The Boll Weevil Eradication Program led to the eradication of the most destructive pest in the history of U.S. cotton production.
For his impassioned and relentless determination to garner broad support for the program, North Carolina’s Marshall Grant has been inducted into the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame. At a time when cotton producers were making 12 or more costly in-season control applications to manage infestations, Grant recognized the downward economic spiral in which cotton producers were trapped.
“The BWEP was historic in the timeline of our industry,” says David Parrish, CEO, North Carolina Cotton Producers Association. “Mr. Grant’s vision and determination were instrumental in the program’s success throughout our state and across the Cotton Belt.
“He traveled the country galvanizing support behind the idea of a coordinated boll weevil eradication effort based on timely treatments and intensive trapping across broad acreage. Over time, the pilot program that began in North Carolina expanded across the Cotton Belt, resulting in reduced input costs, improved yields and a revitalized industry.”
Because of the BWEP’s success, insecticide applications have been reduced in cotton by 75% and yield losses from insects have been reduced by 50%. It also allowed integrated pest management to become a standard pest control practice for many cotton production operations.
“The program set the U.S. cotton industry on a direct path toward decades of improved profitability and environmental sustainability,” says Dr. Kater Hake, vice president, agricultural and environmental research, Cotton Incorporated. “It also demonstrated the power of unity to the producer segment. That unity is allowing growers to continue reducing their farm’s environmental footprint moving forward.”
One of Grant’s lifelong friends, David Burns, is a North Carolina farmer, industry leader and former chairman of the North Carolina Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. He worked with Grant in those early years to convince farmers of the positive impacts the program would have on their operations and the future of U.S. cotton production in general.
“My efforts were small compared to Marshall’s,” says Burns, who remembers speaking to farmers in North Carolina’s southern counties while Grant worked the northern counties. “The respect he earned and friendships he maintained with North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Graham and North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms helped secure funding used to establish the foundation in our state.
“I could not be more proud for the Grant family and the memory of Marshall. This honor is most-deserved and one that rightly solidifies his place in the history of North Carolina agriculture.”
Grant’s legacy will forever be his tireless determination as a central figure and driving force behind the effort to gain producer support for the BWEP across the Southeast. This support was critical to its eventual passage, funding and implementation. The BWEP is heralded as one of the most successful USDA-backed programs ever implemented.
Hall Of Fame Criteria
To be considered for the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame, a person must have performed an outstanding accomplishment where the agricultural cause benefited, or which led to a significant movement in agricultural progress.
“Mr. Grant’s work in the area of boll weevil eradication more than meets these criteria,” Parrish says. “Every cotton producer in our state owes him a debt of eternal gratitude. It was an honor to nominate him for this award on behalf of all North Carolina cotton producers.”
Due to the pandemic, the induction ceremony will be held in spring 2021 on a yet-to-be-determined date.
The North Carolina Cotton Producers Association contributed this article.