⋅ BY TOBIE BLANCHARD ⋅
The U.S. Department of Agriculture held its Agriculture Outlook Forum Feb. 23-24 in Washington, D.C. The forum provides a forecast for the 2023 crop year.
Matt Foster, LSU AgCenter state specialist for cotton, corn and grain sorghum, was a featured speaker at the forum and discussed Louisiana cotton. He started by looking back over the previous decade.
“Cotton acres have been erratic in Louisiana over the past 10 years, mainly due to higher demand for grain production,” Foster said. “Farmers have seen an increase in grain yield potential as well as higher and consistent prices. Also, grain crops require less intensive management compared to cotton.”
Foster said he expected cotton acres to be down 20% this year over what was planted in 2022. He said lower prices and higher production costs are the main reasons for the acreage decline. The current price of cotton is in the 80 cents-per-pound range.
“It’s estimated that growers will need a break-even price of 92 cents-per-pound to meet their direct, fixed and overhead expenses, assuming a lint yield of 1,100 pounds per acre,” he said.
Adverse weather conditions near harvest time caused a decline in cotton yields in 2022.
Foster conducts variety trials as part of his research program and said varieties come and go quickly.
“The number one call I get from growers is about varieties. What variety did well, what will do well in my area, my soil type,” he said. “It’s one of the most important decisions a cotton producer will make for the entire growing season.”
Foster discussed a new type of cotton, ThryvOn, which has a beneficial biotech trait.
“It offers protection against tarnished plant bug and thrips species, two of the most economically detrimental pests in U.S. cotton production. They cost growers a combined $351 million in yield losses and insecticide applications according to the 2021 cotton crop loss report,” he said.
According to Foster, the goal of this cotton technology is to reduce average season-long injury from these harmful pests, which can improve crop yield potential and return on investment. Foster said this technology does come at a cost, which is estimated at $36 to $40 per acre.
“You have the potential to add money back to your bottom line with no control measures needed for thrips, and you can potentially reduce the number of insecticide applications for plant bugs — fewer trips across the field, less diesel, less insecticide being sprayed in the environment,” he said.
He emphasized that “tarnished plant bug scouting is still required when using this technology.”
Foster tested ThryvOn cotton in 2021 and 2022. He said it has very good seedling vigor and emergence, excellent germplasm and yield, a good response to plant growth regulators, very good on-time maturity and good defoliation.
Foster also discussed the ongoing collaboration between the LSU AgCenter and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, and the research conducted using best management practices on model farms, which includes cotton fields. Overall goals of this project are to improve soil and water quality and to reduce the contribution of agricultural runoff to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.