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Louisiana boll weevil eradication progresses

Report on Louisiana's boll weevil eradication effort. True eradication close, maintenance phase will follow.

Those checking the fine print in late-March Louisiana newspapers may have run across a legal notice regarding boll weevil eradication. It turns out, this is nothing new.

“We’ve been posting (legal notices like) this every year since the program started,” says Marc Bordelon, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), Boll Weevil Eradication Program. “By law, by statute, we’re required to send out that notice informing commercial cotton producers in the state are required to participate in the program, including cost-sharing, reporting cotton acreage, payment of assessments and the destruction of cotton plants by Dec. 31 each year.”

In addition, “the notice states that part of the statute is the planting of non-commercial cotton is prohibited in Louisiana unless a written waiver is obtained from the (LDAF). That usually involves ornamental cotton. There are some people towards south Louisiana that plant cotton for a festival. They like to plant brown-lint and green-lint cotton.”

A waiver is required “so we know the location of all cotton plants in the state. As long as we know where it’s at, we’ll give them a waiver. But we’ll go out and locate exactly where those cotton plants are and we put a (boll weevil) trap out and monitor it throughout the year just to make sure there are no boll weevils in the area.”

Where does the eradication effort stand in Louisiana?

“It’s been going extremely well. In 2009, we caught a total of 306 boll weevils. In 2010, we caught only one weevil – and that was in the week of May 17.”

When will you say boll weevils have been eradicated?

“We’d like to go an entire year without catching a boll weevil before making that claim. Some people call where we’re at ‘functional eradication.’ I think we’re a bit beyond that – somewhere between ‘functional’ and (truly) eradicated.”

Once you make that declaration, how will your maintenance program work?

“We’ll continue to monitor all the cotton in Louisiana. You have to continue that just in case a piece of harvesting equipment, or some other sort, has some weevils hitching a ride.

“Texas is the last state that’s really very active with weevils – primarily in the south, close to Mexico. Our trap densities may scale down, but we’ll always have to monitor.”

Plans for 2011?

“Our plan is in place.

“In the northeast part of the state, our trap density will be one trap per 20 acres of cotton. We’ll have at least two traps on a field, though, no matter what size. So, we have a two trap minimum per field.

“In the Red River eradication zone – the area that follows the Red River Valley – the trap density will be one trap per 40 acres.”

I understand Louisiana is expected to increase cotton acres this year. Does that mean expanding your staff?

“We should be able to handle (new acres) with the current staff. We are expecting an increase in cotton acreage – but I don’t think it will be substantial because the grain markets are up, as well. Last fall, the price of grain started rising before cotton did. Contracts will keep some acreage in grain that probably would have gone to cotton otherwise.

“In 2010, we had 255,000 acres of cotton. I’m hoping we’ll have 300,000 acres, or better, this year.”

Anything else?

“I have a deep appreciation for cotton growers’ help and compliance with the program. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without that help.”

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