Managing Insects and Weeds for Quality Fiber

Frank L. Carter


Today's textile industry is a modern, highly automated industry. To operate efficiently, mills demand a consistent supply of high quality raw cotton fiber. Cotton pests such as insects, weeds and diseases can often be managed in such a way as to improve the overall quality of the cotton crop. Early heavy thrips infestations can affect seedling growth and fruiting initiation so that crop maturity can be delayed and fiber quality can be negatively affected. Plant bugs are very efficient at removing very tiny early squares. This can delay maturity, and cause more vegetative growth and lower yields and harvesting efficiency.

Heavy population of mites and aphids on seedling cotton can delay crop maturity and possibly have negative effects on fiber quality, harvesting efficiency, and yield.

Boll feeding insects such as boll weevil, budworm/bollworm, and pink bollworms cause increased boll rot. Since these insects feed on developing seeds and fiber, quality and grade losses can occur.

The honeydew deposited on open bolls by late season aphids and whiteflies on open bolls can contaminate the lint with this sticky material. Mills have difficulty processing such fiber and they refer to it as sticky cotton. Aphids should be controlled if possible, to prevent honeydew contamination of the lint. Whiteflies are extremely difficult to control, therefore, the best bet is to shorten the length of the growing season and get the cotton out of the field as soon as possible.

Ever since we began to mechanically harvest cotton, minimizing weed populations in cotton fields has become extremely important. Poor weed control can reduce cotton harvesting efficiency, grades, lint quality and yield. Higher trash levels require more aggressive cleaning the gin which can further damage spinning performance of the fiber.

Each year about 250-300,000 bales of U.S. cotton are reduced in grade because of grass. Grass in cotton lint is almost impossible to remove either at the gin or at the mill. Contamination of cotton lint with grass can result in increased mill processing waste, increased spinning end breaks, reduced yarn strength, and fabric defects.

Reprinted from Proceedings: 1989 Beltwide Cotton Production Conference pp. 24 - 29
©National Cotton Council, Memphis TN

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Document last modified Sunday, Dec 6 1998