The recent cold weather could yield the best chance in a decade to eradicate the boll weevil in South Texas according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“It’s really the best opportunity to bring about the death knell for the weevil,” said Dr. Noel Troxclair, AgriLife Extension entomologist. “That’s the way I envision it.”
The region was making strides in eradicating the boll weevil until some major setbacks a few years ago, said Troxclair, who is based at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde.
In 2007, for example, a protracted rainy period meant entomology scouts couldn’t check traps, delaying aerial applications. The rain also washed off insecticides when they were applied.
This year, the area had wet weather leading up to the freeze. Uvalde and surrounding counties had highs of about 16 degrees and lows of about 10 degrees. In some areas, the low reached about zero degrees.
“Because it was kind of damp before the freeze, it should have an adverse effect on the boll weevil – a direct effect,” Troxclair said.
In addition to directly affecting boll weevil, the winter freeze will also effect over-wintering and food sources for the weevil, he said. A wet fall resulted in a lot of cotton seed in the soil that germinated, but were killed by the freeze. There were a lot mature volunteer plants that were a year old, and the freeze killed them too.
Troxclair said the effect the freeze had on the weevil won’t be known for certain until the growing season and the results from traps are collected.
“And I don’t mean we’ll eradicate it this year,” Troxclair said. “But we could get it to the point that they won’t recover.”
The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:
CENTRAL: Temperatures became more moderate after a week of extreme cold. Some oats were damaged from the freeze. The amount of damage depended upon the variety planted, the elevation of the field and other variables. The freeze also significantly set back other small grains, but growers expected the crops to recover as soil moisture levels were high. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock.
COASTAL BEND: Heavy rain saturated soils. Producers got some spring wheat planted before the rain came. Winter grasses were growing. In most areas, beef producers continued to feed livestock hay and protein supplements.
EAST: Colder-than-normal temperatures halted winter forage growth then caused decline. Pastures began to recover later in the reporting period with rain and warmer temperatures. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding. Some producers had to break through ice to allow livestock access to water. Feral hog activity increased, and deer/car accident reports increased as well.
FAR WEST: Milder temperatures came to the region. Though there was a light snowfall, conditions remained very dry. Pasture quality diminished. The cotton harvest ended with better yields than expected. Wheat and oats progressed at a steady rate and were expected to produce average yields.
NORTH: The cold weather put most farming activity on hold. Below-normal temperatures, cloudy days, and wet conditions slowed small grain growth. Many pastures were extremely soggy. Fields began to dry somewhat but were still too wet for land preparation for spring planting. Soil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus. Cattle producers were trying to rebound from below-average conditions by providing extra energy supplements and additional hay. Winter grazing on small grains and winter pastures was very short with the recent cold weather and rain. Hay supplies were becoming short and prices were rising. Water supply problems arose with the freezing of ponds and water tanks. The pecan and cotton harvests were complete. Much winter wheat was lost to armyworms, but what survived was in fair to good condition.
PANHANDLE: Soil moisture levels were short to very short throughout the region. Conditions allowed producers to increase irrigation on small grains and pre-watering corn ground in preparation for spring planting. The conditions of wheat declined daily. Rangeland was in poor condition and wheat fields were unable to support continued grazing. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock.
ROLLING PLAINS: Average conditions returned after nearly three weeks of below-normal temperatures and several days of blizzard-like conditions. Showers and milder weather helped wheat pastures and cool-season grasses in some areas. Area producers were hoping to make it through spring with existing hay supplies and wheat pastures. Cattle were generally in decent condition, and most producers believe they can survive another 60 days if there is not another extreme cold spell. Lack of moisture caused pastures and rangeland grass quality to decline. Most cotton has been harvested, though modules remained waiting to be hauled to the gins. Producers were shredding stalks, plowing, and prepping their land for winter wheat planting. Cattle on wheat looked good. Warmer weather is needed to boost small-grain forage production and improve grazing.
SOUTH: The entire region had adequate to surplus soil moisture. Temperatures were still cooler and damper than average throughout most of the region, which put a halt to most fieldwork. The northern parts of the region received from 1 inch to 5 inches of rain. Some low-lying areas had flooding. Wheat producers in the eastern part of the region were able to plant some spring wheat, but drizzling rain slowed them down. Rain late in the week provided much needed moisture for dryland wheat and oat producers. The rain also helped cabbage, carrot, onion and spinach producers save on irrigation costs. No damage to cabbage and spinach was reported after the extremely cold weather from two weeks ago, but an estimated 45 acres of tomatoes were lost in the southern part of the region. Forage quality and quantity declined, and livestock were in marginal condition. Many beef producers were supplying large amounts of supplemental feed to offset the stress caused by cold and wet weather. Hay supplies were minimal, and stock water tank levels were increasing but still low.
SOUTH PLAINS: Warmer weather came to the region. The short-term forecast was for warm, dry and breezy weather. Soil moisture was short to adequate. It was hoped the warmer weather will allow for field operations such as shredding of stalks and other land preparation. Winter wheat was in fair to good condition and continued to mature. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Rain was needed for cool-season grasses. Livestock were mostly in fair to good condition, and producers slowed supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: The ponds were full and topsoil moisture levels were high. Colder temperatures set back cool-season pastures. Producers were still trying to get fields prepared for the upcoming spring planting. Pasture conditions remained about the same. Beef producers were using large amounts of bagged feed and molasses lick tubs because hay was in short supply.
SOUTHWEST: Though temperatures dropped into the mid-teens, it appeared vegetable crops suffered only minor damage. Texas AgriLife experts theorized damage was probably limited because the cold weather did not last very long and the vegetables had been acclimatized by a previous cold spell. The cold temperatures and rain only temporarily interrupted the harvesting of spinach, cabbage, carrots and lettuce. Soil moisture levels were significantly higher compared to last year at this time, making early spring planting possible. Wheat, oats and vegetable crops made excellent progress. Forage availability improved.
WEST CENTRAL: A warming trend followed very cold temperatures early in the reporting period. Scattered showers came to many areas. The cotton harvest was completed in most areas with average yields reported. Other field activity was slowed by the wet, cold weather. Winter wheat growth was off to a slow start but was expected pick up with warmer temperatures. Producers were making fertilizer and weed control decisions. The extreme cold took its toll on livestock and pastures, which forced beef producers to increase supplemental feeding of livestock. Some producers culled herds to save on feed. Stock water tank levels continued to drop.