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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico Cotton Growers Must Quickly Deal With Destructive Boll Weevil

LAS CRUCES - Cotton growers in the Mesilla Valley are banding together to try to control the boll weevil, which has infested 500 of the area's 30,000 acres of cotton, said a New Mexico State University agricultural agent.

"The boll weevil is a terribly destructive insect," said Javier Vargas, with NMSUIs Cooperative Extension Service (CES). "In,many states and in many cotton areas, it has totally destroyed the cotton industry. Itfs an insect that not only decreases production but also cotton quality."

The weevils were discovered in the Mesilla Valley's cotton fields last November, said Charles Ward, entomologist with CES. They've also been found on the state's east side and in the Pecos Valley. The weevils survived the mild winter and are now the state's first reproducing populations.

"The boll weevil causes annual losses to cotton production in Texas in excess of $20 million and has the potential of taking New Mexico out of the cotton market," Ward said.

Boll weevil control combined with yield and quality losses can cost more than $85 per acre.

Area growers have formed the Mesilla Valley Pest Management Association, which is asking all growers to donate $2 per bale on a volunteer basis to support the effort to control the weevil before the infestation spreads. The association is being aided and supported by CES, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

"There's been a lot of cooperation to find out just how extensive this problem is," said Bill Gomez, an agricultural economist with CES.

To control the weevil, the growers are planning this fall to spray insecticides and burn brushy areas that serve as overwintering quarters for the pest. The association will notify area homeowners when sprays are going to occur.

Growers also hope for a cold winter. Trapping next spring will determine whether the weevils were able to overwinter again.

Vargas urged cotton growers throughout the state to help with the problem. "I know many farmers may think that they are far away from the problem, but the way this little guy spreads it will be their problem in one or two years, if it's not taken care of," he said.