Texas Extension entomologist Jim Leser will discuss how cotton farmers are “coping with the changing cotton insect landscape,” at the sixth annual Southwest Crops Production Conference February 19th at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

Conference registration and the Ag Expo begin at 7:30. Presentations will begin promptly at 8:15 and will conclude at 5:30.

Leser says High Plains cotton farmers are learning to adjust to new insect control strategies. He'll break down his presentation into five segments: early season insect control, square protection, boll weevil eradication, caterpillar control, and pink bollworms.

“Thrips remain the most important pest to address each season for most producers in the High Plains area,” Leser said. “It is very important to get off to a good start and controlling thrips is one of the keys to this fast start.”

He said Temik is still the premier product for thrips control, “but the seed treatment Cruiser is giving it some tough competition.”

Leser will discuss rates and other control strategies for early season insects.

He said recent studies have shown that growers may be over-protecting early squares and can afford to be less aggressive in controlling square thieves such as fleahoppers and Lygus bugs.

He said success of boll weevil eradication around the High Plains left growers with few weevils caught in 2003. “The exception might be the zones near the St. Lawrence area where crop conditions favored explosive increases of weevils, and their movement into zones that had almost finished eradication. The additional cost of these incursions into the adjacent active zones is estimated to be over $8 million dollars in 2003 alone.”

He said release of Bollgard II could provide an efficient new tool for caterpillar control for West Texas cotton growers who irrigate their crops.

“Tests in 2003 confirmed what other states have been showing, Bollgard II provides vastly superior control of bollworms compared to Bollgard and brings armyworm and looper control to a level on par with the better insecticides.”

Leser also will discuss the impending problems with pink bollworms, especially for growers “in the area to the southwest of Lubbock.”

He said pink bollworms “are even harder to manage than boll weevils and their damage can be equally impressive.” He recommends that growers who observed pinkies in 2003 should plant Bollgard varieties in 2004. “The Bollgard technology virtually eliminates any problem with pink bollworms.”

Other presentations will include risk management; market outlooks for cotton, grain sorghum, corn and peanuts; irrigation management; cotton production and technology; cotton variety selection; weed control in cotton and peanuts; winter small grains and forage management and a Washington update.

The conference is free of charge but pre-registration is encouraged to allow organizers to estimate needs for a catered lunch, which will be available for a nominal fee. Sponsors expect as many as 5 continuing education units will be available from The Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Certified Crop Advisers.

For more information regarding pre-registration, or exhibit information, call (800) 253-3160.

Conference sponsors include: Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Texas Tech University, the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Southwest Farm Press, USDA Agricultural Research Service, The Texas Corn Producers Board, The Texas Grain Sorghum Producers and The Texas Peanut Producers Board.