“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.