Cotton Incorporated's 14th Annual EFS System Conference was held in Greenville, S.C. recently. Originally scheduled to coincide with the Universal Standard's Conference in Memphis, that conference was postponed until 2002 to determine if the amount of pepper trash present in the current USDA Universal Cotton Standards is representative of current crop and ginning conditions.

“I want to first address the four segments of our industry that are currently the most seriously affected, the domestic textile industry, the cotton merchant, the cotton cooperatives, and the U.S. cotton producer. The ginning segment, the warehousing segment and the cottonseed segment can prosper from over-production, but long-term, they will also suffer if the other segments remain in a state of crisis.”

The industry also wanted to investigate possible causes and remedies for pepper trash in lint cotton, as well as to determine if a proposal for changing the current standards is warranted. With the postponement of the Standards conference, EFS was moved to Greenville for cost considerations.

While the overall attendance numbers at this year's EFS Conference were slightly lower than in years past (still remaining around 300 which is in the low-end of the expected normal range), the enthusiasm and attention surrounding the latest developments in textile and textile-related technologies were high.

From presentations covering cotton market outlooks and retail buying trends, to first-hand accounts of how EFS software programs continue to assist those utilizing HVI data, most presentations reflected a degree of hope for a stronger cotton industry through the implementation of burgeoning technologies.

Hal Lewis moderated one session covering a topic of current industry concern: Yield and Quality. His panelists included Jane K. Dever, Aventis CropScience, O. Lloyd May, University of Georgia and Eugene C. Frye, Parkdale Mills, Inc.

“Our message was simple,” stated Lewis. “We know our industry has been experiencing a stagnated yield trend and we know, from a breeding perspective, what has to be done — but it's going to take a concerted effort in the right direction,” added Lewis.

Lewis, May and Dever offered valuable insight into what it will take to turn this trend around. “It all starts with increasing the amount of fiber on each seed,” explained Lewis. From a breeder's perspective, May told the audience, “Breeding better yielding varieties can be achieved. The number and weight of fibers on cottonseed is a heritable trait and should respond to selection,” added May. Dever offered insight about Aventis and their ongoing work to commercialize their transgenic FiberMax varieties.

The Tuesday evening keynote speaker was William B. Dunavant, Jr., who painted a dismal picture looking forward in our industry when he stated, “I want to first address the four segments of our industry that are currently the most seriously affected, the domestic textile industry, the cotton merchant, the cotton cooperatives, and the U.S. cotton producer. The ginning segment, the warehousing segment and the cottonseed segment can prosper from over-production, but long-term, they will also suffer if the other segments remain in a state of crisis.”

Cotton Incorporated's William F. Lalor, moderated a panel of speakers that included Thomas A. Kerby, Delta and Pine Land Company, and William R. Meredith, Jr., USDA's Delta Research Center. Focusing on “Cotton Yield and Quality Improvements.” This panel provided their viewpoints about possible causes and solutions to the stagnant yield trend that has been occurring in the U.S.

“We better be sure we understand the cause of these yield and quality problems if we are to avoid the risk of ignoring some important part of the cause, thus dedicating valuable time and expense toward a partial or wrong solution,” commented Lalor.

The conference concluded with an informative panel discussion consisting of industry leaders like G.Stephen Felker, Avondale Mills, Inc.; Jack S. Hamilton, Hollybrook Warehouse, Inc. The gist of their comments centered on “Meeting The Needs of The Grower and Customer.”

The 15th Annual EFS System Conference will be held June 10-12, 2002 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. It will coincide with USDA's Standards Conference on June 12-14, also at the Peabody Hotel.