Pink bollworm costs cotton producers more than $21 million annually in prevention, controls and lost yields, according to the National Cotton Council (NCC).

“Pink bollworm is found in almost every cotton-producing country and has caused millions of dollars of damage and lost acreage in the last 35 years in the U.S.,” says Thomas Henneberry, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist.

Previous attempts to get rid of the pest have been unsuccessful. But ARS has developed a new, four-pronged approach toward eradication.

  • The first phase is to shorten the growing season, creating a host-free period. This makes season-to-season survival difficult.

  • Phase two consists of a transgenic pest-resistant cotton. ARS is working with industry to develop cotton that would not be destroyed by pink bollworms and other pests of the same family.

  • The third plan is to disrupt mating. ARS has developed a method of releasing a strong version of the female bollworm's mating scent. This scent confuses male worms and makes finding females nearly impossible.

  • The fourth phase of the program will be to release sterile pink bollworm moths into cotton fields.

The eradication program is currently under way in different locations throughout the Southwest and northern Mexico. It's scheduled to be completed by 2004 or 2005.

New Residue Mover For No-Till Cotton Growers

Cotton growers' use of no-till has increased dramatically in the last few years. In fact, around ¾ of Alabama farmers are expected to use no-till, according to ARS.

Yet no-till doesn't come without problems. Crop residue often gets caught in planters, causing planting delays as farmers stop to clear out debris. A device designed by ARS soil scientist H. Allen Torbert and Alabama cotton farmer Tom Ingram, however, may change that problem.

The forward residue mover, a triangular piece of metal around the planter blades, pushes crop residue out of the way. It's not being sold, and can be easily made by farmers with supplies they may already have. For more information, visit www.ag.auburn.edu/nsdl/sctcsa/docs/proceedings/Torbert.pdf.

Fill Out Ag Census Forms

The National Cotton Council (NCC) urges cotton producers to participate in the Census of Agriculture. Forms will go out in late December to collect '02 calendar-year data. They are due back by Feb. 3.

The census, conducted by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), provides a comprehensive portrait of agriculture at county, state and national levels. It depicts how farms and ranches stand today compared with what they were five years ago.

By law, information provided by individual farmers and ranchers is held strictly confidential. Results are published only in geographical summaries to prevent identification of individual farms.

New questions will collect information on multiple operators per farm, production contracts, certified organic acreage, grain storage capacity, computer and Internet use and new commodities.

Other questions will focus on key information, such as acreage and land use, operator characteristics, crop and livestock production and agricultural product sales.

Among other uses for this data, Congress, local and state governments and farm organizations like NCC use facts to plan programs that help farmers and ranchers get the most for their investments.

Results of previous censuses and current statistics on agriculture are available at http://www.usda.gov/nass/. NASS will release findings from the '02 Census of Agriculture on Feb. 3, 2004.