Monday, June 4, 2018

These Bugs Benefit Cotton Growers and the Environment

 For the first time this season, field scout Damien Jelen took his pest-catching sweep net to the fledgling cotton fields across the Valley.

Sweep, sweep, sweep … he went snagging whatever bugs were hovering around the cotton plants, which have reached the third true leaf stage in development.  (After the cotton seed is planted, cotyledons form and poke through the soil surface. A bud above the cotyledons will enlarge and serve as the foundation for the true leaves and branches to develop.)

Well, Damien caught plenty of bugs.  The good news, he reports, is his catch werebeneficial insects – the good bugs that gobble up the bad bugs that can damage the crop.

“I caught a lot of beneficials,” Damien said, noting most of the good insects have been big-eyed bugs. “The bug pressure is low because the weather is not super hot yet.”

Researchers say some 50 bugs are potential crop-damaging pests in cotton. Aphids, whiteflies and spider mites are common pests that can be controlled by beneficial insects. An unsprayed cotton field can host several million beneficials per acre, according to one report.

Aphids populate a cotton plant leaf.
You can call beneficial insects the farmer’s best ally. They are a free source of natural pest control, meaning growers can save money while protecting our land, water and soil from pesticides.  It’s called biological control – using nature’s good bugs to manage bad bugs in the field and orchards.

Who are these unsung heroes? 
Here are a few of the common good bugs: green and brown lacewings, minute pirate bugs, lady beetles, assassin bugs, six-spotted thrips and parasitic wasps. Three cheers to these beneficials.
A minute pirate bug gobbles up an aphid.
Meanwhile, Damien reports alfalfa growers are preparing for their second cutting of the season. (A few early birds are getting ready for the third harvest.) He says pest pressure is low in alfalfa as well.

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