Minimizing Thrips Damage in Cotton


Left unchecked, thrips can reduce cotton yield potential. Thrips damage is generally a problem in poor growing conditions and should be scouted for from emergence until the cotton crop reaches the four leaf stage.

Identification. Thrips are thin, yellowish, and tiny (~1/15 inch long). Adults have wings and can travel long distances. The most common species of thrips in Texas and Oklahoma cotton are tobacco thrips, western flower thrips, and onion thrips (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Onion thrips on left, and western flower thrips on right.Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia,

Damage. Feed on leaves, buds, and very young squares. Cause curled, gnarled leaves (Figure 2) and possible terminal bud loss. Heavy thrips pressure can reduce stands and plant growth, leading to delayed maturity. Damage is more likely in poor growing conditions—cool, wet soils, when plants are growing slowly, or if plants have been damaged by seedling diseases, wind, sand, or herbicide damage. With favorable growing conditions, cotton can recover from thrips damage.


Figure 2. Crinkled cotton leaves from thrips damage.

Management. David Kerns, Professor and Statewide IPM Coordinator at Texas A&M University, recommends using a seed treatment with thrips control to help reduce damage to cotton especially if planting when the risk of thrips damage is high—cool soil temperatures. It is also important to be cognizant of damage from preemergence herbicide damage or if plants are not growing well. Including a seed treatment can help mitigate thrips damage whether anticipated or not. (D. Kerns, personal communication, March 29, 2018).

Sources: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Thrips. Cotton Insect Management Guide. Web source verified 3/29/18. 180403140720