Monday, September 15, 2014

It Is Best to Leave the Sticky Cotton at the County Fair

It was a year ago when California cotton growers faced the worst white fly infestation in a decade. That sent chills through the industry.
Sticky cotton is a major industry concern.

The fear: sticky cotton, which is caused from honeydew secreted by white flies and cotton aphids. At stake was the global reputation for California’s high quality cotton, Fortunately, growers took action to avert a potential sticky cotton disaster.

How serious is this issue?

A 2007 USDA report called sticky cotton a worldwide program that is “increasing as cotton processing machinery is refined because high-speed, large-volume processing of lint requires cleaner cotton. Much of the cotton produced in the Western United States is exported, and loss of export markets is a serious threat to the U.S. economy.”

In California, growers spent $220 million to combat sticky cotton from 1992 to 2001. Studies indicate sticky cotton can result in a price reduction of 3 to 5 cents a pound.

Aphids damage on a cotton plant.
That’s why field scout Carlos Silva and Dr. Pete Goodell of UC IPM continue to remind growers to keep alert for white flies and aphids. These pests “will jump on you when you least expect it” Pete says.

Let’s remember this: The only good sticky cotton is the kind you get at the county fair.

Honeydew residue caused by aphids
Right now, Carlos reports an uptick in aphids in some fields. The hot weather could help these pests reproduce faster. Already some areas have worrisome hot spots that could require treatment soon. 

Those who need to treat for these pests should remember to ask their PCA about using softer materials that won’t impact beneficial insects. You want to preserve biological controls and let natural predators gobble up the aphids.

Cotton bolls are opening up nicely.

Meanwhile, the string of triple-digit temperatures is expected to continue through early this week. That should speed up boll opening. We could see some growers starting to defoliate their fields over the next week.

 Cotton Tour Alert: The ever-popular Cotton Farm Tour through the San Joaquin Valley will Thursday, October 30. Again the price is right: Free. Space is limited for this behind-the-scenes look at the many sides of cotton production. This year, lunch will be at the Cardella Winery in Mendota.  Check the Sustainable Cotton Project website for more information.


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