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Texas government offers huge prize for eradicating long-nosed cotton pest

July
13
1903

On this day in 1903, a proclamation was made from the steps of the Texas Capitol offering a $50,000 prize for the discovery of a way to rid Texas of the boll weevil. This small snout beetle had been ravaging cotton crops in Mexico for at least two millenia. Its introduction into Texas seems to have been first announced by Charles W. DeRyee of Corpus Christi in a letter dated October 3, 1894. It had reached all of East Texas by 1903 and by the 1920s had spread north and west to the High Plains. The insect continued to spread through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia. Calcium Arsenate was found to be reasonably effective against it, and during the 1920s fluorides were introduced. Since the weevil does not survive well on the high plains of Texas, this region proved to be more favorable to future cotton production. The 1903 prize was never awarded to anyone.

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