After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the National Cotton Council has resumed its Producer Information Exchange (P.I.E.) program — a very valuable educational initiative.
How is the P.I.E. program conducted?
During the program’s 30-year plus existence, the NCC’s Member Services staff, in conjunction with local producer interest organizations, has coordinated the P.I.E. program’s tours and participant selection. Priority is given to selecting participants who have demonstrated a desire to improve their farming operations. This year featured two tours and was the first time that producers from two Cotton Belt regions toured together in another region. In late August, Mid-South and Southeast producers visited Texas’ Lubbock and Lower Rio Grande Valley regions while Western and Southwest producers traveled to North Carolina a week later. The P.I.E. tours now are made possible by BASF Agricultural Solutions through a grant to The Cotton Foundation.
What benefits are offered?
The P.I.E. program has a specific goal of helping U.S. cotton producers maximize production efficiency and improve yields and fiber quality by 1) gaining new perspectives in such fundamental practices as land preparation, planting, fertilization, insect/weed control, irrigation and harvesting; and 2) observing diverse farming practices and the unique ways in which other resourceful producers have adopted new and existing technology. These objectives are more important than ever as new technology continues to accelerate at a rapid pace. However, appropriate adaptation of these tools and techniques to individual farming operations is a must considering today’s challenges producers face that range from higher crop input costs and adverse weather to weed resistance and seed cotton contamination prevention.
P.I.E. participants, though, get a unique educational opportunity to not only see innovative farming practices firsthand but ask questions about those practices face-to-face with their peers. In past tours, for example, Mid-South producer participants implemented new irrigation practices to improve efficiency and water conservation after visiting the Texas High Plains. Some Southeast region producer participants adopted weed resistance strategies after seeing Mid-South farms.
Another valuable program benefit is the sharing of information among the P.I.E. participants within their own Cotton Belt region as they travel together during a tour. Comparing notes with the tour hosts and their fellow travel companions often results in the participants determining what may work or not work in their operation. That interaction continues after a tour with many of the participants and hosts making lifelong friendships and periodically calling each other to get feedback on some new technology, farming practice or new production challenge.
After this year’s two P.I.E. tours, more than 1,200 U.S. cotton producers now have been exposed to innovative production practices in Cotton Belt regions different than their own. I encourage our cotton producers to consider participating in a P.I.E. tour. Involvement is as easy as expressing an interest. Contact your local cotton producer organization or your local NCC Member Service representative.