The referendum for the completion and maintenance phase of boll weevil eradication in Mississippi's Region 2 passed July 25.
“We had 72.7 percent of ballots returned (50 percent was needed to produce a valid referendum). Of those ballots, 70.8 percent voted in favor of continuing the program (67 percent was needed to pass). I was tickled that the vote passed with such margins — particularly with the current environment farmers are growing under,” says Farrell Boyd, head of the Mississippi eradication project.
The maintenance phase in Region 2 will kick off next year. The growers in the region voted for a 10-year period at a maximum assessment rate of $12 per acre. But Boyd doesn't think the per-acre cost will approach $12.
“I'm hesitant to give an exact dollar amount, but we've run studies and projections and think the true cost will be well under $12.”
Region 2 covers Sharkey, Issaquena, Humphreys counties and the Delta section of Yazoo County. Historically, the region has had moderate to light weevil pressure compared to the rest of the state — especially the hill section. Most of Humphrey's County has been lightly affected by boll weevils while only parts of Sharkey County and Issaquena County have had heavier boll weevil populations.
Statewide, Boyd and colleagues are seeing heavier weevil numbers than was anticipated. “(The week of July 22), we captured 134 weevils in Region 2. That sounds like nothing, but we wanted to be down to 10. Thus far, in Region 2, we've had 41,533 acres that have had enough weevils captured to meet treatment levels. This has resulted in a total of 129,215 acres being treated. In other words, the 41,533 acres have been treated an average of 3.1 times.”
The weevil numbers are up for two reasons. First was a situation that extended from mid-August of last year through September. “If you recall, we had a very rainy spell during that time. That caused a lot of delays in getting insecticides applied. And any insecticides that were applied didn't stay on the plant long enough to build up any residual effects.”
Just about the time the rains stopped, the terrorists hit New York and Washington, D.C. That shut down aerial applications for nine days. In the area south of Memphis, some cotton-growing areas were shut down for 22 days more.
The terrorists hit just when the program was at a very critical point. Weevil populations were highest then — “particularly because we hadn't been able to spray due to the weather. By the time aerial applicators were able to get back into the air, they were behind on several fronts. Farmers wanted defoliation work to get going and we wanted weevils to be sprayed. We had to be understanding because defoliation work was in our interest, too.”
Regardless, more weevils went into diapause sites than Boyd wanted. Then, there was virtually no winter to kill populations back further. That resulted in both more weevils emerging and more sprayings throughout the growing season.
Boyd says the next referendum will be in the main Delta area of the state: regions 1-A and 1-B. Farmers in those regions, currently in their fourth year of eradication, will vote next year on eradication maintenance work.