IPM Newsletter

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program integrates control tactics including cultural practices, variety selection, biological control and insecticides to manage insect pest populations so that economic damage and harmful environmental side effects are minimized. Insecticides should only be used on an as-needed basis; therefore, insect scouting must be conducted regularly throughout the season to determine if an insecticide application is warranted.

Insect populations vary from year to year and field to field during the growing season. All fields should be monitored for both insect pests and beneficial populations at least weekly during the season, preferably twice weekly after blooming has begun. In areas of high insect pressure or increasing populations, twice-a-week scouting is recommended. Monitoring plant growth and development is an important aspect of crop management, maximizing yield potential and managing insects.

Two basic components of decision making in IPM are the economic injury level (EIL) and the economic threshold (ET). The EIL is defined as the lowest pest population density that will cause economic damage. The EIL is a pre-determined number that will justify the cost of treatment. The ET is defined as the pest population level at which control should be initiated to keep the pest population from reaching economically damaging numbers. Economic thresholds have been established for specific insect pests. Multiple pest thresholds are not well established. Therefore, it is important to monitor the plant for fruit loss and retention levels to evaluate treatment thresholds, involving either single or multiple pests. When losses from multiple pests are occurring, fixed individual pest thresholds may become dynamic or change. Decisions to apply controls should be based on thorough scouting and identification of pests, the cost of insecticide, the price of cotton, yield potential and fruit-retention goals. The economic value of each fruiting form changes on each fruiting branch (node); therefore, it is important to know how this value is distributed on the plant. The value and placement of fruit being protected should be considered when making treatment decisions. Monitor fruit retention levels weekly, along with insects. Scheduled insecticide sprays should be avoided. Unnecessary applications of insecticide are not cost effective. Applications of insecticides on an as-needed basis will preserve beneficial insects, reducing the likelihood of secondary pest outbreaks. Certain production practices can have a significant impact on insect pest infestations. Some practices may increase the risk of insect attack and should be avoided, while others may have some level of control value. A production practice that has a negative impact on insect pests is desirable and is termed a cultural control. Some common cultural control practices include:

  • Fall Stalk Destruction:
    Destruction of cotton stalks as soon as possible following harvest reduces the food supply for boll weevils, thereby reducing the size of the overwintering population.
  • Pre-plant Vegetation Management:
    Destruction of weeds and/or cover crops by tillage or herbicide three or more weeks prior to planting will reduce the risk of cutworm infestations and some other pests.
  • Field Border Maintenance:
    Plant bugs often build up on flowering plants surrounding cotton fields and move into fields when these preferred hosts dry up or are destroyed. Timely mowing of such vegetation can aid in reducing available hosts for plant bugs.
  • Managing for Earliness:
    Early crop maturity decreases the period of crop susceptibility to yield loss by insects, reduces insect control costs and lowers selection pressure for resistance development to insecticides.

Insecticide Resistance
Management of tobacco budworm in non-Bt cotton varieties has become more difficult in Tennessee due to the development of pyrethroid-resistant populations. Historically, budworm populations have been higher in the southern part of the state, but high populations can also occur in other areas. In response to tobacco budworm resistance, and the potential for resistance in bollworm and tarnished plant bug populations, a resistance management plan will continue to be recommended. The goal of the Insecticide Resistance Management Plan is to improve the potential of maintaining effective full-season control of tobacco budworm, bollworm and tarnished plant bug by the use of different classes of chemistry in a logical sequence throughout the season, without placing excessive reliance on any single class of chemistry. In general, levels of resistance are lowest during the early part of the growing season but increase sharply following repeated exposure to a single class of chemistry. Therefore, repeated use of a single class of chemistry may no longer provide effective control. As a result, there is a potential risk of sustaining economic losses. Following a resistance management plan is a recommended method to reduce the risk. Because cotton insect pest management is dynamic, these guidelines cannot address all situations. Therefore, these recommendations are not intended to limit the professional judgment of qualified individuals. However, the maximum benefit of a resistance management strategy can only be realized if all producers in a wide geographic area participate. Selection of insecticides should be based on insect pests present in the field, stage of crop development, effects on non-target organisms and the risk of contributing to resistance problems in subsequent generations. Insecticide selection for bollworm and tobacco budworm control should be made after determining the population mix and size of the infestation within a community, farm or field. When dealing with resistance, this determination can mean a control success or failure. Use all available information and techniques including scouting reports, pheromone trap catches, moth flushing counts and identification of “worms.”

For more information concerning cotton pest control, please visit: PB1768-Cotton in PDF format

Other IPM Programs within Tennessee

Cotton IPM


School IPM

Urban IPM / Fire Ants

For more information concerning Integrated Pest Management Programs, contact:

Dr. Scott Stewart
West Tennessee Research and Education Center
605 Airways Blvd.
Jackson, TN 38301
Phone = (731) 425-4709
email = sdstewart@utk.edu