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Bt Cotton: Opportunities and Challenges

John H. Benedict


For the first time in 30 years, major new insect pest management technologies will be available to cotton producers. Transgenic Bt cotton varieties, eradication of the boll weevil and new insecticides offer opportunities and challenges for cotton producers, crop consultants, researchers, extension and industry personnel, and society. They offer opportunities to reduce insect injury and increase yields for producers currently suffering from sever chronic, infestations of bollworm, tobacco budworm, pink bollworm, and boll weevil; as well as other caterpillar pests such as cabbage looper, saltmarsh caterpillar and cotton leaf perforator. Producers, consultants, scientists, EPA, environmental interest groups, and society are hopeful that Bt cottons will reduce the current use of conventional synthetic insecticides. These reductions should provide the opportunities to: (1) improve natural biological control of cotton pests, (2) reduce human/wildlife hazards due to exposure to insecticides, and (3) reduce risks of environmental contamination from synthetic insecticides.

The major challenges that accompany these technologies are how to: (1) integrate them into current insect pest management (IPM)/cotton crop production systems; (2) delay the development of insect resistance to these technologies, especially Bt cotton; (3) evaluate and manage natural biological control and; (4) how to suppress insect pests not controlled by Bt cotton without disrupting natural biological control. These new IPM technologies offer great opportunity, however, because of our inexperience in their use, they also offer great risk of financial loss. Due to our inexperience and the risk involved, it is recommended that consultants and producers carefully evaluate and test these new technologies in their crop production system to become confident that these new IPM methods will improve insect control and farm profit.

Reprinted from Proceedings of the 1996 Beltwide Cotton Conferences pp. 25 - 29
©National Cotton Council, Memphis TN

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Document last modified Sunday, Dec 6 1998