Integrated Crop Management
Due to increasing production costs cotton producers must be able to critically evaluate every input. An understanding of the development of the cotton plant is crucial for making strategic management decisions and maintaining profitable production. Advancements in modification of plant earliness and determinacy have lead to varieties with shorter final main stem nodes and overall shorter plant heights.
Decisions regarding row spacing, tillage equipment and systems to use for production may be an all encompassing farm-wide decision that is based on rotation crops and other cultural practices employed. Other decisions such as variety selection, plant population and many early-season pest control strategies are made prior to planting and can vary with each field. The financial investment in a cotton crop incurred prior to planting can be significant. The monetary costs alone echo the importance of doing the right thing at the right time. Production budgets are available for many cotton growing regions and serve as a tool to help producers and lenders customize one with realistic yield goals to match individual circumstances. While having a plan does not guarantee success, having one does provide the producer a way to chart a course of action toward achieving success and offers a means to evaluate decisions at the end of the season. An experienced producer once stated that he had 30 experiences in producing cotton as opposed to having 30 years experience growing cotton as each year was different. Many times management decisions are based on what went wrong the previous year. A better understanding of the cotton plant can allow producers the ability to better predict the needs of the plant and utilize that information in the decision making process as opposed to what worked or didn’t work last year.
Management improvements will be an ongoing challenge as cotton producers face market realities. A producer’s understanding and knowledge of the crop and ability to read the plant is critical in developing strategies to meet the anticipated needs. Developing an integrated management approach to increase the efficiency of every input and output of production will be an essential element of a successful enterprise. Cotton producer will be expected to produce quality fiber and cotton products under increasing demands for environmental stewardship. Integrating management practices into an efficient system will be the best approach to sustaining the future of cotton production.