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Thrips Appear in Cotton Across Southern States

May 13, 2020
This agronomic image shows thrips damage in cotton

Thrips damage to young cotton seedlings

Photo Source – Ronald Smith, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

Thrips are one of the most consistent and predictable threats for cotton. Factors like temperature and rainfall affect the ever-changing, high-risk window of thrips each year. Infestation levels and populations vary based on weather and timing, changing each spring depending on when thrips move from their overwintering hosts into cotton.

At the end of April, the Syngenta 2020 Pest Patrol program received alerts from expert entomologists across GA, TN and AL reporting increasing thrips pressure in cotton.

These tiny insects range from yellow to black in coloring and have piercing-sucking mouthparts. Cotton damage occurs when thrip infestations feed on susceptible seedlings. Entomologist Phillip Roberts, Ph.D., outlines thrip sensitivity levels by growth stage in his April 29th Pest Patrol update, stating that the more leaves on each plant, the more tolerant it will be to thrips feeding. Cotton plants are most vulnerable in the first or second leaf stage, but growers need to monitor pressure until the 4-leaf stage, after which it’s rare to see loss from thrips.

Tennessee entomologist Scott Stewart, Ph.D., warns that growers need to be on their toes this season when it comes to cotton thrips. It’s been a wet spring, and more rain means that thrips will stay longer on the host plants before moving. Stewart expects we’ll see moderate to increasingly high risk thrips pressure beginning early May.

North Carolina State University offers an excellent Thrips Infestation Predictor to help guide growers by predicting thrips dispersal timing, seedling susceptibility and resulting injury risk based on geographic location and planting date. With the ability to view predicted pressure in specific locations, growers can make the best decisions for their crop.

Roberts recommends all cotton receive an insecticide seed treatment or in-furrow application to provide longer residual control; if needed, growers should provide supplemental foliar treatments based on pest presence and stage of plant development. While the Thrips Infestation Predictor is a great tool that helps growers remain diligent, nothing can replace going into the field and scouting to see current threat levels within a crop.

Combat the threat of thrips by contacting a local retailer or Syngenta representative to build a customized management program that will help you stay ahead of thrips throughout the season.

Sign up for the 2020 Pest Patrol alerts to receive timely text updates on insect and diseases threat levels, outbreak predictions and more from leading experts and Syngenta agronomic service representatives.

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All photos are either the property of Syngenta or are used with permission.

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