Cotton should be scouted for plant bugs from the time it squares until the last harvestable boll is formed. You can visit the cotton scouting guide for detailed information, but below are 6 quick recommendations for scouting and treatment in cotton prior to bloom:
#1. Remember that thresholds exist for a reason.
During 2016 and 2017 Dr. Mohammad Amir-Aghaee’s experiments showed the value of protecting squares early. These data also highlight the fact that you cannot afford to leave plant bugs untreated when they are above threshold. It was more profitable to spray early and often for this insect when it hits threshold.
#2. Bring enough net.
Prior to blooming, use both a sweep net and monitor square retention to make a treatment decision. No point treating for squares that are dropping with no plant bugs or treating plant bugs that aren’t knocking off squares. Use the threshold of BOTH 8 plant bugs in 100 sweeps AND 80% square retention to treat. Note that the threshold changes post-bloom.
#3. Keep in mind that plant bugs are a moving target.
Don’t just monitor squares in the terminal. Be sure to check squares farther down the plant (up to 5 nodes down from the top), as bugs will move up and down in the canopy.
#4. Check the plant bug nursery.
Check probable hosts near your cotton to get a feeling for what might move into your field. Plant bugs can develop on hundreds of plants, but big hosts in our environment are corn, weeds, like wild carrot and daisy fleabane, and in the northeast, potatoes and clary sage.
#5. Remember that plant bugs are mobile creatures.
Check field edges and field middles. Plant bugs are notorious for spotty distributions and moving around even within a single day.
#6. Don’t skimp.
If you must spray, use a full-labeled rate of a chemical in the neonicotinoid insecticide class at this point in the season. Common active ingredients in this class include clothianidin, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxam. CHECK THE LABEL to find out the active ingredient and rate. A quick note on insecticides.