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Lonely boll weevils make happy farmers

According to Jim Brumley, director of the Southeast Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, the organization that oversees eradication efforts in a number of states, the Southeast cotton-growing region “had an exceptionally good year in 2003.”

Brumley said one boll weevil, a female, was caught in the entire seven-state Southeast region, where over 3 million acres of cotton are grown. The escapee was found in Alabama on the western edge of the Southeast eradication zone.

Meanwhile, no weevils have been caught since 1996 in California and Arizona, which began eradication efforts in 1991. Trapping efforts in Kansas, the newest cotton-growing region, have not picked up any weevils either.

The Post Eradication Committee voted to develop a plan by Jan. 1, 2005 that would protect the cotton industry’s significant investment in boll weevil eradication, according to Craig Shook, Texas cotton producer and member of the PEC and BWAC. “Those rules need to be strong and flexible.”

In the long run, there is some concern that young growers may forget the havoc the weevil caused since it migrated from Mexico in the late 1800s. “We are going to get further and further away from the generations of farmers that remember what the battle is all about,” Shook said.

State boll weevil organizations must remain strong in the post eradication era, noted Shook, and avoid the temptation to let the federal government be the sole entity for implementing quarantines to combat re-infestations. While the government would fund the quarantine if it intervened, their approach would be to quarantine large areas, even whole states.

The committee also recommended that “oversight groups should set minimal standards in the realm of communication, especially with post-eradication referendums. We need to make sure we get the information the growers need,” Shook said.

Here’s more on how eradication is proceeding by state:

  • WestTennessee. Most weevils caught in west Tennessee have been in a buffer zone along the eastern side of the Mississippi River, from Memphis north. Region I has a 93 percent reduction in weevil trapping since 1998. Region II has a 93 percent reduction since 2000. Region III has reduced weevil populations by 80 percent since 2000, and the average number of eradication sprays from 6.4 to 0.68.
  • Mississippi. Region 1-A growers requested a third referendum to extend the BWEP into the maintenance phase. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, meanwhile, announced a quarantine would be implemented should the area not have an active eradication program by January.

    Growers in Region 1-A came close to passing the referendum in August with 65.95 percent of the vote, but 66.6 percent is required for approval. Growers in Region 1-B passed the August referendum with an approval rating of 68 percent.

    Weevils trapped dropped 92 percent from last year in Region 1-B, while 88 percent of Region 1-A fields found zero weevils in traps in 2003.

    Region 2 of Mississippi enjoyed an 89 percent reduction in weevils trapped from last year, while Region 3 had a 76 percent reduction. Only four weevils were caught in Region 4, with three of those coming from one trap in the western boundary of the area.

  • Missouri. The Bootheel is in its second year of full-season trapping in five cotton growing counties and has achieved a significant reduction in weevils caught, according to trapping data.
  • Arkansas. One weevil was caught in 2003 in the Southeast Zone. There are still elevated populations in the Central Zone. The four-county Northeast Ridge Zone is still seeing a lot of movement of weevils and the situation gets much worse moving east toward the Mississippi River. Improvement is expected in 2004. Meanwhile, the Northeast Delta Zone had a tremendous reduction in numbers, but weevils are still plentiful.
  • Louisiana. The Red River Zone has seen a 99.9 percent reduction in weevil trapping since the inception of the program while the Northeast Zone has done well despite dealing with three hurricanes.
  • Oklahoma. The four zones of Oklahoma had the same news to share - zero weevils and a 99.9 percent reduction since the inception of the program.
  • Texas. The state has over 5 million acres of cotton and the longest road to success. Some regions in Texas trapped 100,000 to 2 million weevils in 2003, while others were down to less than 10 per region.

    A big trouble spot is the St. Lawrence Zone, which is not under active eradication. Migrating weevils from there continue to re-infest the Southern Rolling Plains and the Texas High Plains, among others.

  • New Mexico. The South Central New Mexico recorded no weevils trapped in 2003.

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