|With boll weevils in Louisiana nearly wiped out because of
the state’s eradication program, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom
is cautioning gardeners and other ornamental plant lovers against planting the
ornamental variety of cotton.
“As few as two or three ornamental cotton plants could
harbor enough boll weevils to re-infest the state’s entire commercial cotton
industry over a period of a few years,” Odom explained. “In order to protect
our cotton industry, state law requires anyone growing non-commercial, or
ornamental, cotton to first seek written permission from the Department of
Agriculture and Forestry.”
Most ornamental cotton in Louisiana is grown at tourist
welcome centers, around parish courthouses in the cotton producing part of the
state, and by people who spin cotton for a hobby. Ornamental cotton is any
cotton not grown for the commercial purposes of harvesting, bailing and
“A lot of the welcome centers and courthouses grow the
cotton as part of their heritage exhibits, but we can’t let that cotton get
infested with boll weevils and jeopardize the work we’ve done to eradicate this
pest,” Odom said.
Dr. John Andries, director of the Boll Weevil Eradication
Program, said anyone planning to grow ornamental cotton should contact his
office in writing at P.O. Box 3596, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.
“It is very important for us to know where these plants are
so that we can set up boll weevil traps around them and monitor activity in the
area,” Andries said.
“There are really only a
small number of non-commercial sites where department employees can apply traps
and monitor them because of the limited number of boll weevil employees. We
can’t possibly trap and monitor a large number of ornamentals when it’s
critical that we trap and monitor our two eradication zones,” he added.
The cotton industry in Louisiana had a total value of $292
million in 2001 according to the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary. Because of
the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, cotton farmers have been able to reduce
their annual cost of production for the estimated 660,000 acres of cotton that
will be planted this year by reducing the need for chemical treatment of boll
Trapping and routine malathion applications will continue in
the statewide Northeast Eradication Zone, while the Red River Eradication Zone,
which is in the first year of its maintenance program, will continue trapping
and apply malathion only when weevils are found in a trap in the field.