For the past two weeks, most of Louisiana has been in the midst of a very large bollworm moth flight. Our moth trap catches were averaging about 10 moths per day and moved to more than 100 late last week. I have received numerous phone calls on how the technology is holding up and what insecticide should be used to over-spray. Another issue to consider is how much these worms were pre-selected in Bt corn. My colleagues around the Midsouth and Texas have seen a very large number of worms coming through Bt corn and Louisiana is no exception. Further, LSU AgCenter entomologists discovered a change in susceptibility of bollworm to Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab. The resistance does not appear to be complete and some fitness costs may be associated. If these results are any indication of Louisiana’s bollworm population this year, we may experience more escapes in Bt cotton.
Results from our Bt technology tests and reports from the field indicate that Widestrike cottons (including 499, 312 and 333) are experiencing large amounts of injury. Our small plot work at the Macon Ridge Research Station in Winnsboro is averaging 10 percent fruit injury in Widestrike (WS) and 6 percent in Widestrike 3 (WS3). Based on our work we conducted with the mid-South entomology group last year, we validated a 6 percent fruit injury threshold in Bt cotton. Therefore, WS3 is better than WS, but both technologies would need to be over-sprayed to preserve yield in this situation.
Furthermore, Bollgard 2 (BG2) and Twinlink (TL) have a more robust Bt package than WS. However, I have seen these technologies fail under severe pressure. As of this week, reports from the field and results from our trial work indicate BG2 is still performing well — but this can change quickly. TwinLink’s performance has been inconsistent, with a number escapes being reported. This seems to be dependent on the environment and insect pressure. Keep in mind that stress can negatively affect Bt expression in cotton. Stressed plants may not express a high enough level of toxin to control bollworms.
Independent of environmental factors, if bollworm escapes are detected, a rescue spray may be warranted. The use of pyrethroids is strongly discouraged. Louisiana bollworm populations have the highest level of pyrethroid resistance in the United States, and pyrethroid applications may not provide adequate control. They may even flare secondary pests such as spider mites. The LSU AgCenter recommends the diamide chemistry (Prevathon, Besiege) for control of bollworms in cotton. Beware that Besiege contains a pyrethroid and use may inadvertently flare secondary pests. Keep in mind that bollworms are cryptic feeders, and worms that have established in squares and bolls may not be controlled by diamides. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact your county agent or me.