Squeezing a profit out of a tight farm economy is the theme of an upcoming North Alabama Crop Tour, scheduled Aug. 25, beginning in Belle Mina.

The tour, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, will include stopovers in Limestone and Madison counties as well as Lincoln County, Tenn.

The tour is designed to address the welter of challenges facing growers in the region — spiking fuel and fertilizer costs, which are complicated by other mounting operating costs, most notably the technology fees producers must pay to raise genetically modified crops.

“Basically, what we want to do is get farmers together with experts so we can share ideas about staying profitable in an increasingly tight market,” says Mark Hall, a regional Extension agent and tour organizer.

“The biggest topic of discussion among farmers right now is fuel and fertilizer expenses,” Hall says. “Alabama farmers really are at a critical point with depressed commodity prices.”

Hall believes the reduced competition resulting from the consolidation of the fertilizer industry into fewer hands is contributing to the problem.

The perennial problem associated with mounting technology fees has become yet another major concern among farmers in recent years, he says. Consequently, many farmers are once again exploring the merits of returning to conventional cotton varieties — an option that carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Unfortunately for farmers, this is only the beginning of their challenges. Within the last few years, soilborne pests known as nematodes, particularly reniform nematodes, have emerged as a serious problem throughout the Tennessee Valley among cotton growers.

Meanwhile, soybean growers increasingly are concerned about the threat soybean rust poses to their continued economic viability as farmers.

All of these issues, Hall says, will be addressed during the tour. Other topics will include choosing the right cotton variety; enhancing corn yields; capitalizing on emerging precision farming technology; and benefiting from strip irrigation.

For more information about the tour, contact Mark Hall at 1-256-532-1578, ext. 22 or e-mail Hall at hallmah@auburn.edu.