Cotton Farmers Can Expect New Technologies With Real Benefits

 Dr. Scott Stewart, Professor of Entomology and IPM Extension Specialist with the
 University of Tennessee discusses new insect control technologies along with
 GMOs and Bt technologies.

 Photo by John LaRose, Jr.

MidAmerica Farmer Grower

   New insect control technologies as well as GMOs and Bt technologies were presented by Dr. Scott Stewart, with the University of Tennessee.
“I’ve been visiting with people about where we’ve been and where we are and where we’re going,” he said.
   “We started growing GMO, Bt cotton technology 20 years ago, and now virtually all the acreage grown in the Midsouth and the Southeast is Bt cotton, Bollgard II, WideStrike or Twin Link, which actually have two genes in it,” he said. “Those technologies are performing well, and the data shows the next generation, Bt technologies like WideStrike 3, Bollgard III and Twin Link Plus are better at controlling caterpillar pests. These advances  are incremental steps forward to the point where, in many cases, it will be unlikely we will need to spray for caterpillar pests, unless we have very high populations or extended pressure. That’s progress because sometimes things seem to be going backwards.”
   The second half of his talk dealt with the graduate research project he has in collaboration with Monsanto. The project focuses on evaluating a new Bt technology for the control of thrips and tarnished plant bug.
   “We call it the Lygus trait, but the same trait has activity on both thrips and tarnished plant bugs,” Stewart said. “We are not spraying boll weevil anymore and fewer applications are made for worms. Thus, we have seen an increased number of sprays for our bug pests and in this geography that’s primarily tarnished plant bug. It’s frustrating. They fill the void left by other pests, and if we had a technology that would help there that would certainly be beneficial.”
   Another reason this new technology is timely is because tobacco thrips resistance to neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments is growing.     Already, the use of thiamethoxam is no longer recommended because of resistance. There are concerns that imidacloprid, now the most common seed treatment, will be next.
   “We are really struggling to find good alternative treatments for thrips control; and this technology appears to have very good activity on thrips. We are enjoying evaluating the effects of this new Bt trait on both thrips and plant bugs,” he said. “When you look in the background, you see a bunch of signs of different varieties and they have different Bt traits and different herbicide technologies. I’m saying that just to remind people that when I talk about this new Lygus and thrips trait we’re talking long term. It may be 5 to 8 years down the road. It still has to go through the regulatory process and be integrated with all the herbicide and other insect control technologies into elite varieties, but that is the direction we’re going and I think it’s a positive direction.”
   His take-home message is there are some good emerging technologies that could be a real benefit to the cotton farmer down the road. ∆
   BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower
MidAmerica Farm Publications, Inc
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