What is in this article?:
• The struggle against the boll weevil will continue until officials get a handle on boll weevils coming out of Mexico.
• A big problem for the Valley is that the cotton plant never dies, making stalk destruction efforts a vital part of the eradication program.
• Wind turbines make aerial application and eradication difficult in the Valley.
The Texas Boll Weevil Foundation website offers the following update for 2012.
Boll weevil eradication activities were carried out in all Texas and eastern New Mexico cotton fields, on a total of approximately 6.7 million certified land cotton acres. For the year, boll weevils were captured in only three of the 16 Texas eradication zones. Of the three remaining zones, boll weevil numbers were reduced substantially in the South Texas Winter-Garden (STWG) zone and the Southern Blacklands (SBL) zone. The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) zone captured approximately the same number of boll weevils in 2012 as were captured in 2011.
In the 5.89 million land acres that make up the 11 West Texas zones in 2012, no boll weevils were captured and no acres were treated. All 11 West Texas zones have been declared functionally eradicated.
The South and East Texas zones planted approximately 890,000 acres in 2012. All boll weevils captured in the state of Texas and all acres treated were within these zones in 2012. Through the first part of December 2012, 208,678 weevils were captured compared to 209,294 in 2011.
Only three of the five zones captured weevils in 2012. The Upper Coastal Bend zone and the Northern Blacklands zone did not capture a weevil in 2012. The number of acres treated in two of the South and East Texas zones decreased in 2012. The Southern Blacklands zone treated 60,752 acres in 2011 and treated 3,902 in 2012. The South Texas Winter Garden zone treated 42,651 acres in 2011 and treated 21,491 in 2012. The increase in treatments occurred entirely in the LRGV.
In the STWG zone, 34 weevils were captured in 2012 compared to 174 weevils captured in 2011, or an 80.4 percent reduction in boll weevil numbers. Most of the weevils captured in STWG were captured near the border with the LRGV zone. In the SBL, two weevils were captured in 2012 compared with 28 in 2011, or a 92.8 percent reduction in boll weevil numbers. The two weevils were captured in separate months with the last capture occurring in July. The Foundation failed to find any fields with reproduction in the SBL during the 2012 season.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas decreased acreage 27 percent in 2012. Boll weevil numbers remained relatively the same with 208,642 weevils in 2012 to 209,092 in 2011. Acreage treated for boll weevils also increased from 780,027 acres in 2011 to 899,870 in 2012.
The LRGV zone continues to experience challenges in the program. Some of the high weevil count fields are located in drug trafficking areas and there are safety issues associated with trap inspection and treatment. Most weevil captures are occurring in the border area along the Rio Grande River. Northern Mexico did not plant cotton in 2009 and the LRGV experienced greatly reduced numbers at that time. Since then weevil numbers have failed to decrease substantially. The National Cotton Council has initiated an International Technical Advisory Committee to improve communication and enhance program progress on both sides of the border.
Those and other efforts must continue, Smith said, to make certain the boll weevil is bottled up in the Valley for now and, as expeditiously as possible, eradicated from every cotton field in the country.
The history of the boll weevil’s migration from Mexico into South Texas and then across the entire Cotton Belt before modern transportation made movement significantly easier and much more frequent should serve as a cautionary tale to producers.
The boll weevil is resilient; farmers and eradication personnel must be even more tough-skinned and committed to removing the pest for good.