Scientists explain research: Sunbelt to showcase new technology

The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition draws scientists, agribusiness, and farmers together in one setting to share ideas.

The annual show, to be held Oct. 17-19 this year in Moultrie, Ga., will showcase the latest planting and management techniques to increase yield and profitability.

Genetically engineered cotton varieties, grain drills with more precise seeding rates, and improved stripper harvesters have led to the emergence of ultra-narrow-row cotton.

"The machinery used to harvest narrow-row cotton has greatly improved the quality of the yield," said Scott Rushing of BASF.

Now, economics is the driving force behind research devoted to this planting method. Lower labor, equipment and management costs combine with a shorter insect control season to make narrow-row cotton a viable option.

Cotton scientists are also taking another look at the skip-row planting pattern, used in days of old, said Steve Brown of the University of Georgia Cotton Team.

"This method of planting two rows every 36 to 38 inches and then skipping 50 to 60 inches has the potential to reduce disease problems and production costs," he said.

Strip-till and conservation-tillage also dominate research in cotton, according to Brown. Other experiments address weed management in standard and ultra-narrow-row cotton and the need for residual herbicides in Roundup Ready and strip-till cotton.

Research is also focusing on the thrips control achieved with various new insecticide seed treatments and on a new insect control method developed at UGA - using precision in-furrow applications of Temik in hill-drop cotton.

"This technique offers a cost savings due to a reduction of pesticide use at planting," Brown said.

In peanuts, scientists are working on improving the ability to plant twin rows in a reduced-tillage situation, said John Baldwin of the University of Georgia Peanut Team. They are also comparing the results of planting peanuts directly into the residue of a wheat cover crop with the results of planting peanuts into the residue of an oat crop.

"We have experimented with wheat before, but this is the first year we are trying oats as a cover crop."

Baldwin said the peanut team will also demonstrate a new computer program, FARM Cats, which is designed to help regulate the costs of production.

"Farmers will be able to see a print-out of their varieties and tillage methods with their costs. They can see each week field-by-field how much they are spending," he said. "At the end of the season, farmers will be able to compile the cost of production and net profit for each field. This will help target problems."

The Sunbelt Expo hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is $5 per person each day. For more information, contact the Expo office at (912) 985-1968, or visit the show's Web page:

Monsanto is responding to renewed criticism of its biotech crops. This time, a Sept. 1 article in the European publication Science Magazine is claiming that the planting of herbicide-tolerant crops is eliminating the weeds birds rely on for food.

In response, Monsanto says the study the article is based upon "ignores the value of weed control to farmers who can lose valuable yields and the ability to effectively grow their crops."

The published report, the company says, is based on a theoretical model that uses basic assumptions that are inconsistent with real agricultural practices. It does not, Monsanto says, take into account the benefits herbicide-tolerant crops may offer birds and other wildlife.

"Agricultural practices that improve the yield per acre actually prevent additional land from coming under cultivation, preserving wildlife habitats," Monsanto says. "Also, herbicide-tolerant crops promote reduced tillage systems which have been proven to improve wildlife habitat for species ranging from birds to soil invertebrates."

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