Boll weevil numbers dropping in Texas

Last year was a good one for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation.

“Overall, it was one of the best,” said Lindy Patton, Executive Director.

Patton presented a program update to members of the Texas Cotton Producers Association recently during the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting in Austin.

“We have 16 active zones;, all of the cotton growing areas in the state are involved in eradication programs,” Patton said. “And we’re managing four New Mexico zones.”

The Foundation managed about 7 million acres of cotton last year. “That’s land acres; sometimes cotton acres are reported based on row acres,” Patton said.

He said the program has been successful in reducing weevil numbers across all zones and will cut back on offices and employees this year. “We recently closed five offices and will have around 400 fewer employees this season.

“If 2007 is anything like 2006 we’ll see the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and basically all of West Texas and New Mexico cleaned up.”

The foundation treated only 262,000 acres in those zones last year and caught only 4,523 weevils. That’s only 0.0006 weevils per trap inspection, a 97.5 percent reduction from the 2005 crop year. Challenges remain in other parts of the state, especially in East and South Texas, with 1.3 million acres. Throughout the season the foundation trapped 4.5 million weevils, averaging 0.76 per trap inspection, still an 87 percent reduction from 2005. “We averaged a little under 5 treatments on the cotton planted throughout this area.”

Patton said three of the 16 zones found no weevils in 2006 and 7 zones reported more than a 99.9 percent reduction in weevils since programs were initiated in those areas. Four other zones had reductions above 99 percent. Only two zones failed to reduce numbers by at least 99 percent and those were the two most recently activated zones, the Northern Blacklands and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Northern Blacklands reported a 96 percent reduction and the Lower Rio Grande Valley cut numbers by 81 percent.

Patton said the Foundation did not treat weevils in the Valley in May to allow beneficials to build up and help control other pests.

“Progress in reducing weevil numbers statewide will allow us to reduce the number of traps needing to be deployed. We should have somewhere around 400,000 traps, compared to the 600,000 inspected weekly in 2006.”

He said six zones have paid off their debts with another likely to pay off this year and two more within two years.

Challenges in 2006 included Upper Coastal Bend growers struggling to get stalks out of the field following harvest. “It was too wet to get in the fields,” Patton said.

He said the Foundation also made significant progress toward eradicating the Pink Bollworm in the El Paso Trans Pecos zone. “We’ve recorded a 99 percent reduction since the program started,” he said. Part of the effort includes releasing sterile moths.

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