Much remains to be done, but with every zone in the state now active and progress in New Mexico and Oklahoma proceeding, the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program is “working well.”
Charles Allen, program director for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc., says progress toward eliminating the boll weevil as an economic threat to the state's cotton crop made significant strides forward this year, despite a wet summer that created difficulties with monitoring traps and making timely pesticide applications.
“Soggy field conditions prevented us from reading boll weevil traps for 4 to 6 weeks, and heavy rains made treatments ineffective. In spite of the weather, weevil captures are down.”
Allen says the last two zones included in the program, the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Northern Blacklands (north of Waco), have made significant improvements in the second full year in the program.
“The Northern Blacklands is as good as we could hope for. We have made tremendous progress,” he says.
A year ago (through the last week in August) trap catches totaled 148,814 weevils. Through the same week this year, only 2,401 weevils have been caught. “The program is really coming along nicely in the Northern Blacklands zone,” Allen says.
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley 2,605,046 weevils were trapped though August 19, 2006. Only 592,299 weevils have been captured in the valley during the same period this year. “That's a big drop in a year,” Allen says.
However, the captures for the week ending August 19 were higher than captures all year prior to that week. “Weevils that had survived and reproduced during the wet weather were on the move because of defoliation and harvest.”
Allen says trouble spots still pop up. “We'll have trouble spots until we get rid of the last weevil,” he says. “We caught eleven weevils in the Southern Rolling Plains zone in late August. We had caught none before that. We think it might be weather related.”
Allen says weevils could have blown in with the remnants of a tropical storm.
“The week before we caught one weevil between Morton and Plains, Texas, near New Mexico. We can't figure out where that one came from.”
He says eradication officials were surprised to see as many weevils as they have in South Texas. “We've seen more than we expected around Kingsville, Robstown, and out to Uvalde,” he says. “Rainfall was a factor.”
Allen says trap catches in West Texas, including the High Plains and Rolling Plains area, totaled 88 for the year through August. And 79 of those came from the St. Lawrence (53) and just south of Big Springs (26) area where the program is mopping up the last of the boll weevils in the region. The St. Lawrence and Big Springs area had caught 508 weevils during the same period in 2006.
“We haven't caught anything in the St. Lawrence area or the Big Spring area in about a month. That's a good sign.”
Allen says numbers in West Texas are significantly lower than last year. “We're making good progress.”