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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.

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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

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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.