It was, said Farrell Boyd, “the same good news I’ve brought you the past seven years — no boll weevils in Mississippi. Not a single one. I’m pleased as I can be that we’re now in our eighth year of a totally boll weevil-free Mississippi.”The only remaining boll weevil infestation in the U.S., he says, is in lower Texas along the Rio Grande River bordering Mexico, with roughly 7,000 acres across the river in the state of Tamaulipas.
Boyd, who’s manager of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation passed on the news to producers and industry leaders at the organization’s annual joint meeting with the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Cotton Policy Committee.
“I feel relatively confident that we’re in excellent position to make it through another cotton season without finding a weevil or a damaged square. But we’re continuing our surveillance and trapping program, as we have in the past. We have traps within a half-mile of every cotton field in the state. If we should catch a weevil, we would immediately go in and take action to correct the situation.”
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Boyd says he was “somewhat shocked” at the recent USDA estimate of 450,000 acres of cotton in the state. “We had kinda thought it was 400,000 or less, but we hope the USDA figure is correct.” The USDA estimate would represent an increase of more than 40 percent from last year.
The only remaining boll weevil infestation in the U.S., he says, is in lower Texas along the Rio Grande River bordering Mexico, with roughly 7,000 acres across the river in the state of Tamaulipas.
“Although they have a boll weevil program there, in the past it hasn’t been up to speed to prevent weevil migration into Texas, and for the last couple of years they’ve had increases in the number of weevils captured. Last year, in June, they’d captured 2,500 weevils on the Texas side of the river, and thus far this year they’ve captured over 5,000, with about the same number Tamaulipas.”
Buffer zone along Mexico border
In 2014, Boyd notes, the National Cotton Council’s Boll Weevil Action Committee agreed to the establishment of a buffer zone along the river border in hopes of deterring and preventing any weevil movement into any other areas of the cotton belt where eradication has been achieved.
“Thus far, that plan has worked,” he says. “The buffer zone is maintained by the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation of Texas and is operated alongside their regular eradication effort.”
A national Boll Weevil Protection Fund was established through the National Cotton Council to handle costs for the buffer zone if expenditures should occur in excess of those for the regular eradication effort there.
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“All cotton states, with the exception of California, have contributed to the fund,” Boyd says. “Mississippi contributed 50 cents per acre the first year, 25 cents in 2015, and we’re contributing 25 cents again this year. Fortunately, none of the money has been used thus far because the cost of work in the buffer zone has been covered by the normal eradication expenditures. So, a fund of about $9 million has been built up in case it’s needed.”
All this has put a new slant on the outlook for eradication in that area, he says. “Last year, I said it looked as if we’d never be able to achieve eradication in the Rio Grande Valley unless something was done in Mexico to control the weevils there. But now, with the cooperative effort between Texas, Mexico, and APHIS, I think there is quite a bit of hope for being able to achieve eradication in the Rio Grande Valley and across in Tamaulipas. They have some good grower leadership in Tamaulipas who are very interested in achieving eradication as quickly as possible. They’ve allowed Texas Eradiation Foundation personnel to train their people and their aerial applicators and to assist with obtaining and setting up equipment.
“The people of Texas have been impressed with what’s been achieved thus far and with the cooperation on the other side of the border. We’re optimistic now that in a year or two we’ll be able to say the entire U.S. is boll weevil-free.”
The achievement in Mississippi is a tribute to the support of cotton growers and key agricultural organizations within the state, Boyd says, “and everyone can be justifiably proud that this destructive pest that plagued growers for decades has been eliminated.”