Plantwise Factsheets for Farmers
Reduce ratoon cotton to control cotton stainer
Recognize the problem
The cotton stainer is a bug, sometimes called
the “red bug” or “red cotton stainer”.
Adults have a dark pattern on their red backs but young ones are only red or pink.
They can range from ¼ cm to 1 cm in length. The stainers attack cotton seeds
and bolls. As they feed, the bugs produce a chemical that stains the lint.
Attacked immature bolls will not reach maturity. Adults also
feed on ripe cotton bolls drastically reducing the yield and quality of the
Cotton stainers are serious pests of cotton in all areas where cotton
is grown in Zambia. Stainer bugs are late season pests. They appear when the
bolls are ripening. After harvest, destruction of ratoon cotton (stubble crop
after harvest) prevents the pest from overcoming the off-season (sleeping
through dry period) because it will not have food. Destruction of ratoon
cotton is important:
who fail to destroy the previous cotton plants in their fields by October 1
every year commit an offence because they contravene the Pest and Disease Act
Cap 223, Section 31 of the Cotton regulation under the Laws of Zambia”.
This law was enacted to prevent a dormancy of the pest in off-season and
up-coming stainer populations the following season.
Uproot all the ratoon cotton
(stubbles) after harvest.
- Uproot by late September at the
- Make sure that even the roots are
removed as they may allow the plant to regenerate, and to host stainers
the uprooted cotton and debris at least 0.5 m deep
compost well as the compost heat will kill the stainers.
Grow only one crop of cotton in a year to break
the cycle of the pest
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