Full text of Agricultural News Letter : Volume V, Number 2
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AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER THE F E D E R A L R E S E R V E BANK OF D A L L A S Volume V CONTROL Dallas, Texas, February 15, 1950 INSECTS AND I N C R E A S E Cotton insects reduced the value of the Southwest’s 1949 cotton crop by an estimated $70,000,000. Thrips, flea hoppers, and aphids sapped the vigor of young cotton plants early in the season, while boll weevils, bollworms, and other insects joined the attack as the sea son progressed. In local areas throughout the Southwest, these pests almost completely de stroyed the cotton crop, and individual farm ers saw their work and money spent in mak ing a crop go for naught as insects literally ate up their cotton. According to estimates, nearly 60 per cent of the Southwest’s 1949 cotton crop received no treatment for insect control. Moreover, many farmers who at tempted to control insects poisoned only for boll weevils and were unaware of the tiny thrips, aphids, and fleahoppers that attacked their cotton even before the first blooms ap peared and reduced materially the potential income from the crop. Number 2 COTTON INCOME The loss might have been much greater had it not been for the effective cotton insect-con trol program designed by entomologists and chemists, promoted by agricultural specialists, and carried out by many cotton farmers. In Texas the 1949 insect-control program— called the best in history and supported by a state-wide cotton committee and integrated with the 7-step cotton program—is estimated to have saved Texas farmers millions of dol lars. Approximately 50,000,000 pounds of in secticides were applied on more than 4,000,000 acres. Cotton insect control is no longer an ex periment. True, many improvements are needed and many problems are yet unsolved, but the dollar and cents value of following an insect-control program in the production of cotton is well established. Figures 1 and 2 present graphic evidence of this fact. 2.—Field of untreated cotton showing severe Figure 1.—This field received early season insecticide Figure insect damage, mostly from boll weevils. Yield per applications on May 31 and June 8 and late-season acre was 178 pounds of lint. applications on July 18 and 23. It was ready for pick ing by August 15. Yield per acre was 594 pounds Note: Both fields had been defoliated to facilitate har of lint. vesting. 2 AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER Throughout the Southwest, experimental data, community-wide control programs, and the experience of individual farmers testify to the effectiveness of the new insecticides and improved methods of application. Much progress has been made in carrying this pro gram to individual farms, but the job is far from complete, as indicated by the state ment above that nearly 60 per cent of the cotton grown in 1949 received no treatment for control of insects. Effective cotton insect control is of special importance in 1950, inasmuch as acreage al lotments will reduce cotton acreage on most farms, and, unless per acre yields can be main tained at a high level, many farmers face the possibility of a greatly reduced cotton income. Controlling insects is of paramount import ance in an effort to obtain highest possible per acre yields. Adverse weather may hamper the campaign against insects—as illustrated in many areas of the Cotton Belt in 1949, but the alternative to a control program is risk of total loss of the crop, with the sub sequent loss of income. Moreover, if recom mendations of agricultural experiment sta tions and insecticide manufacturers are fol lowed, the program for controlling cotton insects is generally very effective. In community-wide tests, following the recommended control program has resulted in increases of more than 200 pounds of lint per acre. A survey of records kept by several Texas farmers shows that average cotton yields were increased from 90 pounds of lint per acre in 1945 to as high as 600 pounds of lint per acre in 1949. Specialists working with these farmers testify that a major fac tor in this increase was that they followed the recommendations of their state experi ment station in controlling cotton insects. The importance of controlling insects in 1950 is further emphasized by the fact that numbers of insects, especially boll weevils, may be unusually high in 1950. Infestation counts during the 1949 season showed that the boll weevil population increased steadily from a relatively low level in the spring to a very high level by late fall. Frequent rains and the bumper crop in most parts of the Southwest delayed harvest and prevented early destruction and plowing under of cot ton stalks, thus leaving ample hibernation quarters for boll weevils. Furthermore, as a result of the ample moisture, cotton plants continued to grow during the fall months, providing adequate feed for the weevils, so that a “large crop” of well-fed weevils went into winter hibernation in condition to with stand considerable adverse weather. Unless severe winter weather occurs before spring, there will be millions of boll weevils ready to destroy the 1950 crop. Early season poison ing can be an important factor in killing these early broods of weevils and reducing materi ally the potential damage of the pests later in the season. Permitted to reproduce un checked, they could multiply into such size as to menace the entire cotton crop. How to Control Cotton Insects Community action is most desirable. In sects are no respecters of fences or property lines. One unpoisoned cotton field in a com munity can produce enough insects to threat en all of the neighboring fields. Therefore, to be most effective, the insect-control pro gram should be organized on a community wide basis, with every farmer participating. Most Texas counties have a committee—fre quently called the 7-Step Cotton Committee and usually organized by the county agent— for planning and executing such a program. This committee should co-ordinate the efforts of farmers, ginners, insecticide and machinery dealers, bankers, businessmen, vocational agri cultural teachers, and other agricultural leaders in a cotton insect-control program that will cover every cotton patch in the county. By surveying the kind and type of equipment available in the county for apply ing poisons, by estimating the kind and quan tities of insecticides needed for the season, by determining the best time to apply early season control in that county, by co-ordi nating weekly infestation counts, and by making latest information on control meas ures available to the press and radio, as well as through personal contacts and community meetings, this committee can give the pro gram maximum effectiveness. Technical in AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER formation is available from agricultural ex periment stations, and special help can be ob tained from cotton specialists of the Agricul tural Extension Service, as well as from per sons employed by insecticide and machinery manufacturers. But the ultimate success of the program and the degree to which insects are controlled and income to the community from the sale of cotton and cottonseed main tained rest with the agricultural leaders, busi nessmen, and farmers in each community. Group action is most effective, but if no community plan is in operation, farmers should follow an intensive insect-control pro gram on their own farms, based on the recommendations of their state experiment station. In both the group program and on individual farms it is vital that recommen dations of specialists and of insecticide manufacturers be followed carefully. If the recommendations call for two applications of a specific poison 7 days apart, two appli cations should be made 7 days apart—not three applications at 10-day intervals or two applications at 5-day intervals—nor should another insecticide be substituted for the one recommended. Effective control of insects does not permit the variation in control measures that may be allowed or even be de sirable with certain cultural practices. Time liness is essential for adequate control. Local adjustments may be necessary in the time table of application, and in many instances the time of application is dependent upon local infestation. Furthermore, most recom mendations suggest more than one kind of poison. But outside of the variations given in the recommendations, no changes should be made. Improper use of poisons, may do more harm than good, and failure to follow direc tions has been a frequent cause of ineffective insect control and has resulted in a waste of poison and of the farmer’s money. Early Season Control "Kill ’em before they get started!” is an ap propriate slogan for the early season control program, because this practice is an effective way to strike a blow against insects before they have a chance to cause excessive damage to the cotton plants. 3 Early season control refers to the applica tion of insecticides on the young cotton plants prior to the appearance of the first blooms. Under this program, the first poison applica tion is made about the time that chopping and plowing are completed, and one or two addi tional applications are made at 7-day inter vals. Poisoning is discontinued not later than the appearance of the first blooms, and no further applications are made, unless "counts” of insects in the cotton field reach certain levels. (These levels are given in each state’s recommendations.) The importance of controlling insects early in the season is emphasized by the fact that thrips, aphids, and flea hoppers may start feeding on cotton plants almost as soon as the first leaves appear. They sap the strength of the young cotton seedlings, retarding growth during the favorable spring growing season, thus preventing the development of a vigorous, healthy plant, capable of setting and carrying a heavy crop of bolls. The dam age caused by these insects—so tiny that they frequently go unnoticed—often lowers the potential yield even before the first blooms appear. In experiments in Wharton County, Texas, fields given early season treatment averaged more than twice as many blooms per acre as untreated fields. Cotton plants receiving early season treatment also held their squares and reached full maturity 3 weeks earlier than the untreated plants. In both 1948 and 1949 tests, cotton given early season insect-control treatment outyielded untreated fields by 50 to 100 percent. In the 1949 experiments, it is estimated that the $4 to $6 per acre cost of the early season treatment doubled the returns per acre. Usually, midseason applications of poison are unnecessary for boll weevil control, if the early season program is carried out according to recommendations and on a community wide basis. Thorough applications of poison early in the season kill the first broods of weevils as they come to the cotton fields after emerging from winter hibernation and tend to prevent these early broods from reproduc ing and building up a large population, which would threaten the crop later in the season. If early season control is not applied on a 4 AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER community-wide basis or if the job is not he used with caution and directions followed thorough, boll weevils may migrate into the carefully. treated cotton fields from untreated areas, The chief advantage of sprays is that they requiring mid- or late-season poisoning. can be applied under a wide range of weather conditions, even when a moderate wind is Mid- and Late-Season Control blowing. This is of special interest to farmers Applications of poison after the first who sometimes forced to wait several days blooms appear should be avoided whenever beforearewind conditions will permit any dust possible, and the time of such applications, ing. By the time conditions are suit if necessary, should be determined by an ac able, insects mayweather have inflicted considerable curate check of the degree of infestation in damage, and the job of controlling them the cotton field. In other words, if no insects greatly aggravated. Cost of spraying com appear, no poisoning is recommended. But if favorably with that of dusting. In fact, the degree of infestation reaches a certain pares since the sprayer can be attached to the trac stage, poison should be applied immediately tor without removing the cultivator and and continued until the insects are brought spraying continued throughout the day, cul under control. The exact amount of infesta tivation and spraying be done simul tion that warrants poisoning and the kind taneously, thus effectingcanconsiderable saving and amounts of insecticides are given in the in labor and tractor costs. various state cotton insect-control guides. precautions should be observed by The fact that midseason applications of anySeveral farmer who plans to use spray materials poison are determined by the degree of in for controlling cotton insects. festation emphasizes the importance of ac 1. He should make certain that he has curate insect counts at weekly intervals equipment that will handle the sprays satis throughout the season. It is essential that factorily. A sprayer that is entirely suitable every cotton farmer be able to recognize the for applying other insecticides or weed kill insects that may attack his cotton crop, so ers may be unsatisfactory for applying insec that he may make weekly counts of his own ticides to cotton. fields to determine whether or not poisoning is needed. "Know your enemies” is sound ad 2. He should make certain that he has, vice in any battle, and certainly the cotton or will have available, an adequate supply of a farmer who cannot identify the common cot spray that has been formulated and tested un ton insects that may attack his crop has two der conditions similar to those in his commu strikes against him in the battle for control nity. of the pests. Color photographs of the more 3. He should work closely with an in common insects found in the Southwest, to secticide or machinery manufacturer who is gether with their life history, have been pub familiar with all of the problems involved lished by several magazines and can be ob in the use of spray material for cotton. tained this year by writing to The Hercules Powder Co., 1210 Gulf States Building, Dal Farmers who already have dusting equip ment probably should continue to use dusts, las, Texas. in view of the cost of shifting to spray equip The Use of Sprays and the fact that many problems asso Sprays, which are generally as effective as ment ciated with their use are as yet unsolved. On dusts in controlling cotton insects, are in the other farmers contemplating the cluded for the first time this year in the purchase ofhand, new equipment for applying poi recommendations of several states. New and son to cotton should give careful considera improved insecticides and power machinery tion to the advantages of sprays. have made it possible to develop suitable spray materials and machinery for applying them to Copies of state recommendations for 1950 cotton. While the use of sprays is included in cotton insect control can be obtained from the some recommendations this year, they should Agricultural Extension Service of each state.