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Cotton growers prepare for challenges in 2007
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers may have fewer acres to plant, but not necessarily fewer challenges in 2007.
While environmental conditions will be the biggest factor, the boom in corn acreage may increase certain insect pressure in Mississippi's cotton.
Angus Catchot, entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said corn is one of the primary hosts for bollworms, which edged out tarnished plant bugs as the state's No. 1 cotton pest last year.
“With such a large increase in corn acres this year, the probability of seeing higher than normal bollworm numbers in cotton is on growers' minds. Since weather plays a key role in the success of bollworms emerging from the soil after pupating, we'll have to wait and see what the final outcome is,” Catchot said. “Bollworms are considered major pests in cotton, and large numbers can develop in corn fields and then move to cotton around late July when corn becomes less attractive.”
Catchot said many factors can influence insect numbers, particularly timely rainfall that increases the growth of wild host plants that pests can build up on. Cotton planting typically occurs between April 15 and May 10.
The ongoing battle against boll weevils also may be challenged this year. Farrell Boyd, program manager for the Southeast Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, said reduced cotton acreage will mean reduced operating assessments for the eradication program.
“We have eliminated weevils throughout the majority of the state with just very low numbers remaining in the northwest portion of Mississippi,” Boyd said. “We may reduce the number of field staff, but we still have to have some personnel, vehicles and trapping within the reduced acreage. It's harder to keep the budget down when we are covering a larger area with fewer cotton acres.”
Mississippi cotton growers pay between $4 and $10 per acre to the program for boll weevil eradication.
Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist, said a significant reduction in cotton acres will have a negative impact on the infrastructure of the industry, especially in small Delta communities.
“We may not see the impact this year, but if cotton acres stay low a second year, we likely will lose gins. Other related businesses and services, such as seed and chemical dealers and custom applicators (crop dusters), will certainly feel the pinch,” he said.