Spider mites in Alabama worst on cotton in 50 years

In Southeast Farm Press

By Paul Hollis

Spider mites are influenced greatly by the weather, with hot, dry summers being perfect for mites. Alabama cotton producers have had the greatest problem with spider mites this year than they’ve had in the last 50 years or so.

“Basically during the Temik era, we didn’t have a lot of spider mite problems. Temik came onto the marketplace in 1970, and I’m old enough to remember the 1950s and 1960s, when spider mite problems on cotton were routine. Temik has phased out, the seed treatments were phased in, and spider mites have creeped up on us,” said Auburn University Extension Entomologist Ron Smith.

“I can predict the number of calls I’ll get on mites by the weather forecast. If weather is overcast and wet, I don’t get many calls. Mites appear underneath the leaves, and we don’t have any magic number of how many you’ll see. From where you see the most visible damage on top of the leaf, move up a node or two because the mites have moved on up on you, and they’re actually feeding at a node or two up from where the leaves are showing the greatest damage.”

To get a good idea of how many mites you’re dealing with, look on up to where you don’t see so much visible damage, flip the leaf over, and see the number of mites there, advises Smith.

“The major factor in determining when to spray for mites is how widely they are distributed through a field. If they’re in clumps, you might be able to ride it out. But if they’re evenly distributed across a field, and you’re in a hot, dry week, it’s better to be proactive.”

Products are available for controlling this pest, such as abamectin, he says. It’s the most economical of the products on the market, he adds.

“We do have some resistance to abamectin to states west of here, and I don’t know what we’ll see in future years, but as long as we have it, we should be able to control mites at about 8 to 10 ounces for about half the price of some of our other materials. Mites are not going away, and I don’t see another product like Temik coming along, so we’ll have to learn how to manage them, in both cotton and peanuts. We don’t have abamectin labeled in peanuts now.”

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