase in the percent damage. This will be a function of more stink bugs present by then, but also a reduction in the number of bolls per acre that are in the desired feeding size. Borrowing a line from one of our recent politicians “this makes sense to me – does it to you”?

Redbanded stink bugs

On Tuesday, I surveyed some soybeans at our Gulf Coast Research Station at Fairhope, and I’m 99% sure that I found red banded stink bugs there. These beans were at about 30% podfill. I was finding about 1 adult and 2 immatures per 6 row feet. If it is the red banded, that’s the first time the insect has been found in Alabama. It’s probably been in south Alabama, but maybe we just haven’t been looking for it enough.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Aphids and bug complex building, fall armyworms in second generation in pastures, fleahoppers appear

We’re getting more reports of aphids building in cotton. They’ve been slow to increase but still have reached treatable levels in some fields. While we were doing our beat sheets last week, I noticed in some of the older cotton that immature brown stink bugs were turning up where we had adult brown stink bugs earlier. So, they’ve been in there long enough now to turn over a generation. Most of the plant bug population right now are in immature forms coming off of the June adults. Fields that were sprayed for bugs appear to be pretty clean, but others have populations now that are at or will shortly be at damaging levels, so we’re really close to making applications to clean up the bug complex on everything.

We’re still not seeing signs of the huge tobacco budworm flight that was underway in southwest Georgia 2 weeks ago. It’s amazing how fast budworm activity drops off as you travel 2 counties west into Alabama. We have a long history of similar patterns – heavy pressure in south Georgia but hardly anything in southeast Alabama. We’re into the second generation of fall armyworms, the grass strain, in coastal Bermuda and other hay fields in southeast Alabama.

The garden fleahopper has been causing damage in a 25-acre cotton field in Mobile County. This is the first time I’ve seen the pest in cotton in the 39 years I’ve been working the crop and didn’t know for sure what the insect was when a consultant emailed me samples of the pest and damage. But Mississippi State University recently released an excellent color insect guide for cotton, and the garden fleahopper was included in it, which allowed me to ID the insect. Evidently, it’s been enough of a pest at some point in Mississippi cotton that it made the book.

I have a feeling we’ll see a lot of brown stink bugs in soybeans when they start setting pods. They’re certainly nearby, although probably not in soybeans to any degree yet. Stink bugs are smart enough that they won’t hang around too long in a crop that doesn’t provide a food source. Typically, they’ll leave corn within a week of when it starts drying down and, as if on cue, they’ll shift into soybeans when they start setting pods. We’re following a population of them right now at our Gulf Coast research station.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Insect Complex Developing

Several fields were surveyed yesterday (7/6/2010) in central Alabama. My findings were as follows: aphids continue to be low to non-detectable in many fields; drop cloth samples yielded early instar immature plant bugs, and an occasional fleahopper, frequent adult clouded plant bugs, and adult brown stink bugs. All of these were at non-treatable levels at the present. However, as each day and each week passes the bug complex will become more abundant and damaging to the point that the entire complex will require controls. I would key on damage to the thumb sized bolls (until quarter diameter bolls are present) for stink bug decision and to a combination of dirty blooms and the number of immature plant bugs per row foot for that species.

I would advise field surveyors to begin switching from a sweep net to the drop cloth as cotton begins to bloom. The majority of the plant bug population for the next couple of weeks will be immatures that have hatched from eggs deposited by migrating adults during the month of June.

The large tobacco budworm flight has not reached southeast Alabama yet. I will be in southeastern Alabama tomorrow and will observe for moths, eggs, and small larvae at that time.

Calls received this week have centered on what to use for a complex of aphids, plant bugs and brown stink bugs. No one chemical would be the top choice for this complex. A pre-mix or a tank mix of two chemical classes would likely give the most effective control of this complex.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tobacco Budworm Moth Flight

Another significant insect event is now occurring in extreme southwestern Georgia. Consultants yesterday were reporting a very heavy tobacco budworm moth flight with eggs on most every plant. This event means nothing to growers who have planted Bollgard or WideStrike varieties. However, to those with fields planted to conventional varieties, it is a different predicament. On the one hand they have adult stink bugs and hatching immature plant bugs, while on the other they need beneficials to be present during this upcoming budworm flight. This budworm moth activity will likely extend across southern counties of Alabama during the next 10 days, and may even reach the central Alabama area. Tobacco plants, grown as a sentinel crop in Prattville, AL had budworms from the previous generation of budworms. The budworm egg lay on tobacco at Headland, (southeast Alabama) continued from Memorial Day in May until about June 20. It will be difficult to advise growers with conventional cotton during the first weeks of July. They just need to realize that most worms will be budworm species and pyrethroids will not give worm control during this window of the season.

Brown Stink Bugs

Adult brown stink bugs continue to be observed in many fields. They have been present for about a month but could not do much damage until about the second week of bloom when small thumb sized bolls were present. I observed fields of late April planted cotton in southeastern Alabama (2-3 weeks of bloom) yesterday that had up to 40% boll damage from brown stink bugs. When stink bugs are present prior to bloom, bolls smaller than quarter diameter should be sampled as soon as they are available.

Plant Bugs

A few fields have received controls for adult tarnished plant bugs during the past week. However, it appears that most of the June migratory adults have died off and we should shift our focus to their immature offspring in the next 2 to 3 weeks. Unlike the Mid-South, our movement of plant bugs comes primarily from wild host plants around field borders during a one to three week period in June. Thereafter, we only have to control their offspring within fields. This period can extend for several weeks since the June migratory adults deposited eggs over a multi week period. Surveyors should now shift from the sweep net to a drop cloth as they focus on the July immature population in blooming cotton.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hoping for Rain

I will be in the southeastern Alabama region Tuesday and Wednesday this week (June 29 and 30) and will report insect observations later in the week. Widespread thunderstorms are moving across southwestern Alabama today (June 28). Several dry areas still exist in the state. Hopefully rainfall will occur in those areas this week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tarnished Plant Bugs and Brown Stink Bugs

A few more fields have popped up with high numbers of adult tarnished plant bugs this week. These are fields that had low numbers in previous weeks. Even though the percent square retention is still above 80% now, controls are being applied to some of these fields to prevent the likely drop in retention next week. Another benefit of early controls would be to reduce the size of the infield population of immatures during the first half of July. Not only are these adults feeding on pinhead squares, they are also depositing eggs that will be hatching into TPB nymphs in a few weeks.

Brown stink bugs continue to be observed and reported from most cotton fields statewide. These adults will begin feeding on small thumb sized bolls as soon as the dried bloom drops off. In situations like this, we can have damaging economic levels of stink bugs prior to the third week of bloom. Two to three adult brown stink bugs per 20 sweeps (about 60 row feet) were captured in fields at the Wiregrass Research Center, Headland, AL this week. Remember that the life cycle of an adult stink bug may be as long as 30-35 days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spider mites, tarnished plant bugs, tobacco budworms, stink bugs, and yellow striped armyworms observed

Cotton 6/21/2010 - Spider mites were reported infesting select fields in Talladega county today. This is the second call I have had concerning mites on cotton in the past week. This problem could spread in coming weeks with the hot weather. Thunderstorms rumbled through parts of the state on Saturday. But, some areas remain dry with intense heat.

I have received no new reports of tarnished plant bug (TPB) activity. Hopefully, this heavy migration from wild hosts will be of short duration. Fields that were treated for TPBs in southwest Alabama are clean this week with high square retention. Unsprayed fields have some level of plant bugs left but they do not appear to be causing greater than 20% square loss.

Today, I collected early instar tobacco budworm larvae from tobacco at the Gulf Coast Research Center. Tobacco is being used as a sentinel crop at three sites to monitor budworm activity (Prattville, Fairhope, and Headland, AL). Based on observations, it appears that some level of budworm egg lay has been going on for two or more weeks. Growers with conventional cotton should be very selective in spraying for any other insect during this budworm flight. Keep beneficials in conventional cotton as long as possible. Hopefully, up to July 15 in central Alabama and July 20 in central Alabama.

One insect that may make it difficult to leave uncontrolled after the first week of bloom is the stink bug. Numerous brown stink bugs (BSB) can be found in many fields at present. They will not damage pre-bloom cotton but as soon as the bloom drops they will attack the thumb sized boll causing abortion from the plant. I am seeing a level of BSBs that will require controls in many fields by the second week of bloom. It does not appear that these BSB are moving to corn or other hosts, but instead are just waiting for the first small bolls. In fact, when those in corn begin looking for a new home, we likely will have many move into cotton.

Yellow striped armyworms, in low numbers, were observed in numerous BGII fields in Monroe county today.

On other crops - tobacco budworms, fall armyworms and yellow striped armyworms were reported feeding as foliage feeders on peanuts in Monroe county (southwest AL) today. Numbers were low (one per 4-5 row feet) in many fields but a few fields had numbers approaching concern and will be watched closely during the next 7-10 days. The average peanut field has about six inches of foliage at this time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tobacco Budworms on peanut foliage and Fall Armyworms in pastures

On 6/15/2010 tobacco budworms were reported to be feeding on foliage of peanuts in several locations across southern Alabama. A similar situation occurred in 2008 which required controls to prevent complete defoliation. Also on 6/15 Fall Armyworms (likely the grass strain) were reported in high numbers on hay fields in south Alabama. Controls were being applied.

High numbers of adult tarnished plant bugs continue to occur in many, but not all, cotton fields in central and southern Alabama. Controls may be warranted if pinhead square retention drops below 80% in Bollgard and WideStrike varieties. It would not be wise to treat conventional cotton for plant bugs during this tobacco budworm flight.