|Moderator:||Tommy Valco, Cotton Incorporated|
|Panelists:||Allan Baucom, Producer (NC)|
|Earl Vories, University of Arkansas|
|Sam Atwell, BASF|
Cotton growers in the Southeast and Mid-South are interested in ultra-narrow row cotton (UNRC) production to increase yields and improve profitability. It is not the intent of this session to discuss the agronomics of producing UNRC but it is important that buyers and users of UNRC understand how and why it is produced. The actual savings still remain to be documented and the preservation of fiber quality needs to be assured so discounts in the selling price do not offset any possible saving to the grower. Today we have Mr. Allen Baucom, a grower/ginner from Monroe, North Carolina, Dr. Earl Vories, University of Arkansas at Keiser and Mr. Sam Atwell, BASF Field Biologist from Moscow, Tennessee.
Allen Baucom - After the 1996 cotton production season, many cotton producers asked what could we do to reduce in production costs or inputs that we could increase to improve the bottom line, making cotton more profitable. We had looked at UNRC earlier but felt we could not control the weeds. With the new RoundUp Ready Cotton available, in 1997 we decided to plant enough acres of UNRC to justify buying a finger stripper
The difference between UNRC and conventional cotton is that it is planted on 7.5-inch row spacing and harvest with a finger striper costing $100,000. As compared to a picker costing $250,000. This striper can be operated and maintained for about 20% of a picker.
UNRC is not more difficult to grow; it is different. Timeliness is important, we have to anticipate what to do, especially with PIX applications. Weeds were still a problem but we think we can control them. High populations, 110,000 to 120,000 plants per acre, are needed to keep plants small and prevent lateral branching for harvesting. We use the same varieties for UNRC as conventional cotton. It is a different stalk of cotton, about 24 inches tall. Limiting factor in our area for cotton production is water, with UNRC, you only need 2.5 weeks of good fruiting weather as compared to 6 weeks of fruiting.
Double cropping is also an option because of the shorter growing system. We can double crop grains with UNRC because of the shorter growing season.
We think this system will help to make us more profitable. There are addressable concerns and challenges with UNRC production. We must produce a type and quality of cotton that the industry can use and want - or it is to no avail.
Earl Vories - Replicated 1.3-acre plots of UNRC were grown on a marginal soil, Sharkey silty clay, under dryland conditions. UNRC was planted in 7.5-inch drills, harvested with a finger stripper, and ginned the same as the spindle picked cotton.
In 1995, we had different seed cotton yields, but after the gin turnout was calculated the lint yields were identical (773 lb/acre). The second year we had problems with harvest for both the conventional and UNRC. Rains set in October and harvest-ready cotton sat in the field until December 19, losing yield and quality. The conventional cotton (443-lb lint/acre) out yielded the UNRC (312-lb lint/acre). The third year we had a tough time getting a stand, with only 82,000 plants per acre (versus 150,000 plants per acre the other years). Even with a May 6 planting, in mid-July the tracks from the drill were still visible. However, the UNRC really started fruiting late and out yielded the conventional cotton (866 and 756 lb lint/acre, respectively). Every year is different and there are no guarantees. In the three years of our study, we had fifteen bales of UNRC that were commercially ginned and only one was discounted because of bark. Turnout was consistently lower, as expected, ranging from 3% lower in 1996 to 5% lower in 1997.
Sam Atwell - We have conducted research at the Memphis Agricenter for 4 years to develop the science behind UNRC. New technologies have allowed us to make UNRC successful. Tests include years of studying row spacing at 10-, 15-, 20-, 30-, and 40-inch row in replicated studies. We have determined that plants change shape and structure based on row spacing and populations. Our data shows that row spacing less than 10-inches and 120,000 plants per acre are optimum for UNRC. This is needed to keep the plants small and without lateral branching. All bolls are located at the first position from the main stem and are the highest quality fiber. The plants must be kept short, slender, clean and dry for successful harvest.
There are problems with weeds but with today is over-the-top technologies, we can control weeds. Additional problems with harvesting UNRC need to be addressed, but we feel that these problems can be worked out. UNRC will slow the gin down, 28% to 30% gin turnout is maximum we get with UNRC. This is compared to about 36% we get from first picking conventional cotton. It takes more cotton to go through it but we are increasing the yield and lowering production costs.