Dr. Jake Phillips, once a professor of entomology at the University of Arkansas, had great foresight when he submitted a request for research funding to Cotton Incorporated many years ago.
“Dr. Phillips recognized one thing specifically...producers need to know when to quit,” remembers Dr. Tina Teague, who during that period was a graduate assistant.
Not when to quit farming mind you, but when to quit trying to protect their crop from a seemingly unstoppable onslaught of cotton pests, such as tarnished plant bugs and boll weevils. That recognized need led to research that eventually delivered what has become a valuable cotton management tool – COTMAN.
“At the time, producers were trying to protect their crops, in many cases, right up to the day of defoliation,” recalls Teague. Researchers knew that was too long, but they had nothing to definitively tell them “these are the last bolls that will contribute to my economic bottom line.”
Appropriate Name For Project
Also during that time, the boll weevil created a need to establish early maturity to avoid widespread boll damage from that long-snouted pest. Ironically, the final name given to the research project ended up being called, “The When to Quit Project.”
Once funded, Phillips hired Dr. John Bernhardt, a post-doctoral student from Clemson University, and in the summer of 1980, Bernhardt started tagging cotton flowers (irrigated and non-irrigated cotton) in 100 degree-plus heat to establish the concepts of crop maturity, building on long-established data related to the order and development of cotton plant fruiting.
Bernhardt was having difficulty interpreting the huge amount of data and turned to Dr. Phil Tugwell for assistance. At the time, Dr. Brad Waddle, a cotton breeder in Arkansas, was using a measure for maturity by following the ascent of cotton’s white flower as the plant progressed. As a student, Tugwell worked for Waddle.
Also, Dr. Fred Bourland returned to Arkansas from Mississippi State University where he was using a program he developed called “COTMAP.” The culmination of these researchers’ work came together to form what we today call COTMAN.
Methods To Monitor
Although initial COTMAN research was based on the establishment of nodes-above-white-flower (NAWF) to help determine when to terminate insecticide applications, using NAWF to determine optimal defoliation time soon followed. Eventually, COTMAN was separated into two distinct parts: BOLLMAN (boll management) and SQUAREMAN (square management).
Today, consultants and producers actually use BOLLMAN more than the SQUAREMAN program.
“Identifying the flowering date is very important because you can start counting heat units,” says Dr. Pat O’Leary, senior director of agricultural research for Cotton Incorporated.
On To Texas
The management of COTMAN was turned over from the University of Arkansas to Dr. Dan Fromme, assistant professor and Extension agronomist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Why?
“Dr. Bourland went on into administration at U of A and there was a growing interest in Texas, and it seemed like a perfect match,” says O’Leary. “We wanted to offer it to Texas because Dr. Fromme had conducted research on COTMAN, and he seemed to be the perfect person to continue the progression and further development of COTMAN.”
From summarizing crop developmental status, detecting stress and assisting with in-season and end of season management decisions, COTMAN can do it all.
For additional information, visit http://cotman.tamu.edu.
The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, contributed information for this article.