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• As seed companies push to provide new and improved varieties to growers on a more timely basis, having day-to-day data on which to base release of one variety, in a particular part of the country, versus another variety could be a major breakthrough in seed technology.
USDA RESEARCHER Phil Bauer says new soil moisture monitoring system may help cotton growers better select varieties.
Getting new varieties quickly
Programs like Monsanto’s Deltapine New Product Evaluators have had much success in testing new cotton varieties with growers and getting top-producing varieties quickly into the marketplace.
With real time data to support their system of 200 or so growers, testing 20-acre fields, the company could be much more precise in selecting varieties for particular areas of the country.
The struggle with water management that has been ongoing in the Southwest and Midwest regions of the country for many years is almost sure to move into other production areas, including the Southeast. Precise management of water resources is a more long-term goal of the South Carolina test, Bauer says.
“We hope to develop these sensors to help growers better manage irrigation. The practical application of this technology is far-ranging. The current system requires a lot of user inputs, but it’s manageable.”
Pointing to a field of cotton at the Pee Dee Research Center, Bauer says, “We could pull this field up on a computer screen, and if the color is blue, it doesn’t need water; if it’s yellow, get ready to water; and if it’s red water now — no matter what the weather forecast says.”
The test site in Florence, S.C., is part of a nationwide study being conducted by Cotton Incorporated and various research partners.
Sensors in the South Carolina study are sending back information from 3, 6, 12 and 24-inch depths every 20 to 30 minutes. Using cell phone technology, each probe radios data from four sensors through a central system, which calls it in every 20 to 30 minutes.
The company has offices in foreign countries, so during nighttime hours in the U.S. they can analyze data and report back, if they find sensors not working or any abnormality in the programs.
This year cotton growers in the Southeast have struggled to manage target spot or corynespora leaf spot, and each year different diseases, insects and weeds challenge cotton yield and quality potential.
However, one of the most continuous challenges to cotton production is sustaining proper moisture for a particular cultivar.
The series of tests, using the PureSense system like the one in Florence, S.C., includes projects in Lubbock, Texas; Marianna, Ark.; and Maricopa, Ariz.
Including the PureSense sensors occurred this year, says Ed Barnes, director of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated.