California Cotton: Pink Bollworm Eradicated After 50 Years

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Leaders of the California cotton industry and governmental agencies this week will formally announce the eradication of the pink bollworm (PBW) moth. This comes after 50 years of effort and integrated pest management work, almost entirely funded by California cotton growers.

The ceremony is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, November 8, at West Haven Cotton Ginning Company, 27519 Jackson Ave. inLemoore.

This campaign against PBW did not use pesticides as a primary means of control. Instead, it heavily relied on  sterile PBW moths that were spread through aerial application across cotton producing regions. The moths were produced in Phoenix, Arizona, at the USDA PBW Rearing Facility.

These releases were followed up with PBW program personnel placing pheromone-bait stations and subsequently inspecting them. In addition, California cotton growers practiced mandatory plow-down after each crop to provide for host-free periods. The approach also included pheromone treatments, along with planting of Bt cotton.

California cotton growers funded this program by paying an assessment on each bale of cotton ginned in this state. This was an investment made by the industry to prevent the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been required in pesticide control if the moth had established itself in the San Joaquin Valley.

While Bt cotton is still utilized, as well as mandatory plow down restrictions and state-wide trapping, the sterile release program ended in 2012 due to the reduction in finds of native PBW moths in California.

After 5 years of finding no native moths in the PBW program traps, federal and state officials are able to finally declare the pest’s eradication. The ceremony will also include an awards presentation honoring key figures who made this program possible.

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