Thursday, June 13, 2024

Localized Research Keeps Cotton In Context

Monty BainAll U.S. Upland cotton producers pay an assessment to The Cotton Board. In turn, it contracts with Cotton Incorporated to conduct research and promotion to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton.

Many cotton producers are aware of the national and regional research projects conducted by Cotton Incorporated but may be unaware that 7.5% of cotton assessments are dedicated to state-specific research. These funds are divided among the cotton-producing states according to production levels.

The State Support Program is designed to address the specific needs of individual states.

A grower-led committee within each state sets priorities, requests proposals from local research institutions and allocates its share of SSP funds. In my territory — the Southeast cotton-growing region — all six states have certified producer organizations that set up the SSP committee meetings.
Cotton growers from each state hear researchers from land-grant universities and Extension agencies talk about specific projects and emerging localized concerns.

The SSP committee makes decisions about which projects are the most important for its state and allocates funding accordingly.

Teamwork Gets Results

Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated, says, “Each cotton state has different combinations of soils, weather, pests and rotations. As a result, growers want research focused on their conditions and their fields. The structure of the Cotton Research and Promotion Program guarantees this connection to local conditions. Roughly 160 growers on The Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated from every cotton-producing state volunteer their time to guide the research program.”

Once projects have been identified by the state committee, they are managed by Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Division’s staff. The division team comprises seven research directors, with different areas of expertise and specialties, who support a network of more than 300 public sector scientists. The division team evaluates the specific concerns of each state and then makes research recommendations. Cotton Incorporated is currently managing more than 400 research projects.

cotton inc researchIn some cases, several states may be trying to address the same issue. When that happens, the team will use core-budget, not SSP funds, to address the national or regional-level project. Across the Cotton Belt, there is concern surrounding herbicide-resistant weeds, producer profitability and sustainability. Cotton Incorporated has numerous research projects addressing these widespread issues.

Cotton Incorporated research staff and Drs. Ed Barnes and Don Jones agree yield and quality are priorities in the Southeast, reflected by strong grower support for on-farm variety trials. “Growers understand that yield increase is what is keeping them in business,” Barnes says. Jones adds, “Farmers in the Southeast are also concerned about the potential damage from cotton leaf roll dwarf virus.”

Southeast State Projects

Below are a few of the major issues being addressed in the Southeast through SSP-funding research.

■ Alabama – Profitable grower values for fiber and cottonseed products.

■ Florida – Yield, fiber value and disease concerns.

■ Georgia – Weed resistance management, cost of production and cottonseed value.

■ South Carolina – Soil health and nutrient recommendations, particularly potassium.

■ North Carolina – Planting seed quality, control of tarnished plant bug and Bt-resistant bollworms.

■ Virginia – Deer damage to cotton and bear damage to cotton modules.

I encourage Southeast cotton producers who are interested in serving on your state’s SSP committee, or who are just interested in knowing more about localized research, to contact me.

I am happy to put you in touch with the researchers and certified producer organizations in your state. Because the SSP closely follows the mission of Cotton Incorporated, I know it is something we can all get behind.

Monty Bain is The Cotton Board’s regional communication manager for the Southeast. Email

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