The difference between a good cotton grower and a great cotton grower is about three days, says Bill Robertson, National Cotton Council manager, agronomy, soils and physiology and coordinator of Beltwide Cotton Conferences programming.

Robertson says great cotton growers “do the right thing at the right time. This comes from having a better understanding of how management practices impact lint yield, fiber quality and plant growth, as well as how those practices interact with other management practices to help us make better management decisions.”

Cotton producers can start the leap from good to great with the help of recently compiled Best Management Practices for cotton production, which will be presented, along with the unveiling of the new Cotton eXtension Web site (www.extension.org) on Jan. 8, at the 2008 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, in Nashville.

The most unique thing about these cotton BMPs is the way they were developed. Over the last two years, Bayer CropScience sponsored several meetings between researchers, consultants, growers and economists across the Cotton Belt “to discuss and debate the impact of individual management decisions,” noted Keith Vodrazka, with Bayer CropScience.

The result was two documents creating early-season BMPs, “The First 40 Days,” and a soon to be available mid-and-late-season companion, “Fruiting to Finish.”

“These documents provide an excellent foundation and guide for implementing and executing a successful cotton production system. The recommendations have a lot of data behind it and is the best information available,” said LSU AgCenter entomologist Roger Leonard, who participated in the development of the BMPs.

“The multi-disciplinary effort was important because there are a lot of times in which a scientist in one discipline might not realize how a specific production practice he recommends might impact another discipline,” said Leonard.

One example is piggybacking insecticide for thrips control on a weed control application, a common practice in cotton production for reducing costs. However, if the optimum time for spraying thrips does not coincide with the optimum time for spraying weeds, and you try to combine those products into one trip across the field to save money, “you can make a real mess, and ultimately spend more money than if independent applications had been made,” Leonard said.

“The cotton production BMPs were designed as a framework to fit across a range of environments and to be used in concert with recommendations from the local Extension specialists,” Leonard said.

Robertson added that another educational tool, the National Cotton Council's “Cotton Physiology Today,” has been resurrected, after being discontinued several years ago. The newsletter provides in-depth discussion of technical and production issues as the cotton growing season progresses.

According to an NCC news release, “The newsletter contains proven strategies to help growers manage practices ranging from variety selection to harvest timing.”

“The newsletter is evolving to meet the needs of today's decision makers,” said Robertson, who is publication editor. “The content and the delivery method reflect these changes. The content will include in-depth information, and links to other resource materials. The newsletter will be distributed electronically.”

According to Robertson, future issues will address topics from each of the general BMPs identified from “The First 40 Days” and “Fruiting to Finish” in cooperation with state cooperative Extension educational programs.

Robertson said two issues have been distributed in 2007 — “Planting and Replanting Decisions” and “Growth and Development — First 60 Days.”

Robertson also announced a new session designed specifically for consultants in the upcoming Beltwide in Nashville. It will be held from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 8. The conference will be open to anyone who wants to attend.