Update on the boll weevil eradication program in Texas

Wednesday, November 13, 2013: 2:18 PM
Meeting Room 16 B (Austin Convention Center)
Charles Allen , Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, San Angelo, TX
Larry Smith , Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Abilene, TX
Boll weevil entered the US, crossing the Mexican border into Texas about 1892. For the next 30 years boll weevil populations became established progressively further to the north and east until cotton had been infested throughout the Southern cotton belt by 1922. Losses to cotton farmers, the cotton industry and to the economy of the South was greater than any other  event except other than the Civil War. After years of battles between farmers and boll weevils on individual farms and fields, the first area of the U.S. entered a collective and areawide boll weevil eradication program in 1978 in Virginia and part of North Carolina. Since that time, all cotton producing areas of the U.S. have either entered boll weevil eradication programs or conducted trapping programs which documented that their cotton was not infested. Program have relied on cultural practices - primarily post-harvest stalk destruction, mapping, detection - with pheromone traps, and control - primarily with ULV malathion. Cotton producers developed organizations to conduct boll weevil eradication programs. They were organized by region or by state. Many states developed programs organized within geographic zones within the state organization. Elections were held in each zone - most requiring two thirds majorities of growers or growers representing more than 50 percent of the acreage in a zone before a program could be started. Eradication was completed in many zones in 3 to 4 years. But in zones in which operations were disrupted by hurricanes, those delayed by secondary pest outbreaks, those which could be reinfested by weevils in uneradicated zones (within migration distance), or in zones far enough south that they did not have cotton plant killing freezes - some zones have taken up to 15 years to complete eradication. The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) is the last zone in the U.S. which still has populations of boll weevil. The program was begun in the LRGV zone in 2005. Progress has been slowed by hurricanes, mild winter weather, and slower eradication progress/boll weevil migration from cotton fields in NE Mexico. However, boll weevil populations have been driven to very low levels - from an average of 16.11 weevils per weekly trap inspection in 2005 to an average of 0.16 weevils per trap inspection in 2012. This represents boll weevil population reduction of greater than 99 percent in the LRGV zone. From an economic perspective, the boll weevil eradication program in Texas has produced a cumulative increase in net returns to farmers (after payment of eradication costs) 1996-2012 estimated at $2.3 billion.