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The Alabama Cotton Insect Losses Report provides information about the causes and percentages of loss due to insects in 2020.

Figure 1. North and south Alabama 2020 cotton insect losses. Blue = north Alabama. Orange = south Alabama. White = No reported cotton acres.

Figure 1. North and south Alabama 2020 cotton insect losses. Blue = north Alabama. Orange = south Alabama. White = No reported cotton acres.

Since 1979, Extension entomologists across the Cotton Belt have published a Cotton Insect Losses Report. The report estimates are based on Extension entomologists’ observations and informal surveys of other Extension personnel, growers, crop consultants, and industry professionals, who are involved in cotton production in each state. Because of differences in pest pressure in Alabama, estimates for north and south Alabama are reported separately (figure 1). Estimates encompass an entire region of the state, so they may not exactly reflect the cotton insect situation at a specific location or individual farm. Reports from previous years can be found at the Mississippi State University archive of Beltwide Cotton Crop Loss data.

Statewide Results

Based on reports from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency, Alabama planted 444,948 acres of cotton in 2020. Statewide, the projected yield potential of the crop was 1,157 pounds per acre, with a projected actual average yield of 850 pounds per acre. Approximately 29.3 percent of yield lost from the crop’s potential was due to weather such as drought and hurricanes. Prolonged periods of drought hurt yields in many dryland fields across the state (figure 2.). Cloudy, rainy conditions in mid to late August caused some issues with hardlock and boll rot. Finally, multiple hurricane or tropical storm events hurt the crop after opening but before harvest (figure 3).

Insect pests caused an estimated 3.33 percent yield loss statewide. Alabama growers made 3.96 insecticide applications per acre, with an average cost of $8.03 per application. According to the USDA Cotton Varieties Planted 2020 Crop report, 100 percent of the cotton acres planted in Alabama had two or three Bt technologies. Bollgard 2 (= 55 percent) made up most of the acres planted followed by Bollgard 3 (= 30 percent), Widestrike 3 (= 10 percent), and TwinLink Plus (= 5 percent). The vast majority (= 97 percent) of cotton in the state is scouted by private crop consultants, industry agrifield representatives, or Extension-trained scouts and growers, with an average scouting fee cost per acre of $8.23 (table 1). A total of 85 percent of the acres treated were sprayed with a ground rig and the remaining 15 percent sprayed by plane. The total input of the economic results of cotton pest management are available in table 1.

 

Table 1. Statewide Economic Results of 2020 Cotton IPM

CostsTotalPer Acre
Foliar Insecticide$14,195,809$31.90
Seed Treatment$5,719,225$12.85
In-Furrow$546,479$1.23
Scouting$3,661,489$8.23
Eradication$667,422$1.50
Bt Cotton$14,883,511$33.45
Total Costs$39,673,935$89.17
Yield Loss to Insects$11,176,715$25.12
Total Losses + Costs$50,850,650$114.28

 

In terms of the percentage of acres treated, the tarnished plant bug (= 83.6 percent) was the top pest across the state followed by thrips (= 80 percent) and stink bugs (= 64.6 percent) (table 2). However, stink bugs (= 1.60) required the most insecticide applications per acre followed by tarnished plant bugs (= 1.41) and thrips (= 0.88) (table 2). Stink bugs caused the highest percent loss to insects (= 1.50 percent) and highest total loss plus cost per acre (= $8.5 million) followed by tarnished plant bugs (= 0.39 percent; $6.8 million) and thrips (= 1.00 percent; $5.8 million) (table 3).

 

Table 2. Top Five Insect Pests of Cotton—Acres Treated

Insect Pest% Acres TreatedNumber of Applications Per Acre
Tarnished Plant Bugs83.6%1.41
Thrips80.0%0.88
Stink Bugs64.6%1.60
Grasshoppers18.6%0.19
Leaf-Footed Bugs12.5%0.08
All Other Pests22.2%0.37

 

Table 3. Top Five Pests of Cotton—Economic Losses

Insect Pest% Loss to InsectsLoss + Cost (Total)
Stink Bugs1.50%$9,482,462
Tarnished Plant Bugs0.39%$6,804,614
Thrips1.00%$5,891,334
Grasshoppers0.02%$282,926
Leaf-Footed Bugs0.04%$240,032
All Other Pests0.39%$263,455

 

South Alabama Results

A reported 283,691 acres, or approximately 64 percent of the state’s acres, were planted in south Alabama (figure 1). This region had a projected yield potential of 1,147 pounds per acre, with projected actual yields of 850 pounds per acre. Yield loss to weather in this part of the state is estimated at 27.8 percent, largely due to hurricanes and tropical storms.

Insect pests were responsible for approximately 3.68 percent yield loss in the region. Insect pest pressure was slightly higher in south Alabama than the state average. Growers averaged 4.86 insecticide applications costing $7.56 per acre. Stink bugs (= 2.0) were the most targeted insect pest sprayed for followed by tarnished plant bugs (= 1.2) and thrips (= 1.1) (table 4). Percent loss to insect pests and loss plus cost of control, stink bugs (2.30 percent; $8.8 million) were the highest followed by thrips (= 1.00 percent; $3.7 million) and tarnished plant bugs (= 0.21 percent; $2.7 million) (table 5).

 

Table 4. Top Five Insect Pests of Cotton—Acres Treated in South Alabama

Insect Pest% Loss to InsectsNumber of Applications Per Acre
Stink Bugs90.0%2.00
Tarnished Plant Bugs80.0%1.20
Thrips80.0%1.10
Grasshoppers18.6%0.25
Leaf-Footed Bugs12.5%0.20
All Other Pests22.2%0.10

 

Table 5. Top Five Pests of Cotton—Economic Losses in South Alabama

Insect Pest% Loss to InsectsLoss + Cost (Total)
Stink Bugs2.30%$8,888,861
Thrips1.00%$3,737,761
Tarnished Plant Bugs0.21%$2,765,447
Leaf-Footed Bugs0.07%$525,509
Grasshoppers0.05%$336,267
All Other Pests0.02%$271,585

North Alabama Results

According to reports, 161,257 acres, or approximately 36 percent of the state’s total acres, of cotton were planted in north Alabama. Cotton in this region had a projected yield potential of 1,175 pounds per acre and an expected actual yield of 850 pounds per acre. Due to lengthy droughts during bloom in many areas of north Alabama and remnants of hurricanes after defoliation, the crop is estimated to have lost 31.8 percent of its yield potential to weather.

Overall, insect pressure was slightly lower in north Alabama than the state average. Insects caused an estimated 2.91 percent yield loss. Growers made 3.11 insecticide applications costing an average of $10.30 per acre. Tarnished plant bugs (= 1.8) were the pest most sprayed for followed by thrips (= 0.88) and stink bugs (= 0.20) (table 6). When considering the percent loss to insect pests and the total loss plus cost of control, tarnished plant bugs (= 0.75 percent; $4.6 million) again led the way followed by thrips (= 1.00 percent; $2.1 million) and stink bugs (= 1.13 percent; $1.5 million) (table 7).

 

Table 6. Top Five Insect Pests of Cotton—Acres Treated in North Alabama

Insect Pest% Loss to InsectsNumber of Applications Per Acre
Tarnished Plant Bugs90.0%1.80
Thrips80.0%0.88
Stink Bugs20.0%0.20
Grasshoppers8.0%0.08
Clouded Plant Bug5.0%0.05
All Other Pests>1.0%0.00

 

Table 7. Top Five Pests of Cotton—Economic Losses in North Alabama

Insect Pest% Loss to InsectsLoss + Cost (Total)
Tarnished Plant Bugs0.75%$4,624,680
Thrips1.00%$2,153,854
Stink Bugs1.13%$1,575,069
Grasshoppers0.08%$12,578
Clouded Plant Bug0.05%$39,967
All Other Pests>0.01%$12,168

 

Download a PDF of 2020 Cotton Insect Losses Report, ANR-2714.

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