A record number of farmers attended this year's Sunbelt Expo Field Day, getting a sneak preview of what'll be featured at the 25th anniversary of the Sunbelt Expo, to be held Oct. 15-17 in Moultrie, Ga.

This year's field day featured 45 varieties of corn, 40 varieties of cotton, 35 varieties of soybeans, 24 varieties of grain sorghum and seven varieties of peanuts. Growers also got an up-close look at the latest in seed, chemical and irrigation technology.

University of Georgia Extension specialists and researchers shared some of their latest research findings for cotton and peanuts.

Georgia researchers are taking a closer look at a two-and-one skip-row pattern for cotton. “With this pattern, we have 6 feet between two rows,” says Don Shurley, University of Georgia Extension economist. “They've been doing this for years in the Mid-South, and we're looking to see if we can save some money with it in Georgia and improve our profits.”

The two-and-one pattern, says Shurley, can be achieved by spreading out planter units on the planter bar and by spreading out the header units on the cotton picker. By modifying existing equipment, growers will spend less time, fuel and labor in the field, he says.

“The idea behind this is to try and save any input costs throughout the growing season. These would include seed — along with the technology fees — in-furrow insecticides and layby treatments,” says the economist.

This past year, the two-and-one skip-row pattern was tested at five locations throughout Georgia. “In one year of study, we found that the two-and-one pattern works very well in dryland conditions. Under irrigated conditions, we found that four rows and a skip worked better. Under irrigation, the two-and-one pattern left too much land out of production, and it was difficult to compensate for the loss,” says Shurley.

Researchers also are looking at cotton fertilization, particularly nitrogen, says Glen Harris, Extension soil scientist. “Nitrogen is one of the most expensive inputs for cotton, and we're working with several new materials from a number of companies.

“In particular, we're looking at a foliar product from Helena that would help us reduce our soil-applied rates. We're also looking at broadcast urea and some liquid nitrogen with 28 percent urea,” says Harris.

More than 30 University of Georgia research projects are focusing on the various aspects of weed control in cotton, says Stanley Culpepper, Extension weed scientist. “Morningglory and pigweed probably are problems for every cotton producer in Georgia. We've become very dependent on Roundup Ready technology in Georgia, and we're beginning to see more weed shifts,” says Culpepper.

One example of an emerging weed problem, he says, is the dayflower species. “Most growers are familiar with dayflower. One that is becoming a huge problem in some south Georgia counties is tropical spiderwort.

“If you're depending on a Roundup Ready system, you need to know about this weed. Once it grows to about 3 or 4 inches, a gallon of Roundup may stunt it for a few weeks, but it'll continue to grow. It can grow to nearly waist-high. This is just one example of what has occurred because of our great dependence on Roundup Ready technology,” says Culpepper.

Researchers also are looking at new weed control technology. “Liberty Link cotton is similar to Roundup Ready cotton in that you can apply a non-selective herbicide over the top. Liberty herbicide can be applied to Liberty Link cotton, and it'll give us a new tool to plant something other than Roundup Ready cotton.

“Liberty can be applied over Liberty Link cotton throughout bloom, so we're not limited by the stage of the plant as we are with Roundup Ready. Also, Liberty Link is resistant to Liberty herbicide while Roundup Ready is tolerant to Roundup,” says Culpepper.

Cotton insect control research at the Sunbelt Expo is targeting boll-feeding bugs, primarily stink bugs, says Phillip Roberts, Extension entomologist. “This is a group of insect pests that has received more attention in recent years. We're looking at the potential impact these bugs may have on cotton quality,” says Roberts.

In reviewing the cotton insect year in Georgia, Roberts says growers have seen more activity than usual from insect pests. “Tobacco budworms and corn earworms have infested a lot of cotton. We've probably sprayed non-Bt cotton more than we have since 1997,” he says.

The University of Georgia Extension peanut team is using the Expo farm to test new varieties and planting patterns, including a unique triple-row pattern.

“We have six peanut varieties planted on twin rows in conventional-tillage,” says research technician John Paulk. “We're also looking at different tillage systems and covers.”

Turning to varieties, Paulk says Georgia Green is the most popular peanut planted today in Georgia. “Georgia Green is similar in maturity to Florunner, and it has good resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus,” he says.

AgraTech 201, he adds, was released in 1999 and has a similar maturity to Florunner and Georgia Green. It also has good resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus. It has significantly more vine growth than Georgia Green, which is an advantage if you're using peanut hay for cows, says Paulk.

C-99R, he says, was released in 1999 by the University of Florida. It's a long-season runner — 10 to 14 days later than Georgia Green or Florunner. It has good resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus and white mold. It also has some resistance to late leafspot.

Georgia Hi-O/L was released in 1999 by the University of Georgia, says Paulk. It's a large-seeded runner similar to Florunner. It has a high level of resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus and is high oleic for improved oil quality.

Other unreleased varieties with good disease resistance have looked promising in tests at the Expo site, he says. Data on these varieties will be available at winter production meetings.

In planting pattern tests, researchers are comparing single, twin and triple rows, says Paulk. One of the most unusual patterns features six rows on one bed in a triple-row pattern. The two outermost rows are spaced 36 inches apart, leaving approximately 12 inches between the two innermost rows.

The seed cost would appear to be high on such a planting pattern, but researchers have maintained the recommended seeding rate of six seeds per linear foot of row.

One of the advantages of the six rows per bed system is quick canopy closure which helps with weed control. The biggest advantage is a reduction in tomato spotted wilt virus incidence from what is seen in single and twin rows.

While there have been no significant yield increases from six rows per bed, there has been a strong trend to pick up about one point in grade.

Digging is the biggest challenge for the triple-row system. The digging blades must be close together to harvest the crop.