After years of challenges, boll weevil eradication program making progress

After years of challenges, boll weevil eradication program making progress

Logan Hawkes 3

Cotton producers have a lot to worry about every year. But, one thing they aren’t worrying about as much as once they did is the dreaded Anthonomus grandis, or boll weevil, for generations the scourge of U.S. cotton farmers.

A little more than a century ago, the National Cotton Council notes, the tiny pest migrated from Mexico to the U.S., and  spread rapidly throughout the cotton belt. Over subsequent decades, it has cost America’s cotton producers more than $15 billion in yield losses and control costs.

In 1958, the council officially recognized the economic havoc the pest represented for U.S. cotton production, and with congressional support, a USDA Boll Weevil Research Laboratory was created, followed by eradication experiments, a trial eradication program, and an area-wide boll weevil control program implemented in the Texas High Plains and Rolling Plains to halt the weevil’s migration northward out of Mexico.

Based upon the results of those efforts, in the 1970s a boll weevil eradication program was launched by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), beginning with eastern seaboard states. Not long afterward, several state boll weevil groups were founded, including the Texas Boll Weevil Foundation, Inc.

ON THE FRONT LINE

Texas has long been on the front line of eradication efforts because of the common border it shares with Mexico. Boll weevil problems across the Rio Grande have been a serious issue, including potential for migration of the pest — mostly carried by wind — and sporadic outbreaks that have been problematic in parts of Texas, especially along the border corridor.

Much like other issues in the cotton industry, 2017 has had its share of challenges for the boll weevil eradication program, says Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Lindy Patton. But in spite of huge increases in cotton acres, weevil reinfestations into eradicated areas, and plenty of weather-related obstacles, such as Hurricane Harvey, the Texas boll weevil eradication program made excellent progress toward eliminating the dreaded pest.

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