The zone's growers recently voted to continue the boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication efforts they started in 1999. The measure passed overwhelmingly, with about 89 percent of the voters favoring the program

"Growers out here know how much less they're spending and how much more cotton they're producing," Larry Turnbough, the zone's representative to the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation board of directors.

"We're a large geographic area with a small number of growers," Turnbough said. "But I think this vote also shows the growers know they are an equal part of the state's overall eradication program, that they're an important part of accomplishing the goal."

Turnbough expressed his appreciation for the state and federal funding the zone has received and for the foundation's responsiveness to the area's needs.

"The foundation has always tried to respond to the specific issues each zone has. The growers here have seen that the foundation listens to our concerns and makes the needed adjustments," he said. "That's another thing the vote shows, that they are comfortable that the foundation works with them."

The zone has been more concerned with the damage caused by pink bollworm than with boll weevil, Turnbough said, but the timing was just right for dealing with a rising boll weevil population when the program began.

The zone is unique among the state's eradication zones because it conducts a program to eliminate the pink bollworm, a caterpillar that inflicts significant damage to the area's crops. The foundation encourages growers to plant Bt cotton, which is resistant to the pest, and uses mating-disruption pheromones to control the pest in conventional cotton.

"Once again, cotton growers have seen that the eradication program works and have affirmed that through a large, positive vote," said Lindy Patton, executive director for the foundation. "All the votes we've had until now have passed by large margins, with more than 80 percent in favor each time."

Boll weevil eradication zones become active only when a two-thirds majority of a zone's cotton growers approve referendum establishing the zone and approving its assessment to pay for the program.

Cotton producers in each of the state's 12 active boll weevil eradication zones must vote every four years after their initial approval on whether to continue their eradication efforts. Five other zones, the Southern Rolling Plains, Rolling Plains Central, South Texas/Winter Garden, Northwest Plains and Western High Plains, have held retention elections to date.

The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation is a nonprofit, grower-initiated and funded organization dedicated to eliminating the cotton boll weevil from the state in the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner possible.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com