The Boll Weevil Eradication Program is now in its second year in the Lubbock/Southern High Plains Region, and program managers say the bugs are dying off faster than they expected. This is the second season of the four year eradication plan, and already program managers say the boll weevil is virtually undetectable on the Southern High Plains.
So far, it's a bumper crop year for the largest cotton patch in Texas. Not only has mother nature been kind, but the bug that troubled farmers for years is almost ancient history. "It's a huge difference of where we were a year ago, and especially where we were two years ago," says Patrick Burson, the Lubbock Zone Manager for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc.
How hugely successful has the program been? Just take a look at the numbers. In the Lubbock and Plainview zones, this year there are 90% less boll weevils in the cotton fields than there were last year. And this is only the second of four years of spraying. There are several zones in the state, all at different stages in their eradication. In San Angelo, where they started spraying in 1995, the zone has been declared 100% eradicated, and they haven't had to spray for two straight years now. In our region, spraying is down at a record rate.
"Last year, we sprayed every cotton acre every week from September 3rd until it froze, once a week. This year, all of our treatments are based off trap captures. They're field specific. If this trap captures a weevil, we treat this field," says Burson.
So what's the magic potion? It's called Malathion, and it's the exact same chemical used by the City of Lubbock to spray for mosquitos. Although it's the kiss of death for boll weevils, mosquitos, and other sucking and chewing bugs, it's harmless to humans. In fact, Malathion is far less toxic to the human body than nicotine, caffeine, and aspirin, and only slightly more toxic than table salt.
"I do get calls about it smelling, but it smells for a reason, so you know it's there," says Melissa Pierce, the Producer Relations Specialist for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation.
It's a program exceeding expectations, and it's news welcomed by area farmers as much as good weather. The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program is a statewide plan, and many other regions are knocking on the door of total eradication. Lubbock's zone is not the largest region area wise, but it has more cotton than any other region in the state, nearly 1.2 million acres.