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Cotton Incorporated survey identifies key issues

• Key findings of the survey show that farmers across the Cotton Belt consider water, pest control and input costs to be major concerns.• Each of the four regions — Southeast, Mid-South, Southwest and Far West — cited water and pest control in the top three “top-of-mind concerns.”

Ron Smith 1, Senior Content Director

July 20, 2011

3 Min Read

A Cotton Incorporated internet grower survey conducted from April 1 through June 3, 2011, has identified key issues that will help guide the organization’s agricultural research program.

Key findings of the survey show that farmers across the Cotton Belt consider water, pest control and input costs to be major concerns. Each of the four regions — Southeast, Mid-South, Southwest and Far West — cited water and pest control in the top three “top-of-mind concerns.”

In the Southwest, not surprisingly, water took the top spot, followed by pest control, market and input costs, and weather. Pest control took the top spot in the Southeast, followed by water, markets, inputs costs and weather. Mid-South growers also cited pest control as their No. 1 top-of-mind concern, with markets, water, input costs and weather following.

In the Far West, pest control again claimed top billing with water and markets in second place and input costs and weather following.

The survey was conducted at the request of the Cotton Incorporated board of directors to provide guidance to the agricultural research programs. Objectives included:

• Ensure the guidance that the grower leadership provides parallels the broader set of grower input;

• Make minor adjustments to agricultural research already underway;

• Assist in making major adjustments in future agricultural research, and;

• Help prioritize new resources.

Approximately 10 percent of U.S. cotton acreage was represented in the survey.

Kater Hake, Cotton Incorporated vice-president for agricultural research, said the top five issues across the board, in order, included: cotton input costs, herbicide resistant weeds, variety selection, cotton’s tolerance to heat and drought and early weed control.

Input costs take center stage

“Cotton input costs blew everything else out of the water,” Hake said. Melissa Bastos, Cotton Incorporated manager of market research, said early data from the 2011 crop indicate production costs are up 30 percent, due in large part to higher energy costs.

Hake said the emphasis on variety selection “was a big surprise. Farmers have a lot of questions about varieties.” Fiber quality was not an issue, he said, “since they don’t get paid for quality. They are interested in growth characteristics and how a variety performs within a specific area.”

Cotton’s ability to tolerate heat and drought was also a surprise in the top five, he said.

The survey also identified key issues by production period, from pre-planting through harvest and ginning and including season-long issues.

Variety selection and herbicide resistant weeds were top pre-plant concerns. At planting issues included variety selection, seedling vigor, seed quality determination, seeding rate and planting date.

At squaring, early weed control and herbicide resistant weeds topped the list of concerns.

By fruit maturation, growers cited monitoring cotton growth, plant growth regulators and weed control. Harvest aid materials and application timing, cottonseed value, monitoring cotton growth, and ginning to preserve fiber were top concerns for harvest and ginning stages.

Season-long issues included cotton input costs, cotton tolerance to heat and drought and cotton fiber quality.

Other issues farmers listed as concerns included inadequate information going to the general public about supporting U.S. cotton farmers and government programs, especially regarding crop insurance and a safety net.

Growers said inputs have increased to the point that initial investment and risk exposure are too great. They also cited the loss of Temik as a severe blow to effective nematode control.

Hake said Cotton Incorporated will use the survey to improve agricultural research efforts. He cited 2012 initiatives which include input cost reduction at the top of the list. Other initiatives include: herbicide resistant weeds and early season weed control; variety selection, and drought and heat tolerance and water management.

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About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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