The drought of 2011 and 2012 has had a major negative impact on cotton in the local area.  Yields this year were such that many producers are having their crop adjusted out by Crop Insurance as economics indicated that it was more economical to collect insurance on the adjusted crop yield and destroy the remaining crop rather than harvest the poor crop.

As the cotton harvest nears completion, it is important not to forget about destroying those cotton stalks as soon as the crop has been removed or terminated to aid in reducing costs for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program (BWEP).  This year not been one boll weevil was caught in Nueces County, although some have been caught recently just to the south. Good progress has been made on this front, so let’s keep it that way.

The cotton stalk destruction deadline for Nueces County remains September 1, 2012.

In its native habitat cotton is a perennial shrub that may survive for many years. The perennial habit of cotton allows it to re-grow following harvest, and to provide potential for development of hostable fruit (squares and bolls) for boll weevil feeding and reproduction. Under good environmental conditions, cotton plants can generate hostable fruit in three to four weeks.  Additionally, cotton stalks destruction will preserve soil moisture for the following season.

When field conditions and weather are favorable for tillage, stalks can be shredded and then disked to destroy the plant. Stubble stalk pullers can also be used to uproot the stalk. These mechanical methods are generally successful, but some stalks may survive these operations. Many growers are implementing reduced tillage systems, which do not allow for primary tillage operations, causing them to evaluate new methods for stalk destruction.

We’ve seen much interest in alternative cotton stalk destruction throughout the South Texas area in recent years. While many producers still use various tillage methods to destroy cotton stubble, be aware that other choices are available. Regardless of the method chosen, the primary purpose of destroying cotton stalks remains the same and that is to prevent cotton fruiting sites (squares or bolls) that are a food source for the boll weevil.  These fruiting sites will allow the boll weevil to reproduce and increases its winter survival rate.