Farmers Eradicate Cotton Pink Bollworm After 100+ Years Of Damage

Pink bollworm devastated cotton growers, costing tens of millions of dollars in yield loss and control. After years of hard work, including control and regulatory requirements, the pest has been eliminated from cotton-producing states.

This lifts a long-standing domestic quarantine for pink bollworm, which relieves restrictions on domestic and international trade of U.S. cotton. The pest was first found in 1917 and had spread to all cotton-producing states by 1963.

“Removing pink bollworm regulations eases the movement of cotton to market both domestically and internationally because farmers will have fewer restrictions to deal with,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a recent press release. “Cotton growers were critical to this success, banding together to carry out a coordinated, multi-state program and shouldering 80% of the program’s cost.”

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service created pink bollworm regulations in 1955, which included 10 states at the height of the program (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, Mississippi and Missouri). The states were quarantined for the pest and by 2003 only Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas remained under the regulations.

To eradicate pink bollworm, regulators used findings from USDA Agricultural Research Service including planting transgenic cotton, using insect pheromones to disrupt mating, releasing sterile insects to prevent reproduction and extensive survey.

“The pink bollworm, a destructive insect pest of cotton that once required multiple insecticide applications while continuing to reduce yields, is no longer present in U.S. cotton production,” said Gary Adams, National Cotton Council president and CEO in a recent press release. “The benefits of this program are shared by society, the environment and the united producer membership who led this battle to victory.”