Cotton

Year-Round IPM Program for San Joaquin Valley

(Reviewed 5/13, updated 5/13)

These practices are recommended for a monitoring-based IPM program that enhances pest control and reduces environmental quality problems related to pesticide use.

Water quality becomes impaired when pesticides and sediments move off-site and into water. Air quality becomes impaired when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) move into the atmosphere. Each time a pesticide application is considered, review the Pesticide Application Checklist at the bottom of this page for information on how to minimize water and air quality problems.

This year-round IPM program covers the major pests of cotton. Details on carrying out each practice, example monitoring forms, and information on additional pests can be found in the Cotton Pest Management Guidelines. Track your progress through the year using this annual checklist form. Color photo identification pages and example monitoring forms can be found online.

Note: Growers using reduced tillage will have to modify some of these practices in this year-round IPM program.

Preplant to planting

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
Select your field, considering pest history and surrounding crops.
Consider crop rotation if field had severe problems last year with root knot nematode, Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, or seedling diseases.
Consider precision tillage and ripping for locations with a history of soil compaction, particularly if root knot nematodes are also a problem.
Consider a trap-crop interplant of alfalfa, cowpea, or lima bean for lygus bug management.
Survey and manage weeds :
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Select a variety, considering:
  • Local conditions and climate.
  • Field history of Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, and root knot nematode.
Consider a seed treatment for pests based on field history and according to the Cotton Pest Management Guidelines:
Start planning for when to plant around March 5 by checking 5-day degree-day forecast and taking soil temperature.

Crop emergence to seedling growth

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
Assess stand establishment and identify pests or diseases if stand is weak.
Begin tracking degree-day accumulations for plant growth as soon as crop emerges.
Monitor for spider mites, aphids, and thrips.
Maintain a weed management program:
Manage Fusarium :
  • Survey fields and record of locations suspected or confirmed to have race 4 Fusarium.
  • Consider the management options in the Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Monitor nearby crops, fence rows, and weedy areas for false chinch bugs.

Squaring to first bloom

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
Begin weekly monitoring of plant growth.
Monitor for armyworms, cabbage loopers.
Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Monitor for spider mites, aphids, and whitefly :
Begin sweep net sampling and square retention monitoring for lygus bug activity:
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Survey and manage weeds.
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Sample for both races of Fusarium if there is evidence of Fusarium in the field, or if you planted a variety with unknown resistance.
Manage alternate lygus bug hosts such as weeds, alfalfa, and safflower next to cotton.
Adjust nitrogen application amount and first irrigation timing to limit rank growth.

First bloom to first open boll

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
Time a layby cultivation.
Continue tracking degree-day accumulations for plant growth.

Continue weekly monitoring of plant growth.

Consider adjusting nitrogen, irrigation management, and application timing and rate of plant growth regulators.
Continue monitoring for armyworms:
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Start sampling plant terminals for bollworms.
Continue monitoring for spider mites, aphids, and whitefly :
Continue sweep net sampling and square retention monitoring for lygus bug activity:
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Other pests you may see:
  • Beet armyworm
  • Cabbage looper
  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
  • Stink bugs

First open boll to harvest

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
Continue tracking degree-day accumulations for plant growth.
Monitor aphids and whitefly, including regrowth after defoliation:
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Survey weeds before harvest:
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Schedule defoliation to allow for timely harvest and minimum regrowth.
If you have evidence of Verticillium wilt in your field, or if you want to plant a variety with unknown resistance, chose a time between crop maturity and harvest to sample stems for discoloration.
Continue to monitor lygus bugs (PDF) and treat if necessary according to the Cotton Pest Management Guidelines.
Sample plant roots and rate nematode infestation while soil is still moist from final irrigation:
  • Keep records (PDF)
  • Treat if needed according to the Cotton Pest Management Guidelines

Harvest to postharvest

Mitigate pesticide effects on air and water quality.
What should you be doing at this time?
  • Maintain maximum time between harvest and planting whitefly host crops.
  • Promptly destroy stalks to prevent regrowth and limit additional whitefly buildup.
Observe local plowdown regulations and host-free periods to prevent establishment of pink bollworm.

Pesticide application checklist

When planning for possible pesticide applications in an IPM program, consult the Pest Management Guidelines for your crop, and review and complete this checklist to consider practices that minimize environmental and efficacy problems.
  • Choose a pesticide from the Pest Management Guidelines for the target pest, considering:
  • Before an application
    • Ensure that spray equipment is properly calibrated to deliver the desired pesticide amount for optimal coverage.
    • Use appropriate spray nozzles and pressure to minimize off-site movement of pesticides.
    • Avoid spraying during these conditions to avoid off-site movement of pesticides.
      • Wind speed over 5 mph
      • Temperature inversions
      • Just prior to rain or irrigation (unless it is an appropriate amount, such as when incorporating a soil-applied pesticide)
      • At tractor speeds over 2 mph
    • Identify and take special care to protect sensitive areas (for example, waterways or riparian areas) surrounding your application site.
    • Review and follow labeling for pesticide handling, personal protection equipment (PPE) requirements, storage, and disposal guidelines.
    • Check and follow restricted entry intervals (REI) and preharvest intervals (PHI).
  • After an application
    • Record application date, product used, rate, and location of application.
    • Follow up to confirm that treatment was effective.
  • Consider water management practices that reduce pesticide movement off-site.
  • Consider practices that reduce air quality problems.
    • When possible, reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by decreasing the amount of pesticide applied, choosing low-emission management methods, and avoiding fumigants and emulsifiable concentrate (EC) formulations.
    • Use the Department of Pesticide Regulation calculators to determine VOC emission rates from fumigant and nonfumigant pesticides.
More information about topics mentioned on this checklist is available at the UC IPM Web site.
For more a bout mitigating the effects of pesticides, see the Mitigation pages.

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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