By Will McClure
On a beautiful morning that had been predicted for rain, the Jones County Extension Office, led by Steve Estes, held its annual Cotton Field Day at the TCR Bunkhouse last Thursday, featuring speakers that discussed everything from cotton regulation and herbicide options to costs and projected weather patterns. After Estes formally welcomed everyone, Dr. David Drake, an Agronomist from the Extension office in San Angelo, began the meeting with his observations from the 2015 season.
One of the main observations Drake made was how herbicides were “not working” as expected thus far. More rainfall than expected caused most of the herbicides used to be ineffective, owing to the fact that weeds were able to grow more quickly. Another major factor that Drake pointed out is the ability for the weeds to resist and survive an herbicide application after the original population of the same weed was susceptible, noting how no herbicide is really 100% effective all of the time. Drake said that these plants will germinate all season long, with the seeds maturing in about two weeks, and that farmers will need to adopt different methods to combat these weeds without harming their crop. Drake pointed out four steps for farmers to help reduce the weed population in their crops.
“One of those [steps] is to rotate the chemistry with Liberty [a strong herbicide] being one of those. And now we have the variety to have Liberty Tolerant so…pay attention on what was on the crop before,” Drake said.
Dr. Drake continued with his presentation by giving a brief summary of the Harvest Aids program, which continues to treat farmers’ crops and test the effectiveness of different herbicides. The summary showed how the different treatments in four counties affected the crops, with some success with good conditions and even some poor results due to the proper conditions that allowed the weeds to grow even after been sprayed. After Dr. Drake completed his report, Bill Thompson, an Economist also from the Extension office in San Angelo, presented the production costs and projected profitability report to the farmers in attendance.
Thompson stressed that the report would not be positive, but there was still room for improvement over the next year. He noted that global consumption of cotton was down from last year and economic uncertainty in several countries makes projected consumption uncertain at this time. Thompson went on to note how cotton prices have fluctuated throughout the year, settling at $.68, and how farmers can use the data to help in their spending and reduce costs. He noted how net returns are down and what farmers need to produce in order to cover the costs of their crops. He ended his report by reminding the farmers about the Master Marketer program that will be held in Abilene starting in January. Operating since 1996, those enrolling in the program will receive 64 hours of instruction over eight days, spread out from January to the beginning of March. The program will help farmers learn market basics and develop a marketing plan for their crops along with the benefits of crop insurance, fundamentals and how weather, livestock and legal issues are tied together. Once Thompson concluded his report, Estes called for a short break where farmers could stretch their legs and even talk to the speakers with questions that they had.
After returning from break, four representatives from different weed and pest management companies each gave a brief overview of their products and how they can help farmers’ crops. Clint Warren of Bayer Crop Sciences, Carter Smith of NexGen/Americot, Bret Cypert of Dow Agrosciences and Byron Hoover of Monsanto showed how their herbicides and pesticides can help farmers throughout the year. In particular, Warren gave more details about the Liberty herbicide along with tips on how to make it the most effective, employing the S.T.O.P. method. Warren noted that farmers will need to start early and target the weeds that are less than three inches tall. While he said that this may be a daunting task, he did say that by targeting the weeds at such a low height, the weeds will have fewer points of contact, thus allowing for a much lower spray and better effectiveness from the herbicide. Of all of the options presented by the representatives, the consensus among them was that farmers, regardless of the chemical used, would need to start early in the weeds’ life in order to not only remove it, but avoid major damage to their crops.
With the knowledge on these different herbicides, the next question was how the weather might affect treatments. To help answer these questions, KRBC’s Chief Meteorologist Randy Turner presented the weather outlook for the 2015/2016 season. Turner briefly discussed the implications of how El Nino will affect the planting season. He noted that, by looking at past and current trends, the remainder of 2015 will feature below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall, predicting that the first major freeze may occur up to a week earlier than last year, owing to a colder than normal winter season all the way into 2016.
“El Nino is still expected to be pretty strong going into that period resulting in above average precipitation here in our part of the country, specifically in the southwest. Looking through March, April and May, we’ll still have below normal temperatures…as El Nino starts to weaken by that point next year,” Turner said. Even with the prediction of below normal temperatures, after Turner finished his presentation, farmers were able to have a good idea of how the weather could affect them in the future and fielded questions to Turner about his report.
With lunch ready for the farmers, courtesy of Jay Hager, Steve Estes thanked the speakers for their reports and announced that lunch would be served.
Throughout that Thursday morning, farmers were able to see the ups and downs of their crops from last year, but also took away some helpful information that might benefit them for the forthcoming season. Although farmers were not able to go into the field as usual for the field day, it is certain that they were able to take away a lot to consider from the TCR Bunkhouse after another successful Cotton Field Day.