ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico cotton farmers have declared war on a small pest that can wipe out an entire crop.
Boll weevil eradication programs have recently been put in place throughout the entire state, according to New Mexico State University.
“We’re actively working on eradication right now,” said Joe Friesen, the program director for the South-central New Mexico Cotton Boll Weevil Control Committee.
“We’ve just completed our third full season of eradication. We’ve pretty much got the infestation localized to the Las Cruces area.”
Boll weevils are insects that feed on the pollen of cotton plants, causing decreased yield and quality. They were first discovered in New Mexico in 1991.
“It can be devastating,” Friesen said. “They’re very prolific. The boll weevil has to be gotten rid of or there won’t be cotton.”
Friesen said his program has spent more than $2 million since 1998 in the eradication effort.
“The weevil was clearly on its way to getting established here,” he said.
But now a number of agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Agriculture, various farmers’ associations and NMSU have joined forces to fight the boll weevil.
Eradication programs usually involve tracking, detecting and spraying fields where the weevils are found.
“We identify every cotton field there is and we place boll weevil traps on those fields,” Friesen said. “When we catch a weevil in the trap, we go ahead and spray. The next week we check it again.”
NMSU entomologist Jane Pierce says a number of factors, including changes in the timing of planting and clearing of certain weeds, have also been found to help keep boll weevils from settling in fields.
These techniques have also proven useful in keeping populations low in fields where boll weevils are already established, she said.
New Mexico and Texas are among the seven states that have established eradication programs because of boll weevil infestation.
Such programs have already helped eliminate the boll weevil in Arizona, California, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
On the Net:
New Mexico State University College of Agriculture and Home Economics: http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu