Cotton plow down plays an important role in the management of cotton pests. To producers in California, Arizona and New Mexico, plow down programs are especially important to protect eradication and protection efforts that have met great success.
As the threat of damage from pink bollworm or boll weevil has been all but eliminated from the West, producer associations are making sure that one of the tools that has brought success to their areas is not abused or abandoned. In the past, local producer associations in the Western states were concerned enough that they wrote regulations into state law to be able to enforce penalties on those who do not abide by plow down provisions.
Now, Arizona and New Mexico are again looking at the law to address concerns that some producers are not adhering to the regulations that protect the Western cotton crop.
Following The Rules
Generally, plow down dates and layby periods are followed. But, there are always a few producers who push deadlines or ignore them altogether.
“We can’t say that we have the pink bollworm eradicated, but we are close,” says Arizona producer Paco Ollerton.
Ollerton, chairman of the Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council (ACRPC), says consideration is being given to a per-acre penalty for those who fail to meet plow down deadlines. This is being done to make sure pink bollworm numbers stay as low as possible. Currently, Arizona assesses $5 for each bale of cotton grown below elevations of 2,700 feet. Producers who fail to meet the deadline for plow down forfeit the two-dollar bale rebate from the assessment.
“There isn’t a lot of incentive to plow down when costs to do so are high,” Ollerton says.
And, some producers are opting to forego the plow down rebate and let the state do the work of getting the field into compliance.
“It isn’t a huge number,” says Leighton Liesner of the ACRPC, regarding those who do not comply. However, it is enough to raise concern, given the work that has gone into the pink bollworm eradication effort.
ACRPC field supervisors work with producers to help them understand the regulations so the producers have adequate time to get the crop plowed under before the Arizona Department of Agriculture orders compliance.
Part of Arizona producers’ concerns regarding current regulations is the different plow down deadline for various regions in the state, ranging from Dec. 15 in Yuma to March 1 in the eastern part of the state.
Ollerton is hoping to standardize the dates, making sure to hold everyone to a 15-day host-free period.
New Mexico has one plow down deadline of Feb. 1. Joe Friesen, program director of the South Central New Mexico Pink Bollworm Control Committee, says there is less pressure for compliance in New Mexico.
“We get a pretty good frost that destroys stub cotton,” he says.
New Mexico producers do a good job of getting everything plowed in by the February deadline. California’s deadlines are Dec. 20 for south of Shields Avenue in Fresno County and Dec. 31 for all cotton north of that line.
The Pink Bollworm Program in California has been in operation since 1967 and is credited with possibly being the longest running and most successful integrated pest management program in the world.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. He resides in Maricopa, Ariz.