Cotton is a valuable commodity this fall and prices look good for the 2011 season, leading many growers to look for ways to reduce costs to take full advantage of the pricing options for next year’s crop.

Two research projects under way at the two primary cropping research stations in South Carolina are geared to helping cotton farmers, and in some cases peanut and soybean growers, cut some costs without sacrificing valuable yield or quality for the 2011 crop.

Cotton growers in South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina continue to battle ever-increasing numbers of glyphosate and ALS resistant weeds — Palmer amaranth being the major nemesis.

Pre-emerge and at-planting materials are highly dependent on the weather and somewhat dependent on soil type. Once pigweed are up and growing much over 3-4 inches tall there are few options for cotton growers, if their pigweed are resistant to glyphosate.

One way to help manage these weeds, which have been dubbed Super Weed by some, is to plant narrow rows. Whether cotton will perform well in narrow rows in the Southeast is far from a certainty, but Clemson University researchers Mike Jones and Will Henderson are taking a look at a 7.5 inch row spacing system at the PeeDee research station and at the Edisto Agricultural Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C.

Twin-row, narrow spacing in corn and soybeans has shown some significant yield increases and some cost reduction in seed. Along with the high value of cotton expected in 2011, likely will come a high cost of seed, so twin-rows on a narrow spacing is one way to save some money on seed cost.

“The big question is whether we can grow narrow row cotton in the Southeast,” says Jones. There is a lot of interest among farmers, so we put in tests at two locations to look at several different soil types and slightly different growing conditions,” he adds.

“If we can grow cotton on narrow rows or twin-rows it should add some earliness to the crop and give the cotton plants a better chance to close early and shade out pigweed,” Jones adds.

In tests at the Florence research center is single 38-inch row cotton with plant populations of 10,000 to 60,000 per acre. In comparison the Clemson researcher planted two 7.5 inch twin-rows on a 38-inch bed, with a 30-inch spacing between rows.

Similar tests conducted in Arkansas back in 2007 and 2008 showed little difference in yield between 38-inch rows and twin 7.5 inch rows planted on the same 38-inch raised bed configuration. Although this experiment indicated that cotton can be successfully produced with alternative seeding patterns, it should be noted that yields were not increased compared to traditional, single 38-inch rows. Also, the data showed little to no differences in cotton growth and yield across a wide range of seeding rates.