Cotton growers in 17 Louisiana parishes have begun mailing in ballots that will decide the future of the area's boll weevil eradication program.

With the five-year eradication program reaching its conclusion later this year, growers in the Red River region in northwest and central Louisiana must decide whether or not to approve a five-year maintenance program.

If approved by a majority of cotton growers in the region, the maintenance program will begin in 2002. It is expected to cost growers approximately $7 per acre, but that figure could go as high as $10 per acre.

According to Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom, the maintenance program consists of the implementation of traps and monitoring by eradication personnel to insure the boll weevil does not return to the Red River area. If isolated weevils are found, insecticide applications will be made, he says.

The voting, which began when ballots were mailed to growers March 21, will continue until April 4. Cotton growers' votes are expected to be tallied April 11.

By all accounts, the program has been a tremendous success. Eradicating the boll weevil has led to dramatically reduced production costs. The insecticide bill over the years to fight the boll weevil was a huge expense that this program has cut by about 70 percent. Acreage in northwest Louisiana for 2001 is expected to increase 25- to 30 percent over 2000, says Odom.

With the success of the program we expect acreage to increase in the Red River area. Projections are that acreage this year will be about 130,000, up 40,000 acres from recent years.

The current balloting in the Red River region, Odom says, does not affect the boll weevil eradication effort in northeast Louisiana, which is in its third year.


e-mail: doreen_muzzi@intertec.com