As Texas continues to make headway in eliminating the boll weevil from its cotton fields, it’s crucial that areas not be re-infested due to contaminated harvesting equipment moving into zones that have been suppressed or functionally eradicated.

Because of the success of the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication program, all cotton-growing areas in the state are under some form of eradication. Functionally eradicated areas are Rolling Plains Central and Southern Rolling Plains. The suppressed zones are Panhandle, Northwest Plains, Northern High Plains, Northern Rolling Plains, Southern High Plains/Caprock, Western High Plains, Permian Basin and El Paso/Trans Pecos.

“Contaminated or dirty equipment is a large source of artificially re-infesting an area. If not properly cleaned, cotton harvesting equipment can contain cotton bolls and other plant material that can harbor weevils, thereby putting a suppressed or functionally eradicated zone at risk,” says Allen Spelce, a Texas Department of Agriculture spokesman.

Anyone moving or transporting cotton equipment or vehicles into or through a suppressed or functionally eradicated zone must clean their equipment either by high-pressure air, high-pressure water, fumigation or removing lint and plant material by hand.

TDA inspectors across the state are on the lookout for dirty cotton equipment. They are conducting road station inspections, and any dirty equipment will be turned back and must be cleaned outside of the protected zone.

“The road stations are not only a deterrent for noncompliance, but have been successful in past years of catching some equipment that was not properly cleaned,” Spelce says.

He adds that if equipment is found to have violated the quarantine — dirty equipment traveling into a functionally eradicated area from a quarantined area — an investigation will be initiated and the equipment owner will be subject to a penalty up to $5,000 per violation.

To prevent problems, cotton harvesters can contact a TDA regional office and schedule an equipment inspection. A TDA inspector will check the equipment or vehicle and, if clean, issue a phytosanitary certificate declaring “boll weevil-free status.”

“If cotton equipment is being transported within the state, there is no cost for an inspection. For equipment being transported to a destination outside the state, a $30 inspection fee will be charged,” Spelce says. “Inspectors will conduct an inspection as soon as their schedule allows, but generally within two to three days of the request.”