Industry News: October 2023

Farmers Discuss Cotton At United Nations Headquarters

Cotton growers from the United States and Greece gather outside the United Nations Headquarters in NYC to discuss the future of sustainable agriculture with BASF.

Farmers across the globe are working to meet the demand for sustainably grown cotton. True sustainable sourcing of natural fibers can be complex and challenging, which is why BASF Agricultural Solutions brought together a global delegation of farmers from Europe and the United States to ensure their voices are heard and supported.

The event — United for the Biggest Job on Earth — was held at the United Nations headquarters and featured farmers from Greece and the United States, as well as leadership from BASF.

“We really appreciated the opportunity to attend this event and have our voices heard,” said Texas cotton growers Randy and Pat Smith. “Consumers aren’t aware of the effort growers like us are putting into regenerative agriculture practices, and we want to continue to share our story and gain their support.”

BASF supports cotton production in the United States with the e3 Sustainable Cotton program and in Europe with the Certified Sustainable FiberMax program. Both provide field-level traceability for cotton, as well as a way for farmers to track and measure the environmental and social impacts of their cotton production.

The Trust Protocol Welcomes Macy’s, Inc. As A Member

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol recently announced the membership of leading American retailer Macy’s, Inc. The company represents more than 700 store locations nationwide across three iconic nameplates including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Membership in the program will bolster Macy’s efforts in sourcing cotton sustainability, driving positive social and environmental change within the cotton industry and enhancing transparency throughout its supply chain.

As a reminder, for growers who are enrolled in the Trust Protocol, please upload your 2023 bales by March 1, 2024. For growers who are not yet enrolled in the Trust Protocol be sure to visit TrustUSCotton.org to learn more ahead of the next enrollment period  that opens in January.

Since the Trust Protocol’s launch in 2020, the program has already welcomed more than 1,800 brand, retailer, mill and manufacturer members, including brands and retailers such as, Levi Strauss & Co., Old Navy, Gap, American Eagle Outfitter, Inc. and J.Crew.

Aerial Applicators Seeding Cover Crops Early This Fall

While the farm season is winding down, aerial applicators are still working by seeding cover crops via aircraft. You may continue to hear the hum of an aircraft’s engine until early fall.

One of the conservation practices aerial applicators can assist farmers with is aerially applying cover crop seeds, which are grasses, legumes, small grains and other low-maintenance crops planted specifically to improve soil health and biodiversity.

Cover crops are important to farmlands because they control erosion; nourish, retain and recycle soil nutrients; build organic matter and add hydration to improve soil health; improve water quality; and break disease and insect cycles. The roots of the cover crop improve soil structure by creating passages that allow for increased moisture and aeration. Soil compaction is essentially eliminated when seeding is done with aerial application.

Growing cover crops also increases soil carbon sequestration, which involves removing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Aerial application offers the ability to spread the cover crop seed over the existing cash crop without any disruption to the standing crop. This means the cover crop can already be established when the cash crop is harvested. Using a drill to plant cover crops requires a terrestrial vehicle and for the grower to wait until their cash crop is out of the field. This can be especially true in northern parts of the U.S. where the first frost can interfere with cover crop growth if they are seeded too late. Aerial application can also be used when the soil is wet.

LSU AgCenter Creates DIRT For Irrigation Scheduling

Described as a labor of love by one of its developers, the LSU AgCenter’s new web-based Drought Irrigation Response Tool, or DIRT, will greatly benefit farmers. The DIRT webpage describes the tool as “an integrative platform that assists farmers in making irrigation scheduling decisions during the crop season,” not only during drought years, but every year.

Upon signing into the DIRT portal, users set up a field or single irrigation set using a map and basic inputs like crop type and planting date. From there, the tool estimates soil moisture in the field and alerts the user when irrigation is needed.

One of the principal investigators during the project’s development, AgCenter state Extension irrigation specialist Stacia L. Davis Conger, said the tool was developed while educating farmers on how to install, use and interpret soil moisture sensors for making their scheduling decisions.

Conger took sensor data collected from three AgCenter research station plot studies conducted in 2015 and 2016 as well as multiple on-farm trials collected over the same years and used it to calibrate and validate an irrigation scheduling spreadsheet.

“The idea was that we may not be able to help farmers pay for, install or manage a sensor every year, but we can support the training needed to teach farmers how to use the spreadsheet,” she said. “And it would be free to use as an Extension tool.

“We applied for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events Program to convert the spreadsheet into a web tool,” Conger said.

“This funding allowed us to connect the web tool with a reliable weather data source while we work on a better long-term solution.”

The DIRT webpage can be found at https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/crops/irrigation/dirt.

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