As of the first week in July, only one — repeat, one — boll weevil had been trapped in the entire state of Mississippi.
For all practical purposes, the pest that caused widespread losses for U.S. cotton producers for decades is no longer a threat for Mississippi growers, thanks to the success of the boll weevil eradication program, a decade-long cooperative effort between federal/state agencies and farmers, who pay the bulk of the costs through assessments on their cotton acres.
“This is my 10th year to report on the status of the program — and it's the best report I've ever given,” Farrell Boyd, state program manager, said at the joint meeting of directors of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Policy Committee.
In 2007, he said, only 30 weevils were trapped in the state; several of those were in the southwest Delta near the Mississippi River levee.
“We feel most of the weevils in that area migrated in from Louisiana,” where eradication efforts are not as far along.
Another area, along the bluff hills on the eastern edge of the Delta, had 10 weevil catches.
But in all cotton-growing regions, suppression was better than 99 percent, Boyd said.
“Essentially, the boll weevil has been eradicated in our state, and it's a tribute to a lot of hard work and investment by everyone involved over the past 10 years.”
The lone weevil catch in Mississippi this season was in northern Tunica County. “Since no weevils were captured in that area last year, we feel confident that it came in on equipment or vehicles,” Boyd said.
Elsewhere in Mid-South states, weevil trap catches through July 7 were 11 in Arkansas, all in the lower portion of the state bordering Louisiana; 10 in Tennessee; 3 in Missouri; and 2,874 in Louisiana.
In states from Alabama eastward, which have been essentially weevil-free in recent years, Boyd said, no catches had been reported through early July.
Mississippi cotton acreage this year is about 362,612, he noted, a sharp decline from 659,206 in 2007. “We've seen about a 46 percent decline in acres each year since 2006, and we hope that will soon turn around.”
John Swayze, Benton, Miss., producer/ginner, who served as president of the organization for several years, was cited by current president Tripp Hayes for his “hard work, dedication, and contributions to the success of the program.”
“There were times in the early days when we were heavily in debt and often didn't know if we could function the next day,” Swayze said. “It's a credit to our board members — especially [Perthshire, Miss., producer/ginner] Kenneth Hood — who raised a lot of money to keep things going. Their hard work and cooperation has been a key factor in our success.”
With every region in the state “in a positive financial position” at the end of 2007, according to Randy Scrivener, representing the corporation's auditing firm, the organization has gone from a $60 million debt several years ago to less than $1 million currently.
For the balance of 2008, Boyd said, program efforts will focus on post-eradication roadside trapping, with field perimeter trapping only where weevils were captured late season 2007. Traps are being inspected and serviced tri-weekly with an enhanced formulation of the Grandlure bait, “the best formulation available, which has proven very effective.”
For 2009, plans call for continued trapping on a reduced scale adequate to detect any intruding weevils, and implementation of any preventive measures necessary to prevent reinfestation.
“We will continue our efforts to reduce program costs and grower assessments,” Boyd said.