So does the climate. “A big problem for the Valley is that the cotton plant never dies, making stalk destruction efforts a vital part of the eradication program.” Growers have a Sept. 1 plow-up date. “But it’s often difficult to get it out on time,” Smith said. Further complicating the effort is volunteer cotton emerging in other crops — grain, sugarcane, even in residential areas and roadsides. Those plants must be destroyed in a timely manner to prevent boll weevil survival and reproduction.

Some producers have had to spray for boll weevils in sugarcane fields where volunteer cotton is established. “Cotton can survive in sugarcane for a long time,” Smith said. “We also have to trap other crops planted in fields where cotton had been planted before.”

Farmers face fines — $5 per acre per week up to $7 per acre per week, for commercial cotton fields — for failure to destroy stalks. The fine is $5 per acre per week for non-commercial fields.

Smith said boll weevil numbers had been declining in the Valley since eradication began. “But numbers were a little higher last year.”

Quarantines

Cotton farmers also must respect quarantine regulations. The Foundation website offers the following:

Cotton harvesting equipment and other equipment associated with the production and transport of cotton, as well as gin equipment, may be moved to or through a restricted area provided the equipment is free of hostable material, seed cotton and boll weevils in any stage of development by one the following methods:

a. removal by hand;

b. high-pressure air cleaning;

c. high pressure washing; or

d. fumigation of regulated articles as prescribed by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

“A piece of equipment that moves from the LRGV to the Blacklands or from there to West Texas must be cleaned,” Smith said. Farmers or operators may clean equipment themselves or have the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation clean it.

“We were inspecting equipment as late as January this year.”

Progress across the rest of the state has been good. The Northern Blacklands (NBL) zone trapped no weevils in 2011 or 2012. “And we don’t expect to see any this year, either,” Smith said. The Southern Blackland (SBL) zone caught two weevils in 2012, probably hitchhikers. “Again that’s why we need to keep trapping.”

The SBL represents a lot of territory. “Acreage varies from a high of about 167,000 to 122,000 last year. We expect acreage to be down even more in 2013.”

Smith also expects as much as a 30 percent acreage reduction in the NBL in 2013.

NBL weevil numbers have dropped from 346,439 in 2005 to zero for the last two years. “We’ve also reduced employee numbers from 40 to less than 10,” Smith said. “We have begun saving growers money, and we are working ourselves out of a job.”

The Upper Coastal Bend (UCB) zone has reduced weevil number significantly with none caught last year.

The South Texas-Winter Garden zone trapped 34 weevils in 2012. “We think those came up from the Valley. Most catches were single weevils. Overall, numbers in this zone are down dramatically.”