"While it's always important to have access to all sides of a cotton field, it's absolutely crucial in the final stages of eradication," said Charles Allen, program director for the foundation, which is based in Abilene.
Allen said the foundation's Technical Advisory Committee, a group of experts who advise the foundation on various aspects of eradication, has stated several times that eradication is impossible without full access to cotton fields.
Pheromone traps set around the fields provide foundation employees with information about weevil activity, which is used to make decisions on when to treat the fields, Allen said.
If traps cannot be placed around all sides of the fields, then weevil activity can go undetected, especially in the later stages of eradication when weevil numbers are low, he said. This can lead to a rebound in weevil populations, which causes increased number of treatments, extends the length of time necessary to complete eradication and incurs needless extra expense for the growers.
To prevent these infestation, the foundation has developed means for handling fields that have not been trapped on all sides, but these procedures also add unnecessary expense to the program, Allen said.
Also, mist blowers cannot be used to treat the edges of fields if vehicular access is not available, he said. This compounds the difficulty of controlling infestations.
In addition, providing full access for foundation vehicles results in a more efficient and safer program, he said. Traps can be checked more quickly from the vehicle than if an employee has to walk down a side that doesn't have access. The more quickly traps can be checked, the fewer employees are required to accomplish the task.
Allen noted that the most common injury suffered by foundation employees result from slips and falls, often to trappers who have to check traps on foot because access has not been provided. Injuries result in lost time and greater insurance premiums, more unnecessary expense for growers, he said.
"Farmers are helping themselves as much as the foundation by providing access," Allen said. "If they want to get the job done for the least amount of cost, then they'll give us access."