It has been a long, tough battle, but Mississippi cotton growers are getting in position to deliver a knockout punch to their long-time nemesis, the boll weevil.

“Through July 5, in the 60 counties that have cotton, 46 had zero weevil captures,” says Farrell Boyd, manger for the weevil eradication program in the state.

Overall, there was a reduction of 67.2 percent from the same period last year.

For 2007, he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation at Grenada, Miss., “We're anticipating that the majority of the state's cotton acreage will be under roadside trapping only, including nearly all of the east and west sides of the state‥

“Our ultimate goal is to have the entire state totally weevil-free, with only roadside monitoring to catch those that may fly in or be transported in.”

And good news for growers who are assessed for support of the eradication program, Boyd says, “If no unforeseen problems develop, by the end of 2007 I feel it's possible we could be out of debt.”

After the state is declared weevil-free, however, a contingency fund will need to be maintained to deal with any outbreaks that might occur, he says. “States around us still have some weevils that could fly in, or some could be transported in on equipment moved from other states.”

State departments of agriculture, which have responsibility for interstate movement of cotton equipment, will be increasingly stringent in their inspections, he says.

From the start of the beltwide eradication effort, Mississippi has achieved a 67 percent reduction in weevils; Alabama is now weevil-free; Tennessee has achieved a 54 percent reduction; Missouri 75 percent; Louisiana 60 percent; and Arkansas from 13 percent to 86 percent, depending on the region.

“By and large, every land area bordering Mississippi is weevil-free,” Boyd says.

“Every cotton state is making good progress and actively working to eliminate the boll weevil. Every acre of cotton in the U.S. that was infested with boll weevils is now in the eradication program — the last two zones in Texas began a diapause program last year.”

For 2005, weevil captures in Mississippi cotton counties totaled 9,281, down 46 percent from 17,482 in 2004. Regional results were:

  • Region 4, eastern counties — 19 weevils captured late in the year, with 99.1 percent of the area weevil-free.

  • Region 3, central counties, — 8,289 captures, with 81.4 percent of the area weevil-free.

  • Region 3, bluffs area — 7,121 captures, with 72 percent of the area weevil-free.

  • Region 2, south Delta — 5 weevils captured, with 99.6 percent of the area weevil-free.

  • Region 1B, central Delta — 5 weevils captured, with 99.8 percent of the area weevil free.

  • Region 1A, north Delta — 963 captures, with 92.5 percent of the area weevil free.

Treatments for boll weevils averaged 2.6 in region 1A, 3.1 in region 1B, 0 in region 2, 7.2 in region 3, and 0 in region 4, with a statewide average of 6.

Harry Fulton, Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry, said grower assessments were levied on 1.22 million acres of cotton in 2005, for a total of $10.16 million in fees. For 2006, preliminary figures show 1.01 million acres of cotton, with assessments thus far of $4.5 million.

“Two of the most significant developments in cotton during my career have been boll weevil eradication and transgenic technology,” said Will McCarty, former Extension cotton specialist, now assistant director of the Mississippi Extension Service.

“These have revolutionized the way we grow cotton. Growers once had to spray 16 to 18 times for weevils — now we're to the point the pest is almost gone. That's a tremendous achievement.”

John Swayze, Benton, Miss., producer/ginner, commended Mississippi producers for their support of the eradication program. “I believe everyone is pleased with the progress that has been made as we steadily eliminate the boll weevil,” he said.