The Wiregrass Cotton Expo, one of the Deep South’s most comprehensive annual cotton meetings, is slated for Feb. 15 at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan, Ala.
The meeting, in its 14th year, serves cotton producers in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
William Birdsong, a cotton agronomist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says that at its core the Expo is an opportunity for growers to think strategically about all facets of their cotton program, from variety selection and planting to getting a handle on pest and weed problems.
“This is the time of year when producers are working out their plans for the upcoming season, and they’ve got to have the best information available to make informed decisions,” Birdsong says.
“The annual Wiregrass Expo was designed for and functions with just that concern in mind,” he says.
At the top of the list is variety selection.
“Producers want to stay on the cutting edge of variety selection, because crop genetics are so essential to their success.”
As with previous expos, seed company representatives will be on hand to answer questions and to book purchases for the 2013 season, Birdsong says.
To complement these efforts, Extension economist Max Runge will discuss 2013 cropping decision-making, an especially important consideration for Wiregrass growers.
A major focus of Runge’s remarks will be on how these decisions should be made in light of the near record yields in 2012, which, ironically, followed record drought in 2011.
The growing problem associated with resistant pigweed, an especially serious problem in the Wiregrass region, is also another issue that will be addressed at this year’s expo.
Early plan a must
“It’s imperative for growers that they have a plan in place early in the year,” Birdsong says, “because the last few years of experience have taught them they have got to be consistently proactive with their weed control.”
Following remarks on cotton diseases by Extension plant pathologist Austin Hagan, crop physiologist Dale Monk will discuss control options for resistant pigweed.
Along with herbicide resistance, crop management based on climate forecasting is another item that has come to occupy a prominent part of the expo agenda in recent years.
David Zeirden of the Florida Climate Center will offer some advice about the 2013 weather patterns that are projected to occur.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job educating farmers in response to climate information,” Birdsong says. “La Niña and El Niño used to be foreign terms to Wiregress producers, but now its recognized terminology.
“While producers haven’t fully grasped all the principles, they are well on their way.”
While climate forecasting is no panacea, it can provide them with a vague picture of how weather patterns are likely to play out — and this already has been of considerable help to some growers, according to Birdsong.
He cites as one notable success a grower who based all his 2011 planting decisions on climate predictions.
“We were in a La Niña cycle, when moisture is typically at a premium at planting time,” Birdsong says. “One grower, after buying a new planter, ran it day and night to profit from the moisture that was available for planting at the time.”
While the following months turned out to be extremely dry, the grower benefited from the early spring planting. The ample summer rains provided additional benefits, Birdsong says.
“Those summer rains really made the crop,” he recalls, “and as an added benefit, the early spring planting enabled him to harvest the crop just as the dry fall weather set in, which is just what you want to do.”
Later in the morning, representatives from the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service will also provide updates on current federal programs.
Updates will also be provided by representatives from Cotton Incorporated and the Alabama Cotton Commission.
Hank Reichle, vice-president of Export Sales for Staplcotn Marketing, will be the featured luncheon speaker.
Following Reichle’s remarks, financial adviser Scott Parsons will offer an introduction to estate planning.
For more information about the expo, contact Birdsong at 334-693-3800.