Using cannon, drones and ingenuity to stop cotton pests

Pink bollworms have been a longstanding nightmare for western cotton farmers.

The insects lay eggs in cotton bolls and when the larvae hatch they burrow through the lint, to feed on seeds. This damages both fiber and seed oil. With high humidity, it only takes one or two larvae to destroy an entire boll because damaged bolls are vulnerable to infection by boll rot fungi, according to the University of California at Davis.

The National Cotton Council estimates that pink bollworms costs US cotton producers more than $32 million each year in control costs and yield losses.

The United States Department of Agriculture has long used an ingenious program, called sterile insect technique, to stem pink bollworm infestations.

Pink bollworms are raised, fed a diet of red dye, giving them a permanent, unnatural color, blasted with radiation to make them sterile and released near infestations of cotton-eating pink bollworms.

The sterile bollworms mate with the fertile pink bollworms, which fools the latter into a false state of pregnancy. As a result, an entire generation of bollworms die off without reproducing.

Pink bollworm larve on cotton boll.

Pink bollworm larvae on cotton boll.

The program, begun in California’s San Joaquin Valley in the mid-1960s, originally relied on the use of small aircraft to distribute irradiated pink bollworms. Now a pilot program has them being fired from cannon attached to drones onto cotton fields.

“Drones are a cheaper delivery method than the manual throw-moths-out-of-a-small airplane method that has been used in the past, so if the tests continue to go well, you might be seeing more moths flying out of drones in the future,” according to Popular Science.

Pink bollworms are found in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and northern Mexico.

Sterile moths are raised and irradiated at the Pink Bollworm Rearing Facility in Phoenix, Ariz., then shipped to Shafter, Calif., for aerial release in the San Joaquin Valley, where more than 90 percent of California’s cotton is grown.

One of the great benefits of the program is that it doesn’t use pesticides, benefiting the environment.

(HT: Eideard)

Advertisements

Kudzu bug threatening Southern exports

Some Latin American countries that trade with Southeastern states are worried that kudzu bugs may be headed south of the border, Southeast Farm Press reports.

In February, officials in Honduras discovered dead kudzu bugs in a shipping container from Georgia. This led the country to step up inspections of cargo from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, according to the publication.

The kudzu bug only arrived in the Western Hemisphere in 2009, coming into Atlanta from Asia. But since then it has spread across at least 230 counties in four states.

It’s now found in all 46 South Carolina counties, more than 140 counties in Georgia, more than 40 North Carolina counties, along with parts of Alabama. Entomologists have been astounded by the insect’s rapid movement.

The bugs, known in most parts of the world as bean plataspids, look like boxy brown ladybugs and emit a foul-smelling secretion when threatened. While they are known to eat kudzu, they can also ravage soybeans, along with other legumes, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

University of Georgia researchers scheduled an informational meeting late last month to share with Latin American officials what they have learned about the kudzu bug since its arrival in the Southeast.

Continue reading

‘Kudzu bugs’ an increasing Southern problem

How fast has the so-called “kudzu bug” moved across the Southeast over the past two years? Since arriving in the Western Hemisphere by way of Atlanta from Asia in 2009, the insect has spread from nine Georgia counties to across at least 230 counties in four states.

It’s now found in all 46 South Carolina counties, more than 140 counties in Georgia, more than 40 North Carolina counties, along with parts of Alabama, and entomologists have been astounded by its rapid movement, according to Southeast Farm Press.

The bugs, known in most parts of the world as bean plataspids, look like boxy brown ladybugs and emit a foul-smelling secretion when threatened. As a result, it’s often as easy to locate them by smell as by sight when they occur in large numbers.

While they are known to eat kudzu, they can also ravage soybeans, along with other legumes, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Clemson University Entomologist Jeremy Greene says the insects, often mistakenly referred to as stink bugs, are becoming a bigger problem in agriculture as they spread throughout the region.

Continue reading