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Growers Target Cotton's No. 1 Pests: Boll Weevils
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growers are hoping Mississippi children are experiencing the last chances to see boll weevils in their natural habitat as eradication efforts begin in the North Delta.
Growers across the nation's Southeast have been chipping away at boll weevil strongholds since the early '80s. Eradication efforts that began in Virginia and the Carolinas have continued successfully across Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and into Tennessee and Mississippi. Separate efforts are underway in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
"Most of the boll weevils in Mississippi have come from surrounding infestations, like in Tennessee," said Dr. Mike Williams, an entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Overall, the amount of insect pressure on cotton has been down this year, and growers have not had to spend as much money on insecticides as usual."
Farrell Boyd, manager for the Mississippi Boll Weevil Eradication Program, said the first boll weevil diapause sprays will take place in Region I (North Delta) counties the first week of August. Diapause is the stage in the fall when weevils begin to prepare for overwintering. Concentrated diapause spray efforts aim to significantly decrease the number of weevils surviving the winter for emergence in the following growing season.
The state is divided into four eradication regions. Region IA and B includes Tunica, Quitman, Coahoma, Bolivar, Washington, Sunflower, Leflore and western Tallahatchie counties. Region II, which basically includes Issaquena, Sharkey, Humphreys and part of Yazoo counties, entered the program last fall. The rest of the state, Regions III and IV, started fall diapause efforts in 1997.
Initial fall diapause sprayings take place three times, five days apart, then expanding to seven days apart, and later in 10- to 14-day cycles, depending on temperatures. Spraying completely ends when cotton stalks are destroyed or first frost.
"Our main concern is weather delays. Fields in sensitive areas, such as near schools or hospitals, will be sprayed with helicopters for the best accuracy," Boyd said.
Dr. Blake Layton, Extension cotton entomologist, said eradication efforts have gone well across Mississippi.
"It is hard to find a boll weevil in any of the hill cotton this year. 1998 estimated losses in the hills were 0 percent probably for the first time in this century," Layton said. "And we expect boll weevil eradication to go even better in the Delta than it has in the hill section."
Eradication efforts are funded through a grower assessment of about $22 per acre annually in Region I over a five-year period. Early stalk destruction can earn growers assessment credits of $5 per acre if destroyed by Oct. 1, $3 per acre if destroyed by Oct. 10 or $2 per acre if destroyed by Nov. 1.