When it comes to on-site crop research and big-time farm shows, the Sunbelt Ag Expo boasts the largest around, where major companies and land-grant university scientists annually conduct research trials on more than 250 plots throughout Expo’s working 600-acre farm site.

“Our working research farm is what sets us apart from any other farm show in the country and really the world,” said Michael Chafin, farm manager of the Sunbelt Ag Expo Darrell Williams Research Farm, named in memory of longtime Expo farm manager Darrell Williams.

“We want this to be a place where research is done to find answers that growers can take back to their farms or communities and share it and improve their bottom lines.”

High-rye cotton

One place where Southeast cotton growers continue to struggle is with their decade-long battle against weeds resistant to well-established herbicides, which threatens conservation-tillage practices throughout the region.

Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension weed specialist, conducts research at the Sunbelt farm site that shows cotton growers can still use conservation-tillage practices and not sacrifice weed control to do it, especially avoiding the problems of their No. 1 weed enemy: Palmer amaranth, or pigweed.

Herbicides continue to be the first line of defense against tough weeds. Most herbicide systems control Palmer by as much as 90 percent, Culpepper said, but Palmer amaranth populations are so high across Georgia that this level of control is not enough, especially in conservation-tillage, Culpepper said. Cotton growers can still use conservation-tillage, but they’ll need plenty of biomass to do.

Producing large cover crops to suppress weeds is nothing new. Culpepper uses a rye cover to show growers how to get Palmer down, but it’s got to be high rye, at least 7 feet tall or better by planting time in the spring. The rye can be rolled down to form a protective mat over the field, one that will stop the sunlight from getting to the Palmer seed that has been there from last year ready to strike. Palmer amaranth seed can’t germinate without sunlight.