What is in this article?:
- The historic drought that prevented much of last year’s planted acreage from producing any cotton meant the pests had little to sustain themselves in areas where weevil populations still exist.
- Texas has a lot fewer boll weevils now than when at this time last year.
- Rio Grande Valley remains trouble spot.
Program changes for NBL
The zero-catch total for the Northern Blacklands will result in changes in program activity, Smith says. “We’re going to stay out of your way more this year,” he says. “We will set traps every half-mile and will check traps every other week instead of every week.”
He says success in both of the Blacklands zones and the South Texas Winter Garden zone may allow those areas to be removed from strict quarantine status and into suppression. “That will make moving equipment easier,” he says.
He says numbers in the Blackland zones illustrates how effective the program has been over the past few years. In 2009, the program trapped more than 30,000 weevils. That number was down to 28 last year. In 2009, weevils per trap averaged 14.8. Now, the average is .00026 weevils per trap.
One factor in reducing numbers so quickly in the Southern Blacklands has been reducing weevil populations in alternate crops, such as corn. Smith says in 2009 traps indicated more than 27,000 weevils caught in alternate crops. That number was zero last year, after the program started trapping in those alternate crops.
He says treatment last year in the Southern Blacklands “was pretty aggressive for 28 weevils caught.” No treatments were necessary in the Northern Blacklands.
The South Texas Winter Garden zone also has come a long way, Smith says. In 2010, trap catches in the zone were as high as 2,790. By 2011 the “numbers were greatly reduced.”
He says several new growers have begun planting cotton in the South Texas Winter Garden zone and that poses some program challenges. “Some new cotton farmers are not familiar with the Boll Weevil Eradication Program,” he says. “We need to find all the cotton fields in an area. Missing one field that has a weevil population can set back the program. We want growers who are planting for the first time to get in touch with someone so we know where the fields are.”
He says concerns as cotton producers prepare for 2012 include continuation of La Nina. “It’s still dry in West Texas,” he says. In fact, a drought monitor map he displayed showed that statewide conditions as of Jan. 1, 2012, were significantly worse than the same time last year.
He says farmers should be alert that alternate crops can harbor weevils. “Also, watch for volunteer cotton in turnrows and other areas. Volunteer cotton may re-introduce weevils to an area. We don’t want to get an area eradicated and then bring in more weevils.”