Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on May 20, 2002. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Boll weevil numbers yield only bright spot
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Production costs are up and prices are down, but Mississippi cotton growers have one reason to celebrate this year; 2002 is on course to be the third consecutive year boll weevils will not steal from the state's yields.
Jeannine Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp., said the first week of trapping boll weevils from May 2 through 8 revealed weevil-free fields in 95 percent of Mississippi's cotton.
"I feel like we've finally rounded the corner. We had more challenges in the start-up years of eradication than most other states because of very mild winters and more cotton acres; then we remained a buffer zone longer than most areas," Smith said. "I'm very proud of what we have accomplished, and we're determined not to ever lose ground."
Four regions of Mississippi have been engaged in five-year plans to eradicate cotton's No. 1 pest from all fields. 2000 was the first year since the early 1900s that Mississippi cotton growers did not lose any yield to boll weevils. Growers in the state's hill regions were the first to complete the five-year program and agreed last year to 10 more years of assessments (not more than $12 per acre annually) supporting the organized eradication efforts.
"The cost of participation in the program is less than what the grower himself would have to pay to spray for the weevils," Smith said. "Generally, the areas that have been in the program the longest have the fewest numbers of boll weevils."
Blake Layton, cotton entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said capturing small numbers of weevils in traps this early in the season is good for two reasons.
"Low numbers in the traps in early May tell us eradication efforts last fall were very effective, and it eliminates a significant portion of the overwintering weevils and prevents them from reproducing," Layton said. "Because there are so few weevils available, most are attracted to the pheromones in the traps, which are very effective right now. We will be able to trap a lot more in these first weeks before the weevils are able to reproduce."
Boll weevil eradication is a coordinated effort that is moving west across the United States in a scheduled progression. It was started in parts of eastern Mississippi in August 1997. Mississippi is divided into four regions, with Region 4 -- the eastern-most counties -- and Region 3 -- the central and southwestern part of the state -- being the first regions in the program. Region 2 -- the south Delta -- joined the program in 1998, and Region 1 -- the north Delta -- joined in 1999.
In each region, growers voted to enter the program and be assessed fees for five years. These annual assessments have ranged from $20 to $24 per acre. Fees cover the costs of spraying with malathion by aerial and ground application when certain numbers of boll weevils are trapped in a field. Because of the program's success in the past four years, the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp., has been able to reduce this year's assessment for Region II from $22 to $13 per acre.
Layton said most growers recognize the benefit of the organized eradication.
"Before the eradication effort, growers were spending and/or losing around $50 to $60 per acre because of boll weevils," Layton said. "Now, not only is the cost much less, but there is zero yield lost."
Layton said about $160 million has been spent in the last five years eradicating the boll weevil from Mississippi. Without efforts to maintain the program, boll weevils would be able to re-establish their foothold in the state and put growers back to square one. Growers in Region II, which is in the last of its five-year program, will vote in early August on a 10-year continuation of the program.
Boll weevils came to Mississippi in 1907 and were entrenched statewide seven years later. Layton said individual weevils have been documented to travel as far as 169 miles.
"This shows how easily they could re-infest the state and why it is so important to have an effective boll weevil eradication maintenance program in place," Layton said.