On-farm cotton trials seeking better,
more e;cient production methods
By BRAD HAIRE
Farm Press Editorial Sta;
Selecting the right cotton variety to place in the right field or growing en- vironment is one of the most impor- tant — if not the most important
— decisions a cotton grower makes
each year, along with how to best
regulate the crop’s growth and harvesting.
“With that single decision, a
grower sets in motion the maximum genetic yield potential he can
get,” says Jared Whitaker, University of
Georgia Extension cotton agronomist.
He, along with other UGA Extension specialists and researchers, conducts on-farm
research trials annually at the 600-acre Darrell Williams Research Farm at the Sunbelt
Ag Expo, collecting data to develop Extension recommendations aimed at helping to
answer cotton growers’ questions.
Whitaker says the Expo farm is extremely
valuable to regional cotton production and
to the UGA Extension cotton program. “The
arm a;ords us the chance to do large-plot
research in a real on-farm
situation, with the ability
to manage a larger plot
like it’s a small plot.
“Working at the
Expo also benefits our
programs through name
recognition alone; when we
can say, ‘We did this at Expo,’ it
lends added validity to what we are doing.”
Selecting the proper cotton variety
could be worth — or could cost a grower
— between $86 and $304 per acre, depending on how well he matches a cotton
variety to a particular field, environment or
conditions, says Whitaker, noting that’s why
unbiased cotton variety research is so important to growers.
FAST TRACK FOR VARIE TIES
Since losing the single-most widely planted
cotton variety, Deltapine 555, several years
ago, the fast track pace in which new cotton
varieties appear on the market annually can
be daunting for growers.
In the past, two or three years of unbiased data could be collected on a variety
before solid recommendations were made
for it. That luxury is gone. The average life
span of a cotton variety is becoming shorter
and shorter. Growers have to adapt quickly
and get up to speed on varieties much
faster. With new varieties, what variety does,
where, and how well become major questions for which growers need answers.
UGA has an O;cial Variety Trial program
for cotton varieties, an essential method to
help collect data on how di;erent varieties
perform. Though the OVT work is mostly
small plot, it helps weed out some of the
REAL FARM CONDITIONS
Taking OVT data and asking industry representatives which varieties they consider best
adapted to Georgia, Whitaker carries the
research a large step farther by putting the
varieties on real farms.
“Let’s be honest, there’s not a bunch of
losers being released by companies these
days. But what we do with on-farm trials is
take the best of the best and see how consistent they are.
REAL AND RUGGED TESTING
“We subject them to as real and rugged
testig as possible to see how stable performance will be across Georgia’s many unique
growing regions and environments, particularly given how varied rainfall can be for us
during summer,” Whitaker says.
“By replicating these on-farm variety
trials at many locations in Georgia, we can
almost call it multi-year data, and make
recommendations with sound data behind
Whitaker partners with county Exten-
sion agents to coordinate and implement
the trials in cotton-growing regions of the
state — something that was started seven
years ago. At the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm, he
partners with Jeremy Kichler, UGA Extension
coordinator in Colquitt County, the county in
which the Expo is located.
On the Expo farm, they are looking at 15
to 20 di;erent varieties and putting them
in trials that are replicated across almost a
dozen acres. They collect data on growth,
yield, and quality. Engineered into the Expo
research is also a test on plant growth regulators, investigating cotton’s response to different PGR regimes.
“Making PGR decisions can be di;cult because of the many factors that need to be
considered,” Whitaker says. “Variety plays a
role in making proper PGR decisions. Some
cotton varieties need to be monitored
closely and heavily managed, while others
are sensitive and overuse may negatively
impact growth and development and, ultimately, yield.
“Another project we started at Expo this
year involves going back to our ideas on defoliation and harvest timing. Many newer
varieties are earlier in maturity, and that can
be a problem. Timing looks to be important.
We are pushing these varieties harder today
and that might lead to faster deterioration,”
Kichler also conducts research at the
Expo farm on soybeans, sugarcane aphid
control, and works on bermudagrass forage
trials for local farmers to see firsthand how
di;erent varieties perform.
“The farm crew at Expo stays on top of
IPM needs and other agronomic requirements of the research trials,” he says. “Things
do get busy, and having that help available
locally is a real luxury. And we get good on-farm research for our growers,” Kichler says.
“Serving Georgia’s cotton
producers since 1965”
Visit us in Section WA- 8
of the Sunbelt Expo
October 18-20, 2016
PO Box 1464
Perry, Georgia 31069