Monday, November 27, 2017

Cotton Growers Plow Ahead After the Fall Harvest

This time of year, farmers certainly give thanks for buttoning up another harvest.

But any farmer will tell you there’s little time to rest after harvest. Cotton growers will vouch for that, citing state law requiring them to plowdown their fields soon after the cotton is picked.

Field scout Damien Jelen says growers understand the requirement and move quickly to plow under their fields well before the December deadline set by local county agricultural commissioners.

“They know the law and have been doing it (plowdown) for years,” Damien says, pointing out almost all the cotton fields in the Northern San Joaquin Valley have been plowed under. Only a couple of growers are still lagging.

Here's a picture of pink bollworm larvae. (UC IPM photo)
It was 1967 when farm groups, UC farm advisers and researchers, state, local and federal ag regulators launched a pink bollworm eradication program in the San Joaquin Valley. The pink bollworm damages squares and bolls. An overwintering population can affect next season’s crop. Plowdown also prevents plant regrowth and reduces the build up of white flies.

Work starts after the cotton is harvested. Crews will return to the field and uproot and shred the brown, dried cotton stalks. Then they disc the field, plow down the debris about six inches deep, break up big clods of dirt and then build new planting beds for next season.

“We didn’t have too much rain this fall to force growers to pull the tractors from the fields.” Damien said. As a result, growers were able to finish plowing down their fields rather quickly.

Growers are good about plowing under the harvested fields.
Each fall, county agricultural commissioners will issue a deadline for all the cotton fields to be plowed down. County ag officials are required by state law to enforce plowdown rules and a host-free period through the early spring (Growers can’t start planting until the host-free period ends).

“The Pink Bollworm (PBW) Program is one of the most successful and longest running, yet least-known area-wide integrated pest control program in the world,” the California Department of Food and Agriculture says. “This unique integrated pest control program has been in continual operation since 1967. The cooperative program is funded almost entirely by the cotton growers of California through an assessment on each bale of cotton ginned in the state. The PBW Program uses an integrated pest management approach, relying on extensive trapping, sterile release, crop destruction, and pheromone treatments …to keep infestations below economic impact levels.”
State ag officials point out the pink bollworm is the third pest ever in the history of entomology to be fully eradicated. California cotton growers should take a bow.

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