Boll weevil eradication in Texas experienced another strong year. The program expanded to include a new area, the Upper Coastal Bend. Every expansion brings the goal of statewide eradication closer and protects the investments made by growers in surrounding areas.

All the zones that have not been declared eradicated saw decreases in their weevil populations.

Along the way, Texas Bollweevil Eradication Foundation officials say, challenges presented themselves, but each challenge became an avenue for examining and strengthening our procedures and a reminder of the need for constant vigilance until the job has been completed.

“The cooperation of everyone involved in the state's cotton production is key to the success of the program, and the challenges have also served to help us find ways to strengthen that cooperation,” TBWEF noted in a year-end release

Overall progress: A new zone entered eradication in 2002. The Upper Coastal Bend began with a diapause program. Data collected this year will be used as a baseline to compare previous years with. This year's data shows the zone has a significant weevil infestation.

The Southern Blacklands entered its second year of eradication. So far the zone has seen a 90 percent reduction in the average weekly trap count of weevils compared with 2001. For the first time growers in the area report they've had little or no damage this year.

Northern High Plains and Southern High Plains are also in their second year of eradication and the zones have seen reductions of 99 percent, which puts them at least a year ahead of schedule. The success of the surrounding zones and a strong diapause year made the outstanding gains possible.

Five zones began operations in 1999: Western High Plains, Northwest Plains, El Paso/Trans Pecos, Permian Basin and Northern Rolling Plains.

EPTP has seen a 99.8 percent reduction in its average weekly trap catches compared with the first year of the program. It's average falls well beneath the level required for functional eradication. EPTP is also in a pink bollworm suppression program and has seen its trapping numbers drop by almost 90 percent.

The other four zones have seen decreases of at least 99.8 percent since beginning eradication.

The South Texas/Winter Garden zone continues to see a decline in its numbers despite the vagaries of the weather and the threat of reinfestation from surrounding areas. The zone's trapping numbers are down almost 99 percent since the beginning of the program. The additions of the Southern Blacklands and Upper Coastal Bend zones will “help tremendously” with reinfestation issues, foundation officials say.

Eradicated zones: The Rolling Plains Central zone was declared functionally eradicated in February 2002, the second zone in the state to achieve eradication.

The Southern Rolling Plains had not seen a weevil catch in its first two years of being eradicated, but in the early fall, a weevil was caught in the zone, probably brought into the zone on contaminated harvesting equipment.

It appears that reproduction occurred, as three weeks later four weevils were captured in the same field, and three weeks later, two more weevils were captured.

The field and the fields surrounding it were treated to contain the reinfestation.

Even with the weevil catches, only about 0.8 percent of the acres in the zone have been treated.

Producers, the foundation and the Texas Department of Agriculture have met to discuss ways to increase reporting of possible quarantine violations and strengthen enforcement of the rules.

The Rolling Plains Central experienced some migration from outside the zone. Nearby areas not in eradication or in early stages of eradication can be a source of reinfestation.

The news release says the reinfestation was greater than that experienced in SRP and foundation personnel responded as in SRP — increasing the trapping rate and treating fields to contain the reinfestation.

“In both zones we continue to rely upon the growers, in cooperation with our personnel to be watchful for anything that may threaten the investment they have made in eradication,” officals not.

“All of us need to keep an eye on equipment passing into or through the zones that may harbor hitchhikers and for the cotton that may appear in fields planted to other crops that may provide feeding and breeding grounds for weevils.”

Reporting these conditions to the foundation or to TDA will aid in preventing reinfestations.

Coming up: Five zones will vote on continuing eradication — Western High Plains in December, Northwest Plains in February, El Paso/Trans Pecos in March, and Permian Basin and Northern Rolling Plains in April.

At this time, it is uncertain how many zones will qualify to be declared functionally eradicated, but TBEF expects all to qualify for a declaration as suppressed.

The declarations invoke quarantine protections for the zones that regulate the flow of cotton products and equipment into or through the zones.

Cotton producers in the Northern Blacklands are putting together plans for an eradication program. Weevil pressure was very heavy in many parts of the area in the 2002 growing season.

“We anticipate next year will see continued growth in the program, perhaps even the beginning of the end of the boll weevil's presence in Texas cotton.”