In spite of years of experience producing cotton crops on their farms in the Southeast, producers participating in the National Cotton Council's Producer Information Exchange (PIE) Tour in Texas last week are going home with new ideas about solving old problems and current farming challenges.
"This tour was overwhelming to me to come out to this part of the country and see how massive the cotton operations are out here. We share many of the same problems in Virginia as they do here in Texas with some differences, of course, but seeing how they handle some of those problems in Texas has been a good experience," says producer Wyatt Cox, who grows cotton near Waverly, Virginia, in the southeast part of the state.
Cox says the PIE tour is a good program and hopes that one day he can send his son on the tour to share and compare ideas on how to produce better, high-yielding cotton.
For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.
"My Dad came on this same tour about 15 years ago and we sat down and talked about what I might be able to learn by participating in the program. While things have changed, and even though we grow the same crops, I found it interesting to see how they approach things a little differently here," said Dean Hutto, Holly Hill, South Carolina, cotton farmer. "I saw a lot of drip irrigation here while I use pivot irrigation on my farm, and in Corpus Christi, especially, the sheer size of everything blew my mind. It [the tour] has been beneficial to me as a producer."
Fourteen growers in all from the Southeast participated in the Texas leg of the PIE Tour, a comprehensive program devised by the National Cotton Council to give cotton producers nationwide an opportunity to share information and production methods with their counterparts in other states and regions.
"The ultimate goal of the tour is to help these farmers learn how others are handling some of the same problems and challenges they face on their own farms with the end result being the ability to produce a better and higher yielding crop while keeping input costs down as much as possible. This is a program that helps the cotton industry get better at what we do best," said National Cotton Council member representative Rick King from Lubbock, who along with member representative Dwight Jackson in Corpus Christi hosted the Texas leg of the tour.
Jackson said the PIE Tour is designed to help cotton producers boost their overall operational efficiency by gaining new perspectives in fundamental practices like land preparation, planting, fertilization, pest control, irrigation and harvesting while discovering and sharing unique ways to utilize new technology and methods.
The annual PIE program involves shuttling growers from four regions, the Southeast, the Mid-South, the Southwest and the Far West, to other regions. This year Mid-South producers traveled to the Far West to review and exchange information on operations in California. Producers in the West paid a visit to the Mid-South to look at farm operations and facilities in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. Producers from Texas traveled to the Southeast, while farmers from the Southeast visited farms and facilities in Texas.
Southeast cotton producers coming to Texas included farmers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia for five days of touring cotton operations and the industries that support cotton production in both the Lubbock and Corpus Christi areas.
Sponsored by Bayer CropScience through a grant to The Cotton Foundation, the Producer Information Exchange tour has exposed more than 1,000 U.S. cotton producers to innovative production practices in regions different than their own. The NCC's Member Services staff, in conjunction with local producer interest organizations, conducts the program, including participant selection.
"When my Bayer CropScience representative asked if I was willing to participate in the tour I thought it would be a good experience. I also have my old college roommate on the tour and that has been an added benefit for me. He farms up the road from me but we never have time to get together because time is so limited when you farm for a living," said Hutto.
26th year for tour
Scott Kohne, market acceptance manager, NAFTA Countries, for Bayer CropScience, says the tour is in its 26th year and in that time it has enabled thousands of cotton producers to travel around the country to share information about how they are meeting challenges to produce high quality cotton.
"The idea is to introduce participants in the program to new techniques and other activities farmers use within their region, an insight into the issues other farmers are dealing with whether it is regulatory concerns, problems specific to environment, or growing issues and solutions that can be shared between growers from various regions around the country," Kohne said. "From my perspective, there is another benefit to these kinds of programs and that is to help develop young leaders for the future, young farmers who can offer new insights and who will help keep the industry growing and improving along the way."
Kohne says he runs into past tour participants from time to time who say they gained a lot of insight and information from the program that they were able to incorporate into their operations.
"Bayer CropScience is very interested in providing solutions to issues and problems and providing a broad integrated approach to farmers and this program is just one part of that commitment. We are very proud of our partnership with the National Cotton Council. We are very focused on cotton, one of our core commodities we invest in because without producer success, we can't be successful, and farming is a true partnership of all those that play a part within the industry," he adds.
Kohne and officials at the National Cotton Council say the Producer Information Exchange program embodies the spirit of industry growth and provides important opportunities to share information that is critical to that growth industry wide.