Boll weevils in Texas have nowhere left to hide. Cotton farmers and landowners in the Northern Blacklands Zone put the final piece of the eradication puzzle in place with an affirmative vote in a January referendum.

Texas Department of Agriculture officials in Austin tallied ballots January 28 that show 370 growers or landowners in the zone approved the referendum with only 69 voting no. TDA officials report 438 valid ballots postmarked by the cutoff date, January 21. TDA mailed out 855 ballots. The zone stretches from the Northeast corner of the state into Central Texas.

Steve Beakley, a grower from Ellis County, was elected to represent the Northern Blacklands Zone on the Texas Boll Weevil Eradiation Foundation, Inc., board of directors. Voters also determined that assessment fees will not exceed $13.25 per land acre.

Extension IPM agent Glen Moore, who works from the Waxahachie office, says the vote indicated 85 percent approval. Affirmative votes represent 63 percent of the cotton acreage included in the zone.

Eradication efforts will begin with diapause treatments next fall, says Lindy Patton, Executive Director of the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. “But we have a lot of work to do before then. We’ll start right away hiring people, locating an office and getting ready. “This was a tremendous vote for the Northern Blacklands Zone,” he says. “Growers did a great job of getting this referendum passed. They really pulled together to get the job done.”

Patton says the affirmative vote not only puts the last Texas zone into the program but means the entire cotton belt is now actively involved in the eradication effort.

Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Susan Combs also expressed her pleasure at getting the last zone included in the program and pledged the department’s support.

“We will work closely with growers and the Foundation to eradicate this devastating pest from Texas cotton fields,” Combs said.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com