No matter how much progress is made in the ongoing fight against cotton insect pests, the damage incurred each year remains significant, according to the 2010 Cotton Insect Loss report compiled by Michael Williams, Mississippi State University entomologist emeritus.
Of all the detailed statistics contained in this report, the most revealing may be the fact that 8.1 million cotton acres across the Belt were infested by the bollworm/budworm insect complex, resulting in 263,902 bales lost.
Not surprisingly, Lygus ranked high on the list with 5.9 million acres infested and 191,826 bales lost. Stink bugs, which have become a serious problem in the Southeast in recent years, infested 6.7 million acres and caused a loss of 162,397 bales.
Several other pests ranked high in terms of economic impact. They included fleahoppers and aphids.
Serious Economic Impact
When translated into economic losses for cotton production, the numbers show how much of an impact this problem will always be for cotton producers across the country.
For example, the total yield loss due to insects across the Belt adds up to $376,673,521, or an average of $35.33 per acre.
Two important eradication programs on boll weevil and pink bollworm cost producers $54.1 million in 2010, or an average of $5.08 per acre.
Aside from the actual financial damage to cotton crops, there is the cost of managing insecticide applications throughout the year. Foliar insecticide costs totalled $240.5 million. At-planting costs were $64.3 million; in-furrow costs were $37.8 million and scouting costs were $51.2 million.
Other noteworthy statistics reveal that 985,821 bales were lost due to insect damage. That represents a 3.91 percent loss in overall yields.
Are there parallels between measuring insect and weed damage in today’s cotton production environment across the Belt?
If there are similarities, they aren’t numerous, according to Tennessee Extension entomologist Scott Stewart.
“I don’t think any parallels exist,” he says. “Weeds don’t move. They are a static problem. Meanwhile, insects do move around, so they are a bit more dynamic.”
Mississippi State University entomologist emeritus Michael Williams contributed information for this article. His annual report is supported by a grant from The Cotton Foundation.
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