“Bt cotton saved the Arizona cotton industry,” Bruce says. “When we were treating for pink bollworm, we were creating more problems with other insects — often sterilizing fields and killing beneficial insects.”

Art Heiden was heavily involved in the whitefly crisis as the industry mustered forces to control the pest. He notes that the crisis introduced a new technology into Arizona agriculture — the cell phone.

“Most farmers did not have cell phones, but when the whitefly started creating chaos, everybody got one so they could call around to their neighbors to find out what was happening with the whiteflies. Growers were very frustrated with the whitefly, and they were calling everyone to see what people were using to try to control it.”

The hordes of insects not only caused yield loss, Bruce says, the honeydew they secreted created sticky cotton — which was all the more devastating because growers couldn’t sell their cotton. Textile mills refused to buy Arizona cotton, sticky or not.

The stickiness issue all but shut down advance contracting of Arizona cotton and placed a severe financial strain on growers, he says.

“We used to be able to forward contract, but when the whitefly came in, no one would buy Arizona cotton unless it was tested in the warehouse and certified free of stickiness.”

Heiden, Scott and many others even went to Asian mills to talk with buyers and explain to them that not all Arizona cotton was sticky and to outline what growers were doing to control whiteflies.

Bob Norris, retired Calcot president, recalls the effort to remove the stigma from Arizona cotton.

“They were successful, but it took a lot of time and work by Bruce, Bill Scott, Ron Rayner and others. The whitefly and sticky cotton just about decimated the Arizona cotton industry. If the leaders of the industry hadn’t put together a program to control it and then communicate with the textile mills, I am not sure cotton would have survived. It took a lot of time, but the stigma went away.”

Pink bollworm — the world’s most destructive cotton pest — started damaging Arizona cotton in the late 1960s. Today, however, it is on the verge of eradication in Arizona.

This remarkable accomplishment is due to a combination of 100 percent Bt cotton, sterile PBW moth drops, and the use of PBW pheromones. One more year of a mandated PBW eradication effort in cotton areas along the Colorado River should put PBW on the extinction list.

“Growers in West Texas and New Mexico have been successful with the eradication of the pink bollworm,” says Bruce