Preventing sticky cotton has become job No. 1 for San Joaquin Valley pest control advisers (PCA) and according to University of California IPM advisor Pete Goodell, they have done an "excellent job" for the past two seasons.

The sticky cotton stigma has not been stuck on SJV cotton in the wake of a disastrous 2001 season when mills worldwide complained loudly about sticky SJV Acala and Pima cottons.

The University of California and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association mounted an aggressive educational and informational campaign after that season to make sure there was not another season of sticky cotton.

PCAs and others are making 2001 an anomaly, but it is coming at a price.

The average number of insecticide sprays on SJV cotton has more than doubled in efforts to control aphids and silverleaf whitefly, culprits in sticky cotton.

While Goodell had high praise for PCAs at the recent Bayer CropScience seminar for PCAs and growers, he warned that it cannot become an "all consuming effort." Goodell said this quest to prevent stickiness has PCAs calling for pesticide sprays "just in case" rather that the traditional integrated pest management tenet of treating "just in time" before pest reach damaging thresholds.

Over-treating to protect against one pest can create secondary pest problems, and he raise fears of pest resistance to certain pesticides.

PCAs found a group of new aphid control products not working well in late season last year and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation granted a Section 18 for Furadan use.

Bold DPR move

This was a god-send for growers battling late season aphids. It was a bold move by DPR because EPA had said it would not issue a Section 18 for Furadan as it had in the past because new products were available.

DPR, said Goodell, took "a lot of heat" for being the only state to issue a Furadan emergency exemption last season. He warned that cannot be expected to happen again.

While PCAs have done a good job, the challenge remains. The Silverleaf Whitefly continues to spread and appeared first last season in the northern portion of the San Joaquin Valley cotton production region.

He encouraged PCAs to be judicious about their "just in case" scenario. If aphids have not been a problem for several seasons in particular areas or fields, they may want to hold off on preventive treatments in the future.

"I understand you need to prevent stickiness, but there is a risk in over-treating for aphids in mid-season," he said.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com