Stalk destruction plays a crucial role in eliminating the boll weevil as an economic threat to Southwestern cotton. Removing habitat to prevent the pests from surviving the winter may be even more important to newly activated zones.

“The fewer weevils that survive winter the fewer we have to spray the next spring,” says Steven Beakley, Ellis County cotton farmer and the North Blacklands Eradication Zone's elected representative to the Texas Boll Weevil foundation.

The area is the newest active zone in Texas.

Beakley bands 2,4-D with a boom mounted behind his stalk shredder.

“It's a one-pass operation,” he says. “I am extremely pleased with the results.”

He had only one field that needed re-treatment and that resulted from an operator error and a missed streak in one field.

“I hope cotton farmers will become more diligent about stalk destruction next year,” Beakley says. “It was better this year than last and I think it will improve next year.”

Economic outlook plays a role, he says. “If we have a better year in 2007 farmers will be willing to spend more money to destroy cotton stalks. It makes sense to do it and means fewer weevils survive for next spring.”

Currently, cotton farmers in the North Blacklands Zone have a Nov. 30 deadline to destroy stalks. Beakley hopes that date moves up for next fall. “I'd like to see a November 15 deadline,” he says. “I feel comfortable with that.”

Ellis County Extension entomologist Glen Moore says participants in a recent eradication meeting discussed stalk destruction and seemed to agree that an earlier stalk destruction date would be preferable. “Most folks felt that it needs to be done (moved up),” he says.