February 3, 2006
Prediction: A boll weevil
By Lana Robinson
Administrators of the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc. are excited over the prospects of total eradication of the boll weevil in the Lone Star State before the end of the decade.
Speaking at the Blackland Income Growth (B.I.G.) Conference in Waco, Jan. 17, Charles Allen, an entomologist and the Foundation's program director, said inclusion of the voter-approved Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Northern Blacklands zones in 2005 will help achieve the final push toward a weevil-free state. And with these last two zones added, all the cotton acreage in the U.S. is now in the programwith over 80 percent having completed eradication and the remaining 20 percent nearing eradication, he noted.
"I believe we are going to wrap this up in a very short amount of time now," said Allen, "but it's never fast enough for me."
Allen's comments came on the heels of a similar prediction by Osama A. El-Lissy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) invasive species and pest management division, during the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio earlier last month. El-Lissy said he expects complete eradication of the cotton pest from the U.S. by 2009.
Officials are so confident of the progress made in the program that the "future expansion" phase of the three-pronged effort, which also includes "completed" and "active" categories, has been eliminated, making room for "post expansion" strategies.
In his update to cotton producers attending the B.I.G. Conference, Allen emphasized the partnership aspects of the program, praising producers for their role.
"The key component is communication," he said, "and you've done a good job."
The program overseen by the Texas Boll Weevil Foundation, Inc., which employs 1,800, is active in 16 Texas and four New Mexico zones, encompassing 6,773,675 cotton acres. Allen reported the numbers of boll weevils captured in specific Texas zones, and the total traps inspected in those zones, as follows for 2005: 1) Southern Rolling Plains, 313,578 traps inspected and 2,306 weevils; 2) St. Lawrence, 475,486 traps inspected and 124,328 weevils; 3) South Texas/Wintergarden, 2,170,105 traps inspected and 456,600 weevils; 4) Rolling Plains Central, 1,209,359 traps inspected and 3,777 weevils; 5) Southern High Plains, 1,283,040 traps inspected and 369 weevils; 6) Northern Hill Plains, 608,240 traps inspected and 17 weevils; 7) Western High Plains, 884,770 traps inspected and 356 weevils; 8) Permian Basin, 1,632,566 traps inspected and 28,578 weevils; 9) Northern Rolling Plains, 593,258 traps inspected and 153 weevils; 10) Northwest Plains, 319,943 traps inspected and 1 weevil; 11) Southern Black Land, 915,404 traps inspected and 172,469 weevils; 12) El Paso Trans-Pecos,108,161 traps inspected and 31 weevils; 13) Northern Black Lands, 30,192 traps inspected and 346,439 weevils; 14) Upper Coastal Bend, 1,431,688 traps inspected and 414,609 weevils; 15) No Zone; 16) Panhandle, 77,775 traps inspected and 0 weevils; and 17) Lower Rio Grande Valley, 126,265 traps inspected and 2,035,202 weevils.
"There were no weevils caught in New Mexico in 2004, but one in 2005," Allen added.
Allen said all the weevils caught in the Northern High Plains were southwest of Floydada.
"The 2,035,202 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a lot of weevils. We averaged 88 weevils per trap there in September," he pointed out. "Having the two new zones skewed the numbers. Otherwise, we had a 71 percent reduction in weevils statewide. Also, a lot of the numbers are from weevils migrating. In the Southern Blacklands, we still saw some late-season weevils. Those were mostly in the Marlin District, with migration from the Northern Blacklands. Actually, there has been a 98.6 reduction there since 2001."
Allen said 5 to 10 percent of the acres were treated in late October and early November.
"The dry weather didn't help farmers, but it helped us in this zone," he observed. "We spent almost $100,000 a week for eight weeks. That's $11 to $14 per acre, or 84 percent of the assessment, so there is some serious money being spent. That's why it's important to do a good job of getting those crops down after harvest," he said.
Traps remain the primary detection tool in the Texas program. Chemical control is achieved primarily through use of Malathion ULV with ongoing monitoring for resistance. Allen reiterated that stalk destruction is crucial to rid fields of post-harvest habitat.
"What's gratifying to me is the record cotton yield for lint was set in 194614 million pounds, and that was on twice the acreage we have now. The record was not broken until 2004. It was broken again in 2005. I don't think it was a coincidence. I think there's a connection between the increased yields and the program," said Allen. "When you have a good cotton year, you have a good boll weevil year. Weevils take the top out of the crop, and at one time, destroyed good percentages of the late yield of producing cotton. Today, we have better varieties and Bt cotton, but the weevils are not there to take the guts out of the late season yield."
Allen said he also feels good about the producers' attitudes toward the eradication program, which is so necessary to its success.
"Not only did we have elections that established the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Northern Blackland zones, we had four retention elections in 2005 that passed at about 80 percent. When they see progress, they are satisfied. Even though it's a pain, the program makes them money," Allen said, noting that declining weevil numbers also reduce program costs.
To date, the boll weevil has been eradicated from nearly 12.9 million acres of cotton in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. The program is now concentrating on the remaining 3.5 million acres of cotton in the latter states, including Texas. The focus on weevil-free areas is maintenance, with continued monitoring.
Mexico is also making progress and has eradicated the boll weevil from some regions and is working to prevent reinfestation.
"Mexico has boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs in place," Allen added.