Our Watermelon Production Conference was held on December 1, 2010 which is a departure from the past. The earlier date was due to conflicts with other meetings and from survey results.
Much of the thrust of our meetings has been the training for the private pesticide applicator license. While we only had a few people needing to renew in Dunklin and Pemiscot Counties, I made a presentation in Stoddard County and one at the Delta Center. Since we only have these participants every five years, several extension specialists have added additional materials to present at these meetings. I have a short presentation called Back to Basics which includes information on soil testing for production and environmental concerns, water testing for pesticide performance, soil health, drainage, and variety selection. The feedback from participants so far has been positive. The PowerPoint presentations have worked out better than the videos.
Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to give a presentation on cotton physiology at the Delta Center Scouting School. This has been a valuable program being offered, but it had not been taught in six years. So we were pleased to see it come back this year. Dr. Jason Weirich, MU weed scientist, and Dr. Kelly Tindall, MU entomologist have been the leaders for this effort.
Initially, it was hoped that the class size would be 20-25; but there were 57 who paid to attend. The night that I was there, 51 participants were present. We had a 3 hour time slot and we used every minute of it. This year, my co-presenter was Andrea Jones, who leads the cotton variety project and works in several research efforts at the Delta Center. I discussed cotton physiology including the factors that affect seedling health, heat units, plant mapping techniques, the cotton development curve, the fruiting habits of the cotton plant, and the ?money tree? that shows the value of the bolls relative to where they are located on the plant, and fiber quality. All of this information ties in to successful management of the cotton crop. Andrea gave a demonstration of the final plant mapping with plants that were collected this fall. She also showed how to determine the value of the lint by showing the discounts and premiums for cotton fiber. Sticky cotton and high micronaire cotton are the factors that most affect the grade and value of the cotton.
On Tuesday of this week, we held our Missouri Cotton Production and Outlook Conference at the Delta Center. We opened the program with the material presented by industry representatives in talking about their products that will be available this season. They presented variety information and information related to pesticides and fertilizer products. This has been an important part of our program for the past three years and the evaluations showed that there is interest in continuing this tradition.
There were presentations of the use of controlled release fertilizers, insect control, palmer pigweed control, cotton marketing, and a presentation about energy savings. As our extension and research group have concluded, we will continue to hold cotton meetings as long as there is interest and sponsors.
As one might expect, there is considerable interest in the resistant palmer pigweed and also in cotton marketing. Since cotton went over $1 per pound, there is an interest in growing more cotton. The National Cotton Council?s planting intentions showed about a 12.4 percent increase in acreage for Missouri. The higher prices have certainly had an impact on planting decisions. There is a battle for acres for most of our crops that we grow in SE Missouri including cotton, corn, and soybeans. Due to the high demand for these commodities, both the stocks on hand are declining in the U.S. and in the world.
Weather has had an impact on the total crop produced; there have been droughts in China and the state of Texas our largest cotton producing state. The flooding in Australia will reduce the total yields, but there are indications that some of the cotton will recover. Prior to the floods, there was a projection for a record crop in Australia.
This past week, I looked at the U.S. Drought Monitor and saw that our drought conditions have decreased in Southeast Missouri. Our cotton area no longer has the extreme drought category. We are now only abnormally dry to severe drought. As I had mentioned a few months ago, the projection by the National Weather Service was for warmer temperatures and wetter conditions through March.
As soon as weather conditions allow, crop producers will begin field preparations. Corn planning is not far off. Nitrogen fertilizer will soon be applied to wheat. So we are getting closer to warmer conditions and more producer field activity. It will be good to see crops in the field again soon.
University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all,
Dr. Michael R. Milam is an agronomy specialist and county program director with University of Missouri Extension in Dunklin County.