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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

1995 Cotton Forecast: High Prices, Insect Threats

LAS CRUCES - For New Mexico cotton growers, the good news is that prices are strong this year. The bad news is that pests are plentiful.

Both the boll weevil and pink bollworm are showing up in the state's major cotton producing areas, said Mike English, an entomologist and Plant Sciences department head with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

"With prices holding steady, this year's cotton crop appears to be a valuable one that will take more management and care than usual to protect," English said. "Farmers need to be especially alert this season."

Unusually high numbers of boll weevils have been trapped in Lea County, English said. The pest has also turned up as far north as the Portales area in Roosevelt County and in southern New Mexico's Dona Ana County.

New Mexico growers planted 53,500 acres of upland cotton and 11,000 of long staple American-pima cotton in 1993, the latest year for which final figures are available.

Lea County, which has the highest boll weevil concentration, borders Texas, where boll weevil eradication programs are already underway.

"We certainly want to cooperate with our Texas neighbors," English said. "If we're to succeed in eradicating this pest, it must done on a regional basis. The boll weevil doesn't respect state lines."

Trapping was stepped up this year after large numbers of boll weevils were caught last fall, English said. Extension, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to monitor the pest.

He recommended that producers stay in contact with their county Extension agents, as well as with industry groups and federal and state agencies.

A second insect troubling cotton growers this season is the pink bollworm, which is making an early appearance this season following several mild winters.

"The Mesilla Valley looks particularly heavy with pinkies," English said. "Producers in Luna and Hidalgo counties should also be watching their fields closely."

Trapping efforts by NMDA and Extension indicate populations may be spotty, but extremely high in some areas.

To reduce damage from the pink bollworm, producers should check fields early and often, terminate and harvest the crop as early as possible, and destroy crop residue, English said.

"Right now, the best defense for producers is to get out and walk their fields and look closely at the plants -- not just do windshield insect scouting, but get out into the field."