The Beltwide Cotton Conferences - A Forward-Looking Forum

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Beltwide Cotton Conference 2013 San Antonio

The 2013 Beltwide Cotton Conferences will be held Jan. 7-10 in San Antonio, Texas. The conference is coordinated by the National Cotton Council (NCC), and in this post, guest blogger Bill Robertson of the NCC shares some background on the Beltwide and its significance to the cotton industry. If you’re at the conference, come visit Bayer CropScience at Booth 101.

For 60-plus years, the National Cotton Council (NCC) has coordinated the Beltwide Cotton Conferences -- a world-class forum that fosters research and facilitates technology transfer to U.S. cotton producers with the aim of helping them increase their overall efficiency and profitability.

The conferences’ humble beginning can be traced to 1935 when the Cotton Disease Council met with what is now the Association of Southern Agricultural Scientists. A major transformation occurred in 1947 when insect control and defoliation research conferences joined in and the first Beltwide Cotton Mechanization Conference was held. The latter was the result of a NCC resolution supporting programs to achieve complete mechanization of cotton production.

Through the years, other disciplines, from agronomy to quality measurements, joined. Today, 11 technical conferences are held along with the Beltwide’s anchor - the Cotton Production Conference. That conference includes a general session as well as two days of workshops and special seminars that zero in on topics ranging from insect management to irrigation.

The conferences pack in more than 600 reports covering the latest developments from the lab and practical applications in the field, the gin and the textile mill. The reports are made available via CD and on the NCC’s web site – which also contains information about the 2013 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, held this year on January 7-10 at the Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk hotels in San Antonio, Texas. Producers can glean a wealth of information from this forum.

Kenneth Hood, a Mississippi producer/ginner and chairman of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences Steering Committee, has stated that the Beltwide helps him keep up with the acceleration in technology and innovative farming practices and receive updates in such key areas as federal farm program provisions and crop marketing advice. He said the hands-on workshops are particularly helpful in getting answers to questions at stations manned by researchers, consultants, agribusiness representatives, other cotton producers and Extension agents. That face-to-face dialogue is a big reason for the Beltwide’s popularity through the years.

Another popular “Beltwide” feature is the Cotton Foundation Technical Exhibits. From their booths, the Foundation’s agribusiness members share information about their products and what’s in the pipeline with a cross-section of people – from cotton farmers to county agents.

This approach creates a unique forum that fosters face-to-face interaction among cotton producers, processors, scientists, extension personnel, consultants and agribusiness representatives – everyone with a vested stake in a healthy cotton industry. The ultimate aim is to help industry members tailor new products and production/processing systems to their operations for maximum efficiency.

Like Hood, Woody Anderson, a Texas producer and former NCC chairman, once stated that going to the Beltwide “is a lot like going to the coffee shop or gin at home but even better because I get to visit with growers from the Carolinas to California about their farming practices and the technologies they are using. I have never failed to come away with something I could use on my farm . . . knowledge on a new herbicide, harvest aid or some other tool that’s helped me lower my input costs and increase my productivity.”

The 2013 Conferences promise to deliver timely information as well. One of the Cotton Production Conference general session's key presentations will be a market outlook from Allenberg Cotton Company Executive Vice President Joe Nicosia. Other general session reports will include an update on key legislation/regulations, including farm bill status; a review of the 2012 production season; a discussion of herbicide resistance in Texas; and a presentation on climate trends.

In addition multiple seminars and workshops will focus on:

  • Comparison of conventional and transgenic cotton production systems;

  • Irrigation practices and other tools to improve efficiency;

  • Discussion of 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant traits and industry efforts to address tank cleanout, volatility, drift, and importance of marking fields;

  • Cotton options workshop that demonstrates the use of innovative marketing strategies, crop insurance and advanced farm and financial management techniques to develop a strong risk management program;

  • Social media and a look at its growing use in production agriculture;

  • Effective use of fertilizer stabilizers; and

  • "New Developments From Industry," including new varieties, new products for pest and disease management, equipment updates, and emerging technologies, including software applications for producers and consultants.
The Conferences open with the 6th annual Cotton Consultants Conference, which will focus on weed resistance, irrigation and an insecticide update, including a review of how various insecticides performed during the 2012 season.

By Bill Robertson, Manager, Agronomy, Soils and Physiology
National Cotton Council of America

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