The National Cotton Pest Management Seminar

In February 1978, university researchers and entomologists from every major Southern and Western cotton-producing state came together in Orlando, Florida, in what became known as the National Cotton Pest Management Seminar. This seminar was planned in response to cotton producers experiencing severe budworm and bollworm damage in 1977, prompting such producers to become more receptive to new ideas concerning heliothis (the budworm-bollworm complex) control that would not break the bank. The point was to open up the discussion on how to produce cotton for less money.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was the buzzword, but there was emphasis on a more rounded approach to total crop production including agronomy, plant pathology, plant genetics and other agricultural sciences. Although the event was sponsored by the Ortho Division of Chevron Chemical Company, insecticide use moving forward in the industry would have to be employed only where absolutely necessary, in order to spare beneficial insects, minimize pest resistance, and ultimately lower costs for producers. 

Pictured are more than 30 of the nation's top entomologists with representatives of the Ortho Division of Chevron Chemical Co., at the National Cotton Pest Management Seminar in Orlando, Florida, 1978

Limited use of insecticides had lowered costs in past projects considerably, which would certainly appeal to producers, whose total cooperation would be paramount for any such program to prove successful.

Other aspects of the IPM approach that were discussed included careful attention to plant stand density, crop rotation, nitrogen application and planting dates. All of these factors could affect heliothis population outbreaks and needed to be considered. New varieties of cotton were also discussed during the seminar, including pest resistant and short season varieties.

The take-home was this: while there was no “one-shot” solution to the problem of managing heliothis outbreaks, there needed to be a balance between production and cost, and crop production strategies that minimized insecticide use and allowed for natural predators. This seminar was only a jumping-off point. At the time, there was still much to be learned in the field about insect populations- where they came from and how they got where they were.