USDA In Phoenix To Celebrate Eradication Of Pink Bollworm

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 5:00am
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 10:32am
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Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Cotton fields in Goodyear, Arizona.

The pink bollworm has destroyed cotton crops in the United States for a century.

But an undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be in Arizona Tuesday to celebrate the eradication of the pest from cotton-producing areas in the lower 48.  

The pink bollworm first invaded Texas in 1917, according to the USDA.

The insect eventually spread to Arizona, where farmers in Yuma are almost done harvesting this year’s batch of cotton, and growers in the central part of the state are beginning to pull the crop from the field.

Pink bollworm has been the No. 1 pest for generations, said Kevin Rogers, executive vice president of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association.

“In the past we’ve spent upwards of $25 million a year trying to keep that pest at bay,” he said.

The pink bollworm eradication program took effect in the late 1990s, and cotton farmers taxed themselves to help pay for it, Rogers said. 

Cotton is one of Arizona’s five Cs. There are about 200,000 acres of cotton grown in Arizona, Rogers said.

“So we’ve seen the acres decrease some over time,” he said. “But then we see them surge back up as the market shows more demand and the price goes back up.”

Eradicating the pink bollworm is an opportunity for more Arizona farmers to grow cotton, Rogers said. But like with any other crop, the market will drive what farmers plant.  

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