What is in this article?:
• No other Cotton Belt state has had to deal with the consortium of pests that has plagued Arizona: boll weevil, pink bollworm, whitefly and assorted other plant bugs, nematodes and lepidopterous pests…often one or more in the same year.
• Bruce Heiden has not only survived the challenges, but has been a state and national industry leader, bringing growers together to cope with problems such as destructive pests.
Key to the program
Mexico has been key to the program, says Art. “They have not only agreed to participate in the eradication program, they have pushed it. I think they were ready for it before we were.”
There have been two key elements to banishing PBW: one was convincing the EPA to allow 100 percent Bt cotton with no refuges, and a provision to economically include non-Bt cotton growers in the program. Growers who don’t plant biotech cotton pay the same per acre price as the Bt technology fee ($32 per acre); in return, the program supplies pheromone ropes as a confusion technique and applies pesticide when necessary.
New technology like Bt cotton and IGRs will help Arizona cotton growers stay in business, the Heidens believe.
The farm already has two GPS tractor guidance systems used for listing out and cultivating. They have increased efficiency 10 percent to 15 percent for those field operations, Art says.
The same technology will be utilized in a study with UA cotton specialist Randy Norton, using variable rate technology to reduce the cost of pre-plant Telone for root-knot nematode control. Variable rates will be based on soil types.
“We hope this work will tell us where the nematodes are and where they aren’t, so we can vary the rate and not be forced to blanket the whole field,” Art says, who notes that per acre cost of the material has increased from $50 to $77.
“Work like Randy is doing is vitally important to us. Cotton has a future in Arizona, and technology will be a major part of that future — but, it will cost money.
“The cost of water in many areas is very high, and other input costs keep going up. We saw $1 cotton in 2008 and are seeing it again now, but overall the price has been low the past three or four years. It hasn’t been high enough to sustain cotton in Arizona,” Bruce says.
“How long will it stay at $1 is the big question,” says Art. “We’ve seen the market go crazy this year because of the limited supply of cotton in the world. The cure for limited cotton is $1 cotton, but everyone in the world will be planting cotton now.
“I feel good about the tools we have now to grow cotton. The ongoing issue is their cost.”