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Summary

The Georgia cotton industry experiences changes in recent years with regard to variety selection and disease management for new cotton varieties. The Miller County Extension Agent has established programs to determine which cotton varieties will yield the best in our local climate and soil types and how to manage plant pathogens in cotton. This program is part of a regional effort that encompasses variety trials in several counties in Southwest Georgia. The trials help to educate growers in cotton variety decision making as well as how to place and manage certain varieties in environments that will optimize their performance. In addition, the Miller County Extension Agent has collected data in support of the UGA Cotton Team’s effort to generate a multitude of data to inform growers on how to understand growth potential of new varieties as they come to the marketplace, and how to properly manage growth of these new cotton varieties so that yield potential is not inhibited.

Situation

The cotton industry in Georgia has undergone some drastic changes through the years, with regard to variety selection. Releases of new varieties into the market has become much more rapid as the predominant seed companies are now competing for Georgia's market share with regard to technology packages, yield potential, and yield stability. There is also the need to inform growers as to what herbicides to use in regards to cotton technology and do it safely. This came along with varieties tolerant to Dicamba and 24-d which can be very volatile. There can be a lot of money made or lost when it comes to picking and managing the new cotton varieties.

Response

The Miller County Extension Agent provided support/information to growers through numerous avenues. Expanding the information collected from the on-farm variety trials established by the UGA Cotton Team, varietal differences in fruit set and retention as well as overall plant height give us insight as to the management of crop inputs for the individual varieties in the trials. On-Farm Variety Trials established by the cotton team is a program for uniform evaluation of cotton variety performance in on-farm situations at the county level, which expanded the number of environments for evaluation, developed an educational program for younger county agents to work with more experienced agents in addressing this need, and developed a method for which growers could effectively evaluate cotton varieties in their own county. The agent also works with local Cotton Consultants and assists them in their own variety trials to see how the cotton varieties are performing in the county. Variety performance is ultimately evaluated in significantly more replicated environments. The variety testing program was also utilized by the agronomists to evaluate plant growth, fruiting characteristics, and yield distribution as affected by environment, to better explain the effects of environment on yield components or predictability of performance. Plant growth and fruit distribution of new cotton varieties also appears to be different. Modern varieties appear to be much less aggressive, leading the agronomists to conduct trials in order to provide information to growers regarding how to modify PGR management. Results have illustrated to growers that many new varieties require much lower rates of PGRs, and several of these varieties may not need a pre-bloom application of PGRs at all. The agent takes all of the variety data and uses it to assist his growers in picking the right variety for their farms, manage the variety and they get to see the data in the cotton production meeting held early in the year. The Miller County ANR Agent also made sure farmers in Miller County attended the Using Pesticides Wisely trainings so they could apply synthetic auxin herbicides legally and safely in their 2020 cotton crop.

Impact

Miller County growers cotton acreage consists of a multitude of cotton varieties;, growers would lack effective variety performance information if not for the agent’s efforts in regards to cotton variety selection. Our programs now provide this information to growers several different ways which assist them in choosing the best cotton varieties for their operation. These programs have significant economic impact for Miller County’s Cotton growers, by affording them the information to maximize their profitability. The On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program informs growers of the strongest performing cotton varieties to plant, and how to position them into appropriate environments, depending on the most yield-limiting factor in the growers' individual fields., These factors include rainfall, capacity of irrigation systems or soils, and weed management (herbicide technology options) or nematodes. Improper variety selection cost growers upwards of $200 per acre in 2020 depending on the error in variety selection. Worst case scenario in 2020, improper variety selection cost $500 per acre for essentially a no-cost decision (if the grower was committed to planting cotton). These costs are higher than most other agronomic input decisions that a grower could make. For 2020 cotton prices, improper variety selection could cost growers up to an average of $207 per acre. Across Miller County in 2020, improper variety selection may collectively cost growers from $4,000,000 to $7,000,000 which is 30-35 percent of the total revenue expected to be generated in Miller County by cotton in 2020. Proudly, the UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program is expected to drastically reduce these costs, which returns this money to producers and Georgia's economy. Additionally, the extensive evaluation of plant growth could reduce costs to growers, and provides them the growth management information that could prevent them from implementing unnecessary yield-inhibitory growth management strategies. Growers are also more up to date and more cautious when applying their cotton herbicides in 2020. Improper use of synthetic auxin herbicides can cause thousands of dollars in damage to neighboring crops.

State Issue

Plant Production

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: Multi-County
  • County: Miller
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources