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Research Benefits Southern Plains Cotton

SHELLEY HEINRICH SLATON, TEXAS

Shelley Heinrich
Slaton, Texas

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Cotton Incorporated leaders and scientists continue to advance the crucial agricultural and environmental research for which they are responsible.

Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Department has taken a steadfast approach to managing ongoing research projects and priorities through these challenging times.

Along with university and U.S. Department of Agriculture research partners, the AERD team at Cotton Incorporated is committed to research that helps cotton growers’ bottom line.

Weed Control

Dr. Gaylon Morgan, director of agriculture and environmental research, joined the Cotton Incorporated staff one year ago and has inspired a renewed emphasis on weed management research. He currently oversees 14 weed management projects, both in season and end of season, across the U.S. Cotton Belt. Projects crucial to producers in the Southern Plains region include:

■ Weed management in Texas and Oklahoma — A statewide collaboration of applied research and outreach to address regional weed issues, including the evaluation of new herbicide tolerant traits, herbicide combinations and slowing herbicide resistance.

■ Precision tillage — An integration of precision technologies to remove weeds in the crop row and between various tillage attachments.

■ Balancing inputs — An evaluation of high and low herbicide input systems to quantify the importance of late-season weeds on weed seed bank accumulation or depletion.

■ Cover crops and impacts on weeds and soil health — Focus on cover crops and how they fit into an integrated weed management system, while simultaneously improving soil health.

■ Palmer amaranth metabolic resistance and mitigation — Identification of potential herbicide resistance by Palmer amaranth to dicamba and S-metolachlor.

“Weed management, traits, herbicides and application costs remain one of the biggest expenses that our growers face in West Texas and across the Cotton Belt,” Morgan says. “More herbicide resistance is occurring each year with many weeds resistant to multiple different herbicides. Increased occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds leads to fewer and more expensive weed management options.

“We have to continue to identify alternative methods that complement our herbicides and slow the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. Similar weeds affect all crops in West Texas, and we are working to develop a multi-commodity approach to combating herbicide resistance.”

Seed Quality

Texas A&M RACE research signCotton Incorporated’s AERD team also is investing in research addressing seed quality. Dr. Murilo Maeda, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension research collaborator, is working on project that includes seed quality surveys from 15 locations across the Cotton Belt. This Cotton Incorporated-funded research project will comprise field and laboratory analysis.

While this research is vital to all cotton producers, it is especially relevant to those in the Southern Plains, where extreme weather often affects soil temperatures, cotton seed emergence and plant survival rate. For example, a cold snap can affect root development, stand uniformity and ultimately potential yield and profitability.

“Seed quality is complex,” Maeda says. “From the time a field destined for seed production gets planted, many external biotic and abiotic factors will play a role in determining the final product quality. After harvest, the seed goes through many steps, from ginning and delinting to treating and bagging, before it ends up in a grower’s field. That being said, the seed is where it all starts.

“Given challenging weather conditions many have to deal with during planting, seed quality must be adequate for growers to succeed. Thanks to the support from Cotton Incorporated, research and Extension personnel from universities across the southern United States will have the opportunity to learn more about physical and chemical seed characteristics that will help improve our overall understanding of seed quality.

“At the end of the day, our collective objective is to survey cotton seed quality and generate information that will keep our industry moving in the right direction.”

U.S. cotton producers are strong, resilient, careful and ready to produce a crop. The Cotton Research and Promotion program will continue to work and fund research during these challenging times to ensure the cotton industry can also remain strong and resilient.

Shelley Heinrich is the Cotton Board Southern Plains regional communication manager. Email her at sheinrich@cottonboard.org.