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Cotton Field in Bloom

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Crops are greening up and pests are moving in. It is time for an insect and disease scouting refresher. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System crops team will host the 64th annual Cotton and Soybean Scouting School in June in four locations throughout the state.

Scott Graham, an Alabama Extension cotton, soybean and peanut entomologist, said Extension personnel will continue to provide support for producers throughout the summer, but the short course will help producers get off on the right foot.

Scouting School

Producers have attended scouting schools since the days of the boll weevil. The first cotton scouts combed through the fields of west Alabama in 1959, and the cotton scouting school took off shortly after. Today, producers, scouts and industry representatives still meet to discuss crop pests, scouting techniques and control options.

Graham said the scouting school is an excellent opportunity for producers to refresh their memory.

“We encourage producers to attend scouting school because the pest pressures may be similar year after year, but they certainly have some differences—especially when it comes to control methods,” Graham said. “We work to have all of the information farmers need to head into the growing season with confidence in their ability to spot issues and make treatment applications.”

As always, the scouting school will provide six continuing education units (CEUs) for certified crop advisors and 10 hours for pesticide applicators.

Scouting School Dates and Times

Extension personnel will host four workshops. To register or for more information about the workshop, contact the county Extension office, center or regional agent that is overseeing the workshop that you wish to attend.

June 6 —Cotton and Peanut

  • Time: 8 a.m.
  • Location: Wiregrass Research and Extension Center, 167 State Highway 134 E, Headland, Alabama 36345
  • Contact: (334) 693-2010

June 8—Cotton and Soybean

  • Time: 8 a.m.
  • Location: Autauga County Extension Office, 2226 AL-14 West, Autaugaville, Alabama 36003
  • Contact: (334) 361-7273

June 14—Cotton and Soybean

  • Time: 8 a.m.
  • Location: Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, 9494 Experimental Loop, Madison, Alabama 35756
  • Contact: (256) 353-8702

June 22—Cotton

  • Time: 8 a.m.
  • Location: McCord’s Fire Station #1, 1150 County Road 157, Centre, Alabama 35960
  • Contact: Eddie McGriff at (256) 557-2375 or dem0029@aces.edu

Topics of Discussion

Graham said a change in 2023 is the addition of GMO Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton varieties that have some insecticidal activity against two of the three main insect pests farmers face in Alabama: thrips and plant bugs. Other topics of discussion for the scouting short course include the following:

  • How do cotton varieties and technologies change scouting methods and treatment decisions?
  • How does cotton growth and development alter sampling techniques and pest complexes?
  • Does the time of year alter chemical decisions for plant bugs?
  • How does the change in crop acre distribution affect pest pressure in cotton?
  • How much do plant bug populations increase over a generation (≈20 days)?
  • Why are the third through sixth weeks of bloom the most important for stink bug control?
  • What size boll should be sampled for stink bugs and why?
  • At what point in the season are beneficial insects the most important? At what point do they reach the level of diminishing returns?
  • When to terminate insect control in cotton?

Stay Connected

The Alabama Extension crops team produces a weekly podcast—the Alabama Crops Report. Check out past and new episodes on the Alabama Extension website or on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher. Subscribe to the Alabama Cotton Shorts newsletter and the Alabama Crops Report weekly newsletter for the most up-to-date cotton production information.