The focal point of this research is at the USDA Cotton Field Station at Shafter, Calif., and it is on the federal budget chopping block.

“We are doing everything we can to keep Shafter open,” said Williams. “The Shafter station is vital to addressing this problem because the disease is there where researchers can do plant genetic and field work in helping us find solutions.

“Moving the Fusarium Race 4 research to another USDA-ARS lab makes no sense for the California cotton industry,” Williams said. It will take considerable political clout coming from across the Cotton Belt to keep Shafter open, but the industry is pulling out all the stops. The National Cotton Council was at the initial Race 4 workshop meeting earlier this summer to initiate the war against the disease.

“We have distributed information about Race 4 to cotton growers who visit California as part of the Producer Information (PIE) tour each summer to make sure others understand how important the work is that we have going on at Shafter,” Williams added.

Michael admits he did not expect Race 4 to reach the northern area of the San Joaquin Valley where there is limited Pima acreage. However, it has. It is on his farm and in areas around Firebaugh and Dos Palos.

“If you plant a very susceptible variety, the disease will exploit that and spread,” Michel said. “We cannot understate the severity of this problem.”

Michael said Race 4 limits a grower’s rotational choices. Watte, according to Michael, has already red-lined some of his Acala fields for cotton because Race 4 is so prevalent in them.

On his family farm, Bowles Farming, Michael has tested soils for Race 4 and found it. It can only be positively identified through laboratory analysis. He has rogued plants from small, infested areas. “We have irrigated, fumigated and tarped those areas for solarization to try to stop it. We also are looking at using machines that inject steam into the soil to kill the fungi.

“It is a scary situation,” he said.