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Industry Needs Tools To Stay Competitive

By Tommy Horton

When an editorial staff tries to examine a broad topic such as technology, initially it seems a bit daunting, maybe even too broad and all-encompassing. However, we weren’t trying to look at every piece of precision ag equipment on the market as we prepared this January issue of Cotton Farming. Rather, we wanted to take an overview of how technology had brought the U.S. cotton industry to this point.

And where will it take us into the future if we’re to survive in a difficult economic environment and competitive global market? Better yet, will these technology tools continue to give U.S. producers the advantage that they need?

The word “technology” is tossed around a lot in conversations, but it has definite relevance to cotton production. From the time the producer makes a decision in January on seed purchases to the way his cotton is ginned and delivered to the warehouse and mill, it plays a part in every stop taken along the way.

We’ve always heard that technology is what gives the industry an advantage over its overseas competitors. But, as we all know by now, a lot of that technology already is available to cotton-producing countries such as India and China. Such is the environment for U.S. cotton today. During this time of economic challenge for the country and industry, we sought to gain some perspective on these topics.

To gain an understanding of how producers are overcoming their fear of technology, our Southeast Editor Amanda Huber took another look at how a producer should do his homework before making the big expenditure on precision ag equipment.

What about cottonseed varieties of the future? This is where U.S. producers should find plenty of production advantages with exciting fiber traits and new germplasm slated for commercial launch. Senior Writer Carroll Smith talked to several cotton breeders and gained an insight into variety traits such as drought tolerance and nematode resistance. This kind of breakthrough bodes well for the future of cotton production.

In our main story, we talked to three cotton experts – Bill Robertson, agronomist with the National Cotton Council, as well as Ed Barnes, ag research director at Cotton Incorporated and Dan Munk of the California Cooperative Extension. Technology is a topic in which all three have had hands-on experience with farmers. They paint an exciting picture of what technology can do for U.S. cotton, but they also believe that real expertise must be used to make that technology work for farmers and ultimately put dollars into their pockets. Robertson even takes it one step further. He is a strong proponent of fine-tuning existing technologies before embracing what’s ahead in the future pipeline.

We’re always looking for a California perspective in any discussion of new trends, and Contributing Editor Brenda Carol offers an update on how cotton producers are surviving in that state despite lower acreage and higher production costs. In addition, she offers some important information on how technology is helping farmers preserve dwindling and expensive water supplies.

As one observer said during a conversation, you could write a book or doctoral dissertation on technology and its importance to U.S. cotton. We won’t try to do that in this discussion. However, other than farm policy and prices, you’d have to rate technology near the top of any list of topics affecting cotton. Let’s hope our industry continues to reap the benefits of this tool that helps make U.S. cotton the safest and most reliable fiber in the world – now and into the future.

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