Conquering Cotton Pests

The boll weevil is a pest that devastates cotton plants by feeding on its buds and flowers. Native to Central Mexico, the beetle spread throughout the southwest by the 1920s and nearly destroyed the entire cotton industry. Since arrival in the U.S., the boll weevil has cost over $23 billion in economic losses.

In the 1970s, the USDA launched a major boll weevil eradication program in partnership with farmers. The program developed techniques including using pheromone traps and chemical treatments, as well as modifying habitats. By 2014, the pest had been eliminated from all U.S. cotton-growing areas except a few parts of Texas.

The economic benefits of boll weevil eradication have been dramatic. For example, Georgia’s average gross crop revenues between 1987 and 2000 increased from $70 million per year prior to eradication to $400 million per year afterwards. In Georgia, this protected 53,000 cotton-related industry jobs. Eradication has allowed growers to rebuild our nation’s cotton industry.  

Retaking The Field Volume 5 “Retaking the Field Volume 5: Innovation to Profit” explores how federally funded agricultural research strengthens farmers and ranchers’ bottomline by reducing costs and risks, increasing profits, and laying the groundwork for new products and industries. With powerful examples from universities across the country, it describes how research can generate outsized economic benefits that extends for decades. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 5: Innovation to Profit Click to download report

More Stories from: Retaking The Field Volume 5

Winning With Wheat

Funded by USDA, the International Wheat Yield Partnership Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) and its predecessor Triticeae CAP (T-CAP) focused on improving wheat and barley for...

Read More
Collaborating on Corn

U.S. farmers produce 41 percent of the world’s corn on 400,000 farms located primarily in the Midwest Corn Belt region. American production value of corn was over $50 billion in 2018. The...

Read More
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Creates $300 Million Economic Impact

At North Carolina State University, Cooperative Extension educators taught classes that empowered people to make better-informed decisions in communities across the state.

Read More