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Beltwide 2002: How do foreign growers get by at today's prices?

One effect of China's move toward a more market-oriented farm policy is that some Chinese cotton producers have had to accept IOUs in lieu of cash when selling cotton.

Will this uncertainty, plus lower prices and a potential for higher imports under China's expected entry into the World Trade Organization result in declining Chinese cotton acreage in the coming years?

“That's the question of the day,” said Hunter Colby, Globecot, a Nashville, Tenn., cotton news and analysis service covering worldwide cotton production and textiles.

Colby will discuss China's potential acreage shifts and other subjects during a panel discussion, “Perspectives on the Practices of Competitors,” at the Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom, Thursday morning, Jan. 10, during the 2002 Beltwide Cotton Conference, Atlanta.

Colby noted that one reason for the issuance of IOUs is that the Chinese banking system has implemented much stricter criteria for providing the working capital for cotton purchasers.

“It's been difficult for purchasers and for farmers. Domestic prices have fallen a lot, but there is still a margin there where imports are expected (under WTO membership). That will put more price pressure on the Chinese farmers.”

Colby said prices expected to be paid by procurement agencies will barely cover the farmers' cost of production, a situation familiar to U.S. cotton producers.

Will Chinese producers stay with cotton? And how much Bt cotton will they plant? Colby will offer his insight at the 8:40 a.m. session. Other cotton production competitors to be highlighted include India, Brazil, West Africa and Australia.

Nematode panel

It's amazing how something so small can cause so much damage in a cotton field. But make no mistake, nematodes are in every U.S. cotton producing region, sucking the life out of cotton plants and money from farmer pockets.

Bonito, La., cotton producer John Shackelford saw the pest invade a neighbor's field six years ago, prompting him to start preventative measures. Even with such a head start, he couldn't prevent significant yield loss in some fields. “We had it take one of our better fields, making 900 to 1,000 pounds, down to 550 pounds.”

Shackelford will offer a grower's perspective on nematodes during a panel discussion on “Cotton Nematode Management” during the conferences, at 10:30 a.m., also at the Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom.

“Apparently, our soil type around here (silt loam) is real susceptible to reniform nematodes,” Shackelford said. “They have been devastating, not on a cropwide basis, but on certain fields.”

The best control alternative for Shackelford is rotation, but on heavily infested fields, it often takes two years of corn to successfully reduce populations. Shackelford also rotates cotton with peanuts to reduce reniform nematode populations.

Managing nematodes, “is not a very exact science,” Shackelford added. “We had one field in corn for two years, then put it back in cotton and we went right back up to 20,000 (nematodes per pint of soil). The most promising thing is that some cotton varieties are more tolerant than others. But what we need are resistant varieties.”

Before you rotate, know your nematode, say nematologists. That's because, corn, a good rotation partner for reniform nematode, is a host crop for southern root knot nematode.

The latter pest is a big problem on the deep sandy soils of southwest Georgia, said Eddie McGriff, Decatur county Extension agent. McGriff will provide a county agent's perspective on nematodes during the panel discussion.

While the southern root knot and reniform nematodes are different critters, the root knot nematode is no less destructive. McGriff noted that the pest can significantly impact yields in the region. “I've seen irrigated cotton on a 200-acre field that normally yields 1,000 pounds, yield 240 pounds because of nematodes. They can devastate you.”

Growers in the region can rotate to peanuts to bring down populations, but McGriff pointed out that too many years of peanuts can cause problems with the development of peanut root knot nematode and other peanut diseases.

Another advantage of adding peanuts into the rotation is that most of the peanut fields are treated with the fumigant Telone. Growers may add Temik at planting in cotton fields or Temik at planting followed by a sidedress application of Temik.

Other panel members will discuss ideas for using resistant cultivars, crop rotations and integrating management of nematodes, weeds and insects. The use of precision agriculture applications will also be explored.

On Wednesday morning, Jan. 9 a panel discussion will focus on what is being done to improve cotton yield and quality on the farm and through cotton breeding techniques.

“I personally think we have tremendous yield potential in cotton and we have to learn to capitalize on that,” said breeder Dan Krieg, Texas Tech University, who will talk about the genetic potential and varietal differences within various environments; the quality factors that are genetically controlled; and the extent to which environment can alter genetic potential.

New technology is promising, but can you afford it? Another Wednesday morning panel discussion will attempt to shed light on new cotton technologies, but with an eye on costs. The session, “Cultural Practices Impact Costs,” will convene at 10:30 a.m.

The theme of the conference, which will be held Jan. 8-12, is “Technology — the Common Thread.” Host hotels are the Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis (headquarters) and Hilton Atlanta.

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