Southeast Cotton Conference set Twenty-two inches of snow closed down last year's Southeast Cotton Conference, leaving many of you stranded in Raleigh for several days. That's enough to make you think twice before heading to Raleigh and the North Carolina State Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Jan. 23. After taking a look at the following speaker lineup, you might check your snow tires, but I'm sure you'll start making plans to be in the audience for the 2001 Southeast Cotton Conference.

Come early to visit with exhibitors and have a doughnut, coffee and juice, compliments of Monsanto. Doors open for registration and visiting at 8 a.m. John Cooper and Mike Quinn will hold the Carolinas Cotton Growers Cooperative meeting from 8:45 to 9:15. This is your opportunity to learn more about the cotton marketing opportunities this grower-owned cooperative offers its members. John or Mike will also offer their thoughts on how cotton prices will develop through the coming months.

Contamination report One of the biggest marketing challenges facing eastern cotton growers is lint contamination. Some mills have greatly reduced purchases from the east coast because of a perception of high levels of contamination from WalMart bags, bale covers and tiedowns and other foreign matter. Vern Tyson, director of cotton operations for National Textiles in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will tell you exactly what his and other textile companies are finding in the lint and how much this contamination is costing them.

Rick Holder, president of Harvey Gin and Cotton Company in Kinston will offer a ginner and grower's perspective. This is your chance to question both and learn how you can make sure your cotton meets the demanding specifications current markets are imposing.

One of the most popular features of every Southeast Cotton Conference is presentations by individual cotton growers. This year we have two outstanding growers on the program. Each takes a different approach to cotton production and marketing. Both are recognized as cautious innovators who have learned to get the most out of new and emerging technologies.

Grower views Thomas Waller from Trenton, N.C., is this year's High Cotton winner from the Southeast. His cotton crop, both the new FiberMax and Roundup Ready and Bollgard, are 100 percent no-till. Waller will discuss his approach to no-till cotton, including variety selection, weed management with a variety of herbicides selected for the specific weeds in each field, least-cost no-till equipment, why he doesn't rip, and other production details. He can also tell you how he has taken advantage of several cost-share programs that have further reduced the cost of growing no-till cotton.

This innovative farmer is prepared to explain how he develops a production budget well before he begins planting and how he uses that budget to guide his marketing plan. He is a member of the newly formed FiberMax Cotton Growers Association that is offering identity preserved, extra high quality cotton directly to specific mills. Waller also sells through the Jones County Gin marketing pool. He further stretches his marketing opportunities by using options and futures.

Ray Davis from Courtland, Va., is another innovator. He strip-tills most of his cotton. He also has good reasons for conventionally planting some of his acreage. Davis has made a number of changes to his strip-till rig. He hill drops seed and has learned that planting very deep can pay off during a dry planting season.

Challenges faced Some strip-till and conventional growers have run into problems when wet fields kept them from spraying on time. Davis has faced the same challenges, but he has devised a solution. He hits the fields with only half a tank of herbicide or insecticide, significantly lightening the load and making it possible to get into his fields much faster after a rain. He'll tell you how the more timely insecticide and herbicide applications have paid off.

Davis will also tell you how Bt cotton is paying off for him, even in southeastern Virginia. His experiences show how sub-threshold insect control pays.

Steve Hodges, soil scientist, North Carolina State University, will tell you how to use petiole analysis to predict nitrogen deficiencies well before these deficiencies are obvious to the eye. Hodges has years of experience in taking tissue samples, interpreting the information the tests provide, and in properly timing in-season nitrogen applications.

Just before a barbeque lunch, sponsored by John Deere, North Carolina State University Entomologist John Van Duyn will lay out the details of new refugia requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency for Bt cotton. Some growers are apparently unaware of how critical it is for every grower who plants insect resistant cotton to carefully plan and manage the specific acres of non-resistant cotton required in the refugia. Van Duyn will also help us better understand how to use existing technology to head off insect resistance to insecticides and possibly insect resistant cotton.

While bollworms and budworms continue to challenge Southeastern cotton growers, other insects, once considered minor, are taking more of a toll on cotton profits. Virginia Tech Entomologist Ames Herbert has detailed advice on preventing and controlling both thrips and aphids in conventional and conservation-tilled cotton. Both stinkbugs and plantbugs have only recently begun to cause significant economic losses in Southeastern cotton fields. Mitchell Roof, an entomologist from Clemson University, will explain when and how to scout for these often illusive pests, and more importantly, how to control them in both Bt and conventional cotton.

Keith Edmisten, Extension cotton specialist, North Carolina State University, brings a list of cotton management tips to this year's conference. How should you evaluate a new cotton variety? Which new varieties are offering the highest profit potential? Do hill drop and skip row planting techniques offer increased profit potential? If so, which row patterns work best and how far apart should you spread hill dropped seed? Edmisten will also bring you up to date on the latest cotton weed management recommendations.

Following the afternoon break, sponsored by Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Company, (Stoneville will also sponsor the morning break) Clemson Extension Cotton Specialist Mike Jones will share the results of two years of research into the emerging problem of seed rot across the Southeast. Jim Maitland, Virginia Tech Extension cotton specialist will review the latest weed management recommendations from Weed Scientist Charles Swann's research. He will also offer observations on how growers should evaluate and select the most productive cotton varieties for their farms.

To wrap up the conference, we have an outstanding panel of farmers, ginners and cotton marketing specialists to help growers evaluate several innovative cotton marketing opportunities.

Ben Scarborough, a farmer from near Kinston, N.C., is a member of the newly formed FiberMax Cotton Growers Association. Scarborough has at least two years of experience with these new varieties of cotton that are said to produce extremely high quality fibers. He will share his production experiences and tell you how the mills are accepting this high quality cotton. Are there significant premiums or not?

John Cooper, manager of the Carolinas Cotton Growers Cooperative will explain the ins and outs of using a seasonal pool.

Johnny Parker, agronomist, and Tom Alphin, president of Commonwealth Gin in Wakefield, Va., offer insights into gin direct sales opportunities.

During the day you will have an opportunity to visit with hundreds of fellow cotton growers as well as consultants, industry, department of agriculture and university specialists. More than 35 exhibitors will be on hand to offer details on the equipment and products you need to produce high quality, profitable cotton.

Once again, the Carolinas Cotton Growers Cooperative is providing a 500 pound bale of cotton. Some lucky grower's name will be drawn during the afternoon. This grower will have the option of taking the bale of cotton or receiving a check for the value of the cotton on the spot.

This year's program will offer both Certified Crop Advisor credits as well as Pesticide Continuing Certification credits.

If you have not yet registered for this year's Southeast Cotton Conference, fill out the registration form in this issue of Southeast Farm Press. If you have questions, call 1-800-253-3160 and ask for Pat Stoltman.