A sticky situation

It has been a while since my last post. This time of year in the world of this plant doctor, things are a little slow as far as things interesting to share. Crops are ripe and getting ready for harvest. The only thing that is really a problem for most crops is rot, which I’ve blogged about before. Another last season issue that is interesting is sticky cotton.

Most everyone has experiences aphids in their home garden. They not only suck the live out of your plants they produce a very sticky mess. When aphids feed on the plant they stick their mouth right into the plant and suck the juice, or sap. The pressure of the flow from the plant is so great they can’t process all that gets forced into them so the excess to out the back end and becomes that sticky deposit that is called “honeydew”. Many times you will see ants associated with aphids and these ants are harvested the honeydew for their food, because it is so sweet. Ants will protect the aphids from predators, sort of like a rancher protecting his cows.

Aphids in cotton, after the bolls open and the lint is exposed, pose a particular problem that is not really associated with the health of the plant. The cotton plant is an annual and at the end of the season, it is shutting down and finishing it’s life cycle. Aphids are not really going to affect the development of the cotton as the bolls open as this process is pretty much finished anyway. What happens is that the honeydew the aphids produce falls on the exposed lint where the moisture in the environment causes mold to form on the sticky substance. This not only look ugly but the stickiness of the lint is really bad for the cotton as it goes through the gin and other processes it goes through to make thread. The sticky cotton really gums up the works. I was at a meeting once and heard a story of a farmer who was visiting cotton mills in India and there was a red circle on a map of the US around the San Joaquin Valley. He asked about it and they said they are careful about buying cotton from there as it is too sticky. We had a very bad aphid problem and it need to be addressed as we were getting a very bad reputation from those we wanted to sell our product to. So we are all very careful to take care of our aphid issues, even very late into the season.

Thanks you to UCIPM for the photos

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