Anyone looking for a silver lining in that dark cloud that covered 2011Southwest cotton production might focus on the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication efforts. 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.
“We have a lot fewer boll weevils now than when we started last year,” says Larry Smith, program director, Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation (TBWEF). “It was very dry in 2011,” Smith said during the cotton session of the 50thannual Blackland Income Growth Conference (B.I.G.) held recently in Waco.
Smith says Texas, particularly South Texas, is the weevil’s last bastion in the decades-long battle to eliminate the pest as an economic threat to U.S. cotton production. Virtually all of the Cotton Belt, except for zones in Central and South Texas, are considered eradicated.
“As a whole, Texas looks very good,” Smith says. “But the Rio Grande Valley still has a lot of weevils.”
Last year began as a huge challenge for TBWEF with nearly 8 million acres planted. Much of that acreage never emerged, however, as drought conditions prevented germination. The Texas program includes 16 eradication zones plus four more the program monitors in New Mexico. “We’re actually monitoring more acreage in new Mexico than just those four zones,” Smith says.
He says two eradication zones in the Texas Blacklands—the Northern Blacklands and the Southern Blacklands zones—have made tremendous progress toward eliminating boll weevils. The program recorded no weevils trapped in the Northern zone this year. And only 28 weevils were caught in the Southern zone.
Weevil numbers in the Rio Grande Valley increased last year from 163,000 in 2010 to more than 209,000 in 2011. “But we trapped a lot more acres last year,” Smith says. Actual weevil numbers per trap declined in 2011. He says some fields in the Valley had weevil populations exceeding 5,000. Other fields had none.