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Cotton Growers Prepare For 1998 Insect Season
By Linda Breazeale
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers are keenly aware of insect control every year because it is one of their most costly issues, but after this year's mild winter, they are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
The Mid-South region has the highest costs to produce cotton. To be competitive with state's that have eradicated boll weevils, Mississippi needs 3 to 5 cents per pound more at the market. The 1997-98 winter was one of Mississippi's mildest winters in 20 years, which is a major concern for 1998 boll weevil control.
Dr. Blake Layton, entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said trapping boll weevils will help growers make control decisions for cotton's No. 1 pest. The trapping program is run on a volunteer basis in the Delta and through the eradication program in Mississippi's hill section. Trapping helps growers in a number of ways.
"Traps are not a control method, but a measuring stick," Layton said.
Traps are a key part of the eradication program as they are used to determine whether or not fields are infested with boll weevils.
"Growers outside the eradication program can use trap numbers to determine the need for and timing of pinhead square treatments. We can also get an idea of population increases in different regions, especially areas involved in the eradication program, from the data collected through the trapping program," Layton said.
Many growers will likely choose to plant some of their acreage in Bt cotton, which is resistant to tobacco budworms. Increased boll weevil control tends to reduce the beneficial insects that help control pests such as budworms. Reducing beneficial populations will be a concern throughout the state, both inside and outside the eradication area.
"A benefit for growers of non-Bt cotton will be the availability of Tracer insecticide to control tobacco budworms," Layton said.
Traps are available through county Extension offices. Traps should be placed at a rate of one per field, or one per 100 acres in large fields. Growers should report the assigned numbers and locations of traps to their county agent's office. Growers are encouraged to use new traps or those stored unused from the previous year rather than reusing faded traps from 1997.
"Returning boll weevil counts to the county agents and their forwarding data to the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp. is very important for an accurate, reliable databank," said Dr. George Mullendore, program coordinator for the corporation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recently released planting intentions report predicts Mississippians will plant 860,000 acres, down from 985,000 planted acres in 1997.