AGRICULTURAL HISTORIANS may look back on 2000 as a pivotal year for the boll weevil's ultimate demise in the Southwest.

Boll weevil eradication programs in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico made significant headway against cotton's most notorious insecta non grata when the Southern Rolling Plains zone became the first in the Southwest to declare the weevil functionally eradicated.

Eradication officials in Oklahoma and New Mexico report significantly reduced boll weevil trap catches and higher yields.

Also, farmers and landowners approved three new zones in Texas and other areas are looking hard at establishing active zones.

With the addition of the eight-county Southern High Plains /Caprock Zone in November, The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc., includes more than five million acres of cotton.

Earlier in the year, The Northern High Plains and the Southern Blacklands zones came into the program.

Meanwhile, growers in the Upper Coastal Bend Zone are holding grower meetings and collecting signatures on a petition to the Texas Department of Agriculture to set a referendum for the eight-county zone in south Texas.

New zones indicate a change of heart for many growers who earlier opposed the program. Administrative changes and heavy weevil pressure in non-active zones convinced many that eradication would be in their best interest.