MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Cotton is Alabama’s largest row crop, and farmers are looking to plant 510,000 acres this year. But they could have a battle on their hands this season. They face threats from a new virus that targets the crop.
It’s called cotton leaf roll dwarf virus, a new strain of the disease known as cotton blue disease, or CBD.
Cotton leaf roll dwarf virus is transmitted by aphids and diminishes blooms and bolls in the upper canopy of the plant. That results in lower yields, mainly in late-planted cotton, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
According to ALFA, the new strain wasn’t discovered in Alabama until 2017 but was first observed as far back as 2006 in Brazilian fields that were CBD-resistant. It has since been confirmed in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.
In 2018, the virus caused a reduction in cotton yields by nearly 50,000 bales. One bale weighs around 480 pounds, so you’re looking at a loss of approximately 24 million pounds of cotton.
Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady says farmers should look for early symptoms of the disease on their crops such as red leaf veins and cupped leaves.
Other symptoms like decreased boll size and sterility are most prominent in cotton planted in June.
Hornady said the best defense against the virus is new, resistant cotton cultivars. However, that will likely take years to develop.