Industry urged to stop boll weevil spread

The National Cotton Council is urging cotton industry members and farm equipment operators to help prevent boll weevils from getting into areas where the insect pest has been eradicated.

The boll weevil has been eradicated from most Southeastern states and from Arizona and California, but some weevils occasionally re-infest these areas by hitchhiking on cotton pickers and other farm equipment being transported between eradicated and non-eradicated cotton production areas. Most times, for example, the weevils are in cotton bolls that have not been removed from the harvesters.

"Before moving equipment, it should be inspected and cleaned to prevent these weevils from hitchhiking into the eradicated areas," said Missouri cotton producer Charles Parker, who serves as chairman of the Council's Boll Weevil Action Committee. "Those in the eradicated areas receiving such equipment should inspect it as well. We can ill afford to allow outbreaks of boll weevil, especially where the pest already has been eradicated."

Since the boll weevil has been eradicated from most of the Southeastern states, some expensive reinfestations have occurred - and data strongly suggest these were due to weevils harbored in cotton equipment being transported from parts of the Cotton Belt where the boll weevil is still a major cotton pest, according to Jim Brumley, executive director, Southeastern Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc., (SEBWEF), Montgomery, Ala.

Those states include New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi. All cotton-growing states east of the Mississippi River are now part of the SEBWEF. However, some areas, such as West Tennessee and the western half of Mississippi, have just begun or are in the midst of the eradication process and should still be considered potentially boll weevil infested areas.

Equipment operators based in infested areas, and those traveling to those areas to do custom harvesting, are being urged to inspect and clean equipment prior to it being transported into the Southeast and other eradicated areas.

Likewise, growers in the eradicated areas need to do the same to equipment before they bring it in, such as for custom picking at harvest time.

"Inspecting this equipment will protect growers' investment in the eradication program," Brumley said.

"A recent study revealed that more than $5 million has been expended in the Southeast to stamp out these outbreaks. We need full cooperation from producers inside and outside the eradication zones to prevent a resurgence of the boll weevil, to keep it from becoming an economic threat again."

Brumley noted that each cotton producing state where the boll weevil eradication program is in place has agricultural department regulations which prohibit the importation of any articles that harbor boll weevils. He said these regulations are almost impossible to fully enforce, though, given the random movement of farm equipment.

However, state agricultural regulatory offices can help. For assistance, contact: Alabama, 334-240-7227; Florida, 352-372-3505; Georgia, 404-651-9486; Mississippi 601-325-7771; North Carolina, 919-733-3933; South Carolina, 864-646-2130; Tennessee, 615-837-5136; and Virginia, 804-786-3515, SEBWEF headquarters, 1-800-269-9925 or the local boll weevil eradication program office.

Brumley said that upon being notified of equipment movement, SEBWEF personnel would provide proper cleaning instructions and follow up with an inspection of each piece of potentially infested equipment.

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