By Tommy Horton
In the summer months, it’s always nice to travel to different locations in the Cotton Belt to see how the crop is progressing. But, for staying updated, you can’t underestimate the importance of attending field days sponsored by various ag companies.
I wish I had my own private jet so that I could have traveled to all of the field days conducted from California to the Carolinas this summer, but I’ll keep dreaming about that option. Here are some highlights of the ones that I did attend here in the Mid-South. Thanks to all of the companies who sponsored these events. They were informative and showcased how ag companies are dedicated to keeping farmers and the media informed.
ESN Smart Nitrogen Field Day in Stoneville, Miss.
The message from this event was quite simple. Effective nitrogen applications can have a significant impact on cotton, corn, canola, wheat, potatoes and forage crops. ESN uses a flexible polymer coating to encapsulate the N granule. The coating protects the N from loss mechanisms, releasing it when the crop needs it the most. The nitrogen can be applied in both the spring and fall, allowing the farmer to apply fertilizer for his specific schedule.
What made this event impressive was the independent research conducted by Wayne Ebelhar and Bobby Golden at Mississippi State University’s Delta Research & Extension Center. That research supported much of the ESN information that was presented.
For more information, interested parties can go to SmartNitrogen.com
Dow AgroSciences Media Event in Leland, Miss.
Of all the things that I’ll remember about this event, it was the thoughtfulness of the Dow folks for constructing an air-conditioned tent at the research farm where this field day was conducted. Thank you, Dow. That made for a very comfortable setting to hear panel discussions and the latest information about Enlist, Transform, PhytoGen and other Dow products.
The takeaway message (from a cotton perspective) is that Enlist will become another important tool for cotton producers who are battling resistant pigweed in their fields. Farmers such as Trey Koger of Mississippi say this technology is cutting down on the number of spray applications needed to control pigweed, and it is saving money. It was also encouraging to hear Trey say that this will encourage more farmers to stay in cotton despite the current low prices. Another significant breakthrough is that nobody reported any drift problems when using Enlist.
The media also heard more updates about Transform, the Dow insecticide that continues to prove effective against various cotton insects such as plant bugs and aphids.
We concluded by walking through several research trials that showed how PhytoGen varieties are performing. For many years, PhytoGen 499 has been the top variety throughout the Belt, but Dow has high hopes for new varieties such as PytoGen 333 and PhytoGen 412. Some of the early results are bringing staple grades in the 40 to 42 range. That is approaching Pima-like quality.
Our thanks to Dow and Bader-Rutter ad agency for providing such an abundance of information.
Monsanto/Deltapine field day in Scott, Miss.
After an enjoyable dinner at Crawdad’s restaurant in Merrigold, Miss., the media were treated the next day to an informative update on how the new RR Xtend Flex technology is looking in research trials at the Monsanto research station in Scott, Miss. The tour wasn’t limited to cotton. We saw some interesting research plots in soybeans and corn.
Our host was Jay Mahaffey, manager of the Monsanto Learning Center in Scott, Miss. The main message we heard was that the Xtend technology is a system approach to growing a crop. All components of the system must work together – including wind speed, nozzle and spraying specifics.
I have attended other Monsanto/Deltaine events in the past year that have given specifics about the RR Xtend Flex system, but I always learn something new every time I attend one of these field days.
The most memorable information that I took away from this event was what Mahaffey told me in our interview session. This technology will help the grower in many ways as he approaches next year’s crop season. The varieties will perform, and the cost of producing a cotton crop will be reduced because of how the technology can control resistant pigweed.
One feature of the Xtend Flex technology is the option of a “universal burndown followed by a good rate of dicamba over the top or an early shot of glufosinate.” I can recall West Tennessee producer Jason Luckey saying that to me earlier in the summer, and I continue to hear it repeated in other places. Having three modes of action to take care of pigweed escapes is a strategy that works.
BASF field day at Memphis Agricenter
It’s been a while since I had attended a BASF event, so this was a chance to receive an update on many fronts in the company’s portfolio of products. Mainly, it was an opportunity to hear more details about the the new herbicide Engenia and the Grow Smart initiative.
Engenia is still awaiting regulatory approval from EPA, but it is hoped that it will receive the green light during the fourth quarter of 2015 and be ready for the 2016 crop season. In looking at the herbicide’s performance in conjunction with overlapping residual applications, the results were positive in controlling resistant pigweed. And seeing is believing as we walked through research plots and saw how Engenia works with timely residuals. The cotton was clean in every row where Engenia and the residuals were applied.
We also learned that Engenia’s effectiveness depends on a strict on-target application approach. This includes areas such as nozzle, boom height, wind speed/direction, weather, application volume, sprayer speed, tankmix partners, ammonium additives, adjuvants, sprayer cleanout and weed size.
When you look at the meticulous nature of this approach, you can see why education is so important for the farmer.
As for the Grow Smart program, it is a combination of best management practices in agronomy, stewardship and effective communication between the farmer, Extension specialist, consultant and BASF representative. During a panel discussion at the Memphis Agricenter, we heard from Randy Dowdy, a Georgia farmer who has a diverse crop mix in his operation. He said the communication of ideas and information has made a difference on his farm, and the results have been encouraging. He has set records, for example, in corn yields and is an advocate for implementing good science.
By the time you read this report around Sept. 1, there will still be a few more field days to attend, such as the Missouri Cotton Field Day on Sept. 2 in Portageville, Mo. It is a challenge for farmers and consultants to be able to keep up with technology in today’s changing ag environment. But that is what sets U.S. agriculture apart from its competitors in the world. Our farmers have always been at the forefront when it comes to implementing technology on the turnrow. Based on what I’ve seen during the past three months, they have a chance to push the envelope and overcome just about any obstacle out there.
Here’s hoping that everyone in the ag community can continue to learn more about what was showcased at field days this past summer. The tools are there. Now it’s time to implement them into the farming operation.