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Inquiring minds want to know about cotton fleahoppers
Date:9/4/2007

LUBBOCK B Inquiring minds want to know. The supermarket headlines tell us so.

Inquiring Texas research minds want to know more about cotton fleahoppers B a tiny, sometimes obscure pest that can damage plants during their early growth.

"Fleahoppers are a threat to young cotton for about four weeks," said Dr. Megha Parajulee, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist based at Lubbock. "They feed on new plant growth, primarily the first small squares. This damage can delay plant maturity, leaving the crop open to damage from other pests later in the growing season."

But these tiny pests aren't all bad. After cotton reaches peak bloom, this tiny critter is considered a beneficial insect living out its relatively short life as both a predator and prey species.

"Fleahoppers prey on bollworm eggs after peak bloom," Parajulee said. "They also serve as a food source for other predatory beneficial insects as the growing season progresses. But we really don't know much about this pest. We know it is only a cotton pest in Texas and Arkansas, but there is more we don't know."

For instance:

  • Can cotton plants compensate for fruit/square loss caused by fleahoppers and still produce acceptable yields
  • What threshold of fleahopper numbers or feeding damage should trigger a chemical control
  • What pesticides work best against fleahoppers without damaging beneficial insects

A three-year study begun in 2006 by Parajulee and other scientists at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Lubbock may provide answers to these questions.

"We raise fleahoppers here in our 'nursery' and place them on drip- and furrow-irrigated cotton plants/plots." Parajulee said. "We vary the number of fleahoppers, and we watch them closely through peak bloom to determine where they live and feed on the plants. This will help us develop effective scouting methods for this pest."
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Contact: Tim W. McAlavy
t-mcalavy@tamu.edu
806-746-6101
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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