Sandy Stewart, Bagwell, Ralph D., Chaney, John A.
CHAMBERS – Cotton farmers and farm leaders gathered here last week to learn about the cotton situation and the new technology available to help grow the crop during the Central Louisiana Cotton Information Day.
After experiencing several bad years of low cotton prices, drought, hurricanes and wet field conditions during the harvest season, farmers feel good about the 2003 cotton crop – because they were able to produced a good crop, had good prices and had good weather to harvest their crops.
"This good situation causes farmers to look forward to planting another crop," said LSU AgCenter cotton specialist Dr. Sandy Stewart, "And they are expected to increase their cotton acreage by 10 percent to 15 percent this year."
About 70 farmers from the area gathered for the information day Feb. 5. Hundreds more attended a similar educational event for cotton producers held in Monroe earlier this year.
During the Central Louisiana event, LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Gene Johnson said last year’s high prices were caused primarily by the declining supplies of cotton in storage following the harvest of the 2001 and 2002 crops.
"I feel the cotton prices in the United States were the result of less acreage planted and particularly the large volume of U.S. exports of cotton in China, which has dwindling supplies," Johnson said.
But he said it will be unlikely cotton prices will remain at current levels because of the large 2003 crop and the projection of farmers wishing to plant more cotton in 2004.
The devastation caused by hurricanes and wet weather in 2002 caused industry officials to look for ways to offset the damage caused by hurricanes in the fall.
"One way to offset the impacts of a hurricane or late-season rains is to plant some early-maturing cotton varieties," Stewart said, adding, "And we are beginning to see some better early-season varieties on the market."
These early-season varieties will help producers start harvesting their crops at an earlier date and reduce the exposure to a hurricane or late-season rains, the experts explained.
Other advances available to cotton producers include improved satellite technology, global positioning systems and geographic information systems that help farmers identify locations in the field where the production is high or low. This information helps farmers manage fertilizer, insecticides and growth regulators applied to various areas of their fields so they can obtain the most economical yield.
"Low-producing areas in a field yield less, regardless of the crop," said LSU AgCenter cotton entomologist Dr. Ralph Bagwell, continuing, "And the application of expensive crop production products will do little to help increase production in these low-producing areas."
Now farmers have an option to identify the low-producing areas, write a prescription to stop applying spray inputs and thus reduce the cost of production, experts explained.
"A prescription can be written to automatically turn the application equipment off while applying inputs over the selected low-producing sites," Bagwell said. "Then they can turn the equipment back on as the applicator passes over the higher-producing areas of the field."
The use of this technology helps farmers maintain the production on their farms by using advanced equipment to apply the inputs where they will do the most good – in the higher-producing areas of the field.
"Variable rate technology works," said Bagwell. "It can reduce the cost of production and is more environmentally friendly."
Another successful program to help farmers reduce the application of insecticides is the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, which is operated in the state by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Farmers and others in the cotton business recently approved the renewal of the program with a 90 percent vote.
"The Boll Weevil Eradication Program is the best we have seen for the cotton farmer," said Vernon Mathews, a cotton farmer from Rapides Parish.
Other topics discussed at the forum included the effects of planting dates on cotton yield, nematode management, weed control and a Farm Service Agency update.
Sandy Stewart at (318) 473-6520 or email@example.com
Gene Johnson at (225) 578-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ralph Bagwell at (318) 435-2903 or email@example.com
John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or firstname.lastname@example.org