Our love of cotton is shared by many other life forms, such as the boll weevil. One hundred and fifty years ago, this tiny insect brought cotton farming in Mexico to a standstill. From there, the weevil migrated to the United States where it spread like wildfire, ruining the livelihoods of thousands. Following an ambitious eradication program, the insect no longer poses a major threat there.
Other insect pests such as bollworms, bugs, leafhoppers, aphids and whiteflies also make life difficult for farmers. And then there are the diseases transmitted by fungi and bacteria.
Like all crop plants, cotton must vie with weeds for nutrients and water. Consequently, drought has a devastating effect on the plants – and thus also on cotton farmers.
(From left to right) Larva of cotton bollworm, Spodoptera littoralis, adult moth, Caterpillar of Alabama argillacea.