For many producers, 2010 has been an expensive crop, primarily with lygus control costs. It is not uncommon to find growers who have applied three or four lygus sprays and still have a small crop. Others have not treated for the plant bug. Still other producers have treated the more normal one time.

“It is a mixed bag across the valley,” said Williams. “We have some doggone good looking cotton and some doggone poor cotton because of insect damage and poor stands. The one common thread is that all cotton is late.”

Lygus has been in cotton virtually all season. The pest is typically an early spring pest that attacks the bottom crop.

Cameron said he has little bottom crop, but not due to lygus. “We did not have lygus in our Pima. It just would not set a crop. We Pixed and Pixed it, and it kept going vegetative.”

It has also been an ideal year for aphid and whitefly. They are popping up late this season, and that has many very worried.

It brings back nightmares of a decade ago when the 2001 SJV crop became a sticky cotton disaster. Textile mills revolted against California cotton because it was sticky from honeydew deposited by the aphids and whiteflies. This honeydew gummed up the textile manufacturing process, and it took several years for California cotton to regain its long-standing reputation for clean cotton.

“We have already spent a lot money on this crop for no more yield that we can expect, and it is difficult to justify putting more money into the crop late to control aphids and whiteflies,” Cameron said.

“However, if we end up with sticky cotton that would be a disaster in this high demand cotton market for California cotton.

“Cotton looks good for California for the next several years, and we do not want to jeopardize that future with a sticky cotton reputation,” said Cameron.

“There is a good cotton market out there and it is more important than ever to deliver a clean crop by protecting it against aphids and whiteflies. The last thing we need is sticky cotton in a tight market situation,” Williams echoed.

The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations directed an aggressive information campaign after 2001 to prevent another sticky cotton year. It paid off.

Williams reminds growers not to make the same mistake many did in 2001 when most everyone thought the sticky threat would be over once the cotton was defoliated.

“That particular year after the cotton was defoliated, it rained and that resulted in tremendous re-growth where aphid and whitefly fed and got honeydew all over the lint. I am concerned about the issue of sticky cotton with the lateness of this crop.”

He urged growers facing threat from the honeydew-depositing pests to put an insecticide in with defoliants.

“It is everyone’s responsibility from the grower to the PCA to the ginner and to the merchant to make sure sticky cotton does not happen. We cannot afford to be complacent.  And if it is sticky, honest up about it. Don’t go blending clean and sticky cotton to try to get rid of it,” he added.

This concern is heightened because there is more than just one year riding on this crop. Although late, if growers and ginners can get this SJV crop into bales without damage, it will only bolster a very promising 2011 season and beyond. Otherwise, there could be rough sledding, even in a promising market.