Professional cotton growers have aggressive measures in place to combat boll weevils. If a backyard grower allows the pests to get established, it could threaten the commercial cotton crop. Read on to learn more on why is it illegal to grow cotton in some states.
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Backyard Cotton Growing Is Illegal In Several States
Cotton is a cash crop in many states in the USA, and our economy is somewhat dependent on successful cotton growth.
That’s why it’s important to keep boll weevils (a devastating cotton pest) under tight control. For this reason, growing cotton just for fun in big cotton states is against the law.
What States Outlaw Recreational Cotton Growing?
Although the specific states outlawing amateur cotton growing change from time to time, the ones that remain pretty constant are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- New Mexico
Close collaboration between cotton producers has resulted in a sharp reduction in the threat posed by the boll weevil, and in the state of Alabama, hard work has resulted in the eradication of the pest according to the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation.
As a way of supporting boll weevil eradication, Congress put the Boll Weevil Eradication Equity Act in place.
This act states that cotton may not be grown for other than commercial purposes without a special waiver issued by the state’s plant board.
Commercial cotton (that grown only for sale) is grown in areas that are heavily monitored for boll weevil activity.
If cotton is grown outside of these areas, it poses a real risk of reintroducing these pests, even to areas where it has been declared eradicated.
Is There Any Way To Grow A Small Cotton Crop Legally?
Even a few plants grown for educational purposes could devastate local farmers and the state economy.
Civic groups, teachers and others considering this sort of activity must contact their State Plant Board to request a waiver and register their cotton seed so that their project can be monitored.
In all of the cotton producing states, cotton growers have millions of dollars invested in their cotton crops and in eradicating the boll weevil population.
For this reason, it is advised that cotton seed shouldn’t be distributed or sown in any non-monitored, non-commercial area.
Read also: How Much Water Does It Take To Grow Cotton?
How Can You Control Boll Weevils?
It’s easy for boll weevils to reinfest an area where they have been eradicated. They are invasive pests that eat cotton plants’ buds and blooms, as well as the actual cotton bolls.
These beetles travel from place to place by hitching a ride on farm equipment and even on vehicles that visit cotton fields. They can also be blown about by high winds, tornadoes and hurricanes.
Because they can turn up and start reproducing and damaging cotton crops at any minute, it’s important for commercial cotton growers to know how to identify them and what to do to begin eradicating them as quickly as possible.
Commercial growers should keep traps in place and monitor them aggressively so that active eradication steps can be started immediately if/when a boll weevil is caught.
Frequently Asked Questions
The reasons for restrictions on growing cotton vary. In some areas, environmental concerns and protection of ecosystems may prohibit growing cotton commercially. Likewise, drought conditions and general lack of water may lead to a prohibition on growing cotton. Fear of the spread of boll weevils may cause prohibitions on non-commercial cotton cultivation.
It takes a lot of water to grow cotton, and water is a finite resource. Using huge amounts of it to produce cotton can be injurious to native flora and fauna, not to mention people! In addition to using a lot of water, growing cotton also pollutes groundwater and streams because of chemical and pesticide runoff. Soil erosion is another negative environmental impact that is often associated with the commercial growth of cotton.
In the United States, cotton quality is established and graded by the USDA and prices are set accordingly.
Yes, regulations regarding cotton cultivation can vary between countries. Generally speaking, the rules and guidelines are based in economic and environmental concerns. For this reason, they will vary depending on factors such as water availability, presence of the boll weevil, economic needs of farmers, supply and demand and much more. It is very important that, no matter where in the world you are, if you want to plant cotton, you must get in touch with your local agricultural cooperative or authority and find out exactly which rules and regulations may apply to you.
In many areas, industrial hemp is an excellent cotton alternative. It takes a lot less land and a lot less water to grow hemp than cotton. There is also potentially a greater market for hemp because it can be purposed in all of the same ways as cotton and many more. Additionally, growing hemp can actually improve your soil. Sadly, many rules and regulations also apply to hemp production.