Cotton Incorporated has released an executive summary report on the Natural Resources Survey that was conducted in late spring and early summer 2015. Results indicate the No. 1 concern of growers across the Cotton Belt is input costs, but as usual, the West varies from the rest of the cotton community on the other top five priorities. The executive summary can be viewed at https://cottoncultivated.cottoninc.com/.
It is no surprise that an adequate water supply is the No. 2 concern for growers in California, New Mexico and Arizona, while the No. 2 priority for growers farther east is herbicide-resistant weed control. So far, 2016 has seen a good supply of snowfall in the Sierra of California, as well as the watersheds for cotton producers in Arizona and New Mexico.
“I don’t know that the recent storms are going to help much in the short term,” says Aaron Barcellos, a California cotton grower and current Cotton Board chairman. Growers in the West will be planning their crops and pre-irrigating before the real impact of this winter’s storms is known. We are on a good pace to establish the needed water for later in the season, and we’re all optimistic.”
And, while growers are more optimistic regarding the supply for this season, infrastructure and water policy will continue to remain a priority for the West.
The third ranking concern for the West is cotton’s tolerance to heat and drought, which is directly related to water and weather concerns in the region. The rest of the Cotton Belt lists weed control as their third
Less rain means more volatile heat with temperatures along the Colorado River and in Central Arizona occasionally reaching into the 110-degree range.
Heat can have a huge impact on plant health even if there is ample water supply. Dr. Paul Brown at the University of Arizona says heat stress produces reduction in fruit retention, which can reduce overall lint yields, delay crop maturity and reduce lint quality.
For Western growers, weed control comes in at No. 4 on the list. Producers who farm in the arid West typically have fewer worries about weed control. Herbicide-resistant weeds are tied in fifth with variety selection, both coming in at 45 percent of those surveyed.
Variety selection can be correlated with all of the priorities ahead of it in the ranking. Higher yields and better quality increased the opportunity to decrease input costs. Drought-tolerant varieties help ease or alleviate some concerns over water availability. And, of course, herbicide-resistant cotton can help cut manpower passes with machinery.
Another take away from the survey says Ed Barnes, Senior Director of Agricultural & Environmental Research at Cotton Incorporated, is that because of diverse cropping systems, good irrigation efficiency and high yields, Western cotton growers continue to manage and improve their crop, taking advantage of new technologies and research.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communications Manager for the West. Contact him via email at email@example.com.