Friday, May 22, 2020

Texas High Plains Cotton: Time to Guard Up Against Thrips

Cotton planters are rolling across the Texas High Plains. While lot of cotton seed will go into the ground over the next couple of weeks, some of the early planted stuff is making its way above ground. Thrips are one of the first insect pests that we experience on seedling cotton. I am seeing thrips swarms all around and can find them on almost everything that is green. It will not be too long before these tiny insects land on the emerging cotton. We usually experience higher thrips pressure in the areas north of Lubbock. Under good growing condition, plants do recover from thrips injury without economic yield loss, but when additional stresses such as cold temperatures, sandblasting and or nematodes are present, thrips infestation can delay growth and reduce yields substantially.

Thrips species composition in the South Plains region is mainly formed by onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) and the western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis). Preventive insecticide seed treatments provide a good control against these species for up to ~3 weeks after planting. However, this can vary with growing conditions and the weather. Almost all our in-furrow or insecticide seed treatments used are neonicotinoids (e.g. imidacloprid, thiamethoxam). Remember, these are water-soluble insecticide compounds that are taken up through the roots and translocated into growing leaf tissues and hence need enough soil moisture to be effective.

When scouting for thrips, there is truly no substitute for whole plant inspections from a representative sample from across the whole field. We may find adult thrips (winged) in almost every field but it is important to know that presence of adults alone will not warrant foliar insecticide application. The presence of immature thrips (wingless) is a good indicator of whether the seed treatments are still effective enough or not. The action threshold for thrips is one thrips per true leaf and our suggestions as rescue treatments include acephate, dicrotophos (e.g. Bidrin) or spinetoram (Radiant). Timing of insecticide application is critical. Research indicates that insecticide application beyond 1st true leaf stage will not result in significant yield gains. Also, remember, it is not uncommon to see “look-a-like” thrips symptoms under our environment—beware of similar symptoms from sandblasting, residual herbicides and high temperatures before making spray decisions. We cannot control the environment or the market but we sure can save money and time by avoiding ill-timed or unnecessary insecticide applications.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"Murder Hornet" Facts and a Texas Perspective

The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, is in the news after being found in Washington State. The media have taken to calling it the “murder hornet” because it does kill people. However, it is hard to find authoritative information on this insect, so we are linking to a new article written by Dr. Mike Merchant that describes the insect and discusses why it is indeed dangerous. It is not in Texas, and Dr. Merchant also discusses why it may not get here.

Giant hornets genuinely frightening (posted 5/5/20).

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sign up to get text notification of short weekly IPM audio updates

A few weeks ago I introduced the new IPM Audio Updates that we are producing. The IPM Agents strive to cover all the important news yet keep the broadcast under 10 minutes. The High Plains version features Blayne Reed, Kerry Siders, Dagan Teague and John Thobe. The Concho St. Lawrence version features Haley Kennedy and Brad Easterling. Pat Porter and Suhas Vyavhare will make cameo appearances as needed.

There are two separate broadcasts, one for the High Plains and one for the Concho St. Lawerence area. If you want both then sign up for each one separately. The signup page is here:  https://www.texasinsects.org/signup-texts.html. Once you are signed up, you will get a text message immediately after the weekly broadcast is completed and posted on our server.

There is not much fine print: We will never share your phone number or any other information with anyone. We don't ask your name, but we will ask whether you are a producer, consultant, ag industry, AgriLife or other. This so that we can get an idea of who is using the service. If you decide to stop getting the text messages, just text the word STOP to the number that is at the bottom of each text message. 

Join us for rapid updates on insects, weeds, diseases and growing conditions as we start the 2020 season. If you want to sample the broadcasts before signing up, the ones so far are here: https://www.texasinsects.org/southern-high-plains-pest-news.html. (Future recordings will be in stereo.)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Off Topic: COVID-19 Life in Lubbock and the Southern High Plains

The coronavirus restrictions have been in place for over one month now and there are 494 known cases in Lubbock County as of this writing, and relatively few in surrounding counties. When I look at how we as a people have handled this as compared to some other places I think it says a lot about us.

For example, a co-worker's mother was discharged from an assisted care facility three weeks ago, and on the way out the door the family was told a worker at the facility had tested positive for the virus. So what did the family do? They took their mother to their house where they could care for her and totally quarantined themselves for two weeks. They did not have to do it, they did it to protect others.

The great reopening will begin this week at the direction of our governor and local politicians. No one wants more virus cases, but many local businesses are on the brink and need to reopen, even if in a modified fashion. We are about to embark on a great experiment and the outcome is unknown. However, what I do know is that we are a unique people. The video linked below shows some of that. It contains some of my photos from over the years and was issued through 4th on Broadway, a group of volunteers that for 30 years has put on the 4th of July parade and largest free festival in the state with support from local businesses and individuals. The music is by Doug Smith, and his family graciously donated it when they learned about this project. I am deeply grateful for their gift, and to be living here on the southern high plains of Texas.


Patrick Porter

Friday, April 17, 2020

Miller Moth Deluge Near

We had tons of army cutworm larvae in many of our wheat and alfalfa fields this spring. I have never used the word tons when trying to describe a quantity of insects, but here is some math. We recently conducted an insecticide efficacy trial on these larvae, and they averaged 7 per square foot. An acre would have 304,920, and a 50-acre field would have 15,246,000. We have many, many wheat fields that are infested this year. The larvae are now entering the pupal stage and will soon emerge as adults and invade our homes and structures. 

Army cutworm larvae from two plots in the efficacy trial.

They prefer to fly at night and seek shelter in the day, which is why you will get up one morning and find your porch covered, and more moths in the house if it is not sealed up well. Don’t leave your truck windows down either. Some people say that a bowl of water and a little dish soap can be left under a porch light. The moths come to the light and contact the water where the dish soap has eliminated the surface tension so the moths sink and drown. This is true, but it won’t really reduce the number of moths to any degree, although the revenge factor might make you feel better. Revenge might be on your mind because the two biggest complaints about the moths are that they keep people from sleeping because of all of that flying around in the bedroom while they are trying exit the house, and because the oils from their bodies stain draperies and furniture. 

An army cutworm moth.

“Miller moth” is a generic term that refers to several moth species that fly in large numbers and create a nuisance. Here on the High Plains the Millers are usually the army cutworm. The adults that fly in a few weeks will spend some time feeding on plant nectar, making us even crazier than we already are under this COVID-19 isolation, and then they will begin their long migration to the Rocky Mountains where they will spend the summer annoying people there. The bears won’t mind though because Miller moths are a delicious treat for them and they are known to eat up to 40,000 per day, which provides approximately 20,000 calories. (Our insectivorous bats and birds will have a good time in the next month or so as well.) 

As summer wanes the surviving moths will begin migrating back to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Each female will lay as many as 1,000 eggs in the fall on wheat, alfalfa, various weeds and even turfgrass. The eggs will hatch and the resulting larvae will overwinter. Larval development in the spring is slow because it is cold, and insect metabolism is very slow when it is cold. Eventually though they will become fully grown, pupate, and next year’s moths will emerge. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Pest News in About 10 Minutes Per Week

Extension IPM Agents on the southern High Plains and in the Concho Valley and St. Lawrence areas are now producing short audio recordings about what is being found in the field. The intent is to address current insect, weed and disease issues and look forward a bit to what might be coming next week.

For the Concho Valley and St. Lawrence areas, Brad Easterling and Haley Kennedy record and post their audio file on Tuesday afternoon. High Plains IPM Agents Kerry Siders, Blayne Reed, Dagan Teague and John Thobe record and post their audio file on Wednesday afternoon.

We will shortly start a service that will text subscribers when a new version is uploaded. For now you can go to the web page where these are posted. The photo below shows the types of topics that have been addressed in recent weeks.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Army cutworms damaging wheat

A researcher at the Lubbock Center asked us to tell her what was eating up her ryegrass plots. Suhas Vyavhare and I checked the plots and some wheat fields near Lubbock and found abundant army cutworm larvae. The growth stages are varied from small to about one-inch, so there is plenty of damage yet to come.

Nebraska has a nice 2017 army cutworm alert that states the treatment threshold is four larvae per square foot (for grain production).  Our publication Managing Insect and Mite Pests of Texas Small Grains (page 8) says, "In outbreak years, fields can have 10 - 20 cutworms per square foot." What we saw today was not to that point, but it is still early and many larvae were small and hard to find. Typical damage includes chewing on leaves, cut plants and severed stems.

The first thing you will see when scouting is the leaf damage. During the day, the cutworms will be beneath the soil surface near the plants.

Army cutworm larva.

Clipped stem on 6-inch wheat plant.