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2007 mixed worm year for U.S. cotton growers

The 2007 cotton-growing season was a mixed bag of insect pressure across the Cotton Belt, with some high-pressure worm hotspots but overall light to moderate worm pressure.

Under the wide range of worm pressures, Bollgard II farmers found their fields were well-protected against bollworms, says Walt Mullins, Monsanto cotton traits technical manager. Most growers with Bollgard II cotton did not have to treat for bollworms with insecticides.

“Some of the most severe worm pressure last year came from late-season salt marsh caterpillars in west Texas and Arizona. This pest infested a large number of fields, but the Bollgard II held up very well against it.”

Other hotspot areas for worm pressure — the culprit was the cotton bollworm — included southern Arkansas, the southern part of South Carolina and parts of Georgia.

“Bollgard II continued to perform well where bollworms were present,” Mullins explains. “In the heavy pressure areas, Bollgard II was sprayed none or one time, whereas Bollgard and WideStrike generally required multiple applications to control bollworms.”

Bollgard II cotton offers unrivaled, built-in worm control to stop most leaf- and boll-feeding worm species, including bollworms, budworms, armyworms, loopers, saltmarsh caterpillars and cotton leaf perforators.

As an entomologist heavily involved in cotton insect control across the nation, Mullins has these observations about the 2007 growing season:

  • On the East Coast, Virginia, North Carolina and the upper part of South Carolina above the lakes had light to moderate bollworm pressure. Below the lakes in South Carolina, as well as parts of Georgia, had intensely heavy pressure from the bollworm.

  • In Georgia, with the exception of the bollworm hotspots, most of the state had light to moderate bollworm infestations.

  • In Alabama, worm pressure from the bollworm was light.

  • In the north Mississippi Delta, bollworm pressure was relatively light, and in the southern Mississippi Delta states such as Mississippi and Louisiana, it was light to moderate. The exception was south Arkansas, where bollworm pressure was intensely heavy.

  • In east Texas, worm pressure ranged from extremely heavy for bollworm to light to moderate. Pressure in west Texas was about normal — light to moderate.

  • Parts of south Texas saw moderate pressure from beet armyworms, but the rest of Texas only endured relatively light pressure from beet and fall armyworms.

  • In west Texas and Arizona, very heavy populations of salt marsh caterpillars moved into some areas and infested a number of fields.

One of the big stories of 2007 concerning cotton insect pressure came from plant bugs in the Mid-South. “It was an extreme year for plant bugs in parts of Mississippi, Arkansas and northern Louisiana,” Mullins explains. “Growers had to make two to five sprays for this pest pre-bloom. Typically, we don't have to spray for plant bugs until after flowering.”

Bollgard II cotton was planted on approximately 3.5 million acres in 2007, which was double the 2006 acreage. For 2008, Monsanto forecasts approximately 5 million acres of Bollgard II will be planted.

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