Georgia Department of Agriculture

Boll Weevil Eradication

Cotton has been important to Georgia since it was first planted in the new colony in 1733 near Savannah. By 1800, Georgia produced 21% of the cotton grown in the United States. Cotton production expanded in the state over the next century and in 1914, over 5.2 million acres of land in Georgia was planted in cotton. Unfortunately, while Georgia farmers were experiencing good crop yields and prices, a tiny insect from Central America was moving rapidly across the Cotton Belt. [1]
 
Since its introduction into the U.S. a century ago, the boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) has cost America’s cotton producers more than $15 billion in yield losses and control costs.[2] The boll weevil is the most serious cotton pest in North America and was first found in Texas in 1892. By 1915, it had travelled over 1,000 miles to Georgia. The boll weevil’s arrival would dramatically alter cotton production in the U.S. for the next 75 years, including heavy reliance   on insecticides.  By 1983, only 115,000 acres of cotton were planted in Georgia.
 
In 1987, Georgia joined other cotton producing states in an effort to eradicate the boll weevil from the U.S. Weevil eradication was completed in 1990 and Georgia now grows more than a million acres of cotton annually. However, there is a threat of re-infestation since the insect is still established in the U.S. in parts of Texas. To keep this serious pest out of the state, the Georgia Department of Agriculture has partnered with the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation of Georgia, Inc. Each year, cotton fields are diligently monitored for boll weevils (you may have seen the green plastic traps near fields). If weevils are found, Foundation employees respond within 24 hours to install additional traps and apply insecticide treatments if needed.
 
In Georgia, all boll weevil monitoring and eradication activities are 100% farmer funded. 
 
Ornamental and Non-Commercial Cotton
Cotton plants are attractive, and because of its history in Georgia, many homeowners desire to plant some cotton in their yard or garden. These types of plantings are not permitted in Georgia (and most other cotton producing states) without a permit from the Department of Agriculture
 
With modern highways, boll weevils could accidentally be moved by commercial or private vehicles from infested parts of Texas to Georgia in a matter of hours. Cotton grown in a home garden provides an ideal harborage site for boll weevils; it is neither treated with insecticides nor is it inspected for pests. Weevil establishment would be almost certain.
 
If you would like to see cotton plants up close, there are several sites around the state that have been issued permits to grow ornamental cotton. Generally, these are heritage farms that provide educational opportunities for visitors. 


[1] P.B. Haney, W.J. Lewis, and W.R. Lambert, “Cotton Production and the Boll Weevil in Georgia: History, Cost of Control, and Benefits of Eradication” (University of Georgia, 2009).
 
[2] National Cotton Council of America, “Boll Weevil Eradication Program”.

 

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