By Mark Lange
A key National Cotton Council priority is coordination of the annual Beltwide Cotton Conferences, which foster research and facilitate technology transfer to U.S. cotton producers with the aim of helping them increase their overall efficiency and profitability.
Where is the 2013 Beltwide?
The 2013 Beltwide Cotton Conferences are set for Jan. 7-10 at the Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk hotels in San Antonio, Texas. A wide range of information, including instructions for early registration and housing, is at www.cotton.org/beltwide. The wealth and range of information that producers can glean from this forum easily justifies an attendee’s investment of time and money. Plus, the out-of-pocket expenses to attend this premier educational forum are nominal because the NCC is able to negotiate favorable hotel room rates while additional support from allied industry and others helps hold down registration costs and on-site meal and beverage expenses.
What about the 2013 Conferences’ focus?
The Cotton Production Conference will provide timely updates on the farm bill status, key environmental issues, marketing and proven/emerging farming practices and technology such as varieties, chemistries and equipment. The NCC Beltwide Steering Committee’s producer members also recommended a focus on ways for producers to achieve more judicious use of those crop inputs especially in light of today’s current high fertilizer and fuel costs. There are a number of tools for holding down energy related expenses. For example, stabilizers are available that can enhance fertilizer availability to the plant, and producers can access many no-cost irrigation scheduling programs that can help increase irrigation efficiency. Attention will be given to other “conserving” practices such as the use of cover crops and various tillage systems.
Other challenges that threaten to undermine profitability, including pest management, will be addressed. Weed resistance, for example, still needs ample attention as pigweed resistance has expanded into much of the Cotton Belt, including parts of Texas and possibly in Arizona. Producers will hear successful strategies for managing various insects, i.e., stink bugs in the Southeast, plant bugs in the Mid-South and fleahoppers in the Southwest.
The Steering Committee concurred that making sound crop mix/in-season production decisions under the ongoing threat of extreme weather events calls for a greater focus on climate patterns. That’s at least one reason why producers are being exposed to social media – a rapidly emerging and powerful information source, including timely weather forecasts. Thus, there will be discussions regarding the use of smartphones and other mobile devices for such activities as blogging, tweeting and Facebook – all of which facilitate real time communication between and among producers, consultants, Extension, researchers and agribusiness personnel.
Producers will have the opportunity for valuable two-way exchange among these groups at the 2013 Conferences’ Cotton Consultants Conference, the Cotton Foundation Technical Exhibits and the 11 cotton technical conferences. I encourage this dialogue because it can help ensure the timely availability of innovative production techniques, systems and products. It also can help U.S. cotton producers tailor those tools to their unique operations.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.