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Boll weevil eradication costs fall

Cotton production costs continue to climb in most categories with one exception — boll weevil control. When the boll weevil eradication program first entered Mississippi’s eastern counties in 1997, cotton growers were assessed $20 per acre. As the program progressed westward, first-year assessments ranged from $20 to $24 per acre. Initially, weevils were also in the fields robbing growers of yields.

This year, the board of directors for the Mississippi Boll Weevil Eradication Corp. voted to assess cotton growers $2 per acre. The best news is that, with the boll weevil eradicated, it will not be a threat in the state of Mississippi.

“This is the result of dedicated farmers who have supported this program and the hard work of eradication program personnel and field workers over the last 13 years,” said Jeannine Smith, executive director of the corporation.

Smith said no weevils were trapped in the state in 2009. In 2008, only three were trapped, and they were considered anomalies. Captured weevils do not trigger spraying efforts unless it is determined a reinfestation exists.

“All the states east of us are eradicated. Our biggest threat comes from Louisiana, and their numbers have been going down substantially each year,” she said.

Smith said growers may get an additional bonus this fall if they are not required to destroy cotton stalks at the end of the season.

“There is no longer a scientific reason to destroy the stalks, so we are requesting that the Bureau of Plant Industry change the eradication rule to end that requirement,” Smith said. “However, the bureau would retain the authority to impose stalk destruction in designated areas if necessary.”

Angus Catchot, Extension entomologist, said 1999 was the last year Mississippi sustained an economic loss to the boll weevil, but just 10 years earlier, Mississippi was averaging four to eight insecticide applications for boll weevils.

“The boll weevil was the most damaging pest in cotton, with 48,001 total bales lost to this pest in the Delta and 39,074 bales lost in the hills,” Catchot said. “With the successful eradication of the boll weevil and the introduction of transgenic Bt crops that control caterpillar pests, Mississippi producers have focused their efforts on the sucking pest complex.”

Catchot said cotton’s current No. 1 economic pest is the tarnished plant bug, particularly in the Delta region of the state.

TAGS: Cotton
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