There's a great new tool available to the California cotton industry, but it can't be bought from suppliers or used in fields. It's the Central Coast Cotton Conference — an annual continuing education production conference held each November. The conference, now in its third year, is receiving great industry support and participants praise its interactive format and valuable insight.

“Cotton is the name of my game,” said Sam Carreiro — a cotton grower and certified pest control advisor from Lemoore, Calif. “Even though I've been working with cotton for 30 years, you're never done learning. It's good to look back at the end of the year and compare notes with other growers, consultants and PCAs (pest control advisors) and get feedback.”

Carreiro is a partner of Ben Carreiro & Sons. He said he enjoys the conference, which he has attended since it began in 2003, and he plans to return this year. The conference is California's only cotton production. It will be held November 16-18 at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, California.

The two-day meeting focuses on issues specific to California and is taught in an interactive — rather than lecture — format. Participants from cotton growing regions throughout California and beyond attend the meeting, which provides pest control advisors, growers, consultants and certified agronomists an opportunity to earn continuing education credits. It also gives them a chance to learn, interact and relax.

The conference began in 2003 as the brainchild of Lowell Zelinski — a private consultant with 25 years experience in the cotton industry who is considered one of California's premiere cotton experts. He holds a doctorate in soil-water-plant relations from the University of California, Davis and is a former University of California Cooperative Extension agent. He has also worked for two major U.S. cotton seed companies and taught at four California State Universities.

Zelinski's cotton expertise and his love for teaching are the primary reasons he started the conference.

“For many years the University of California has held short courses on many crops but cotton was never one of them,” Zelinski said. “I had been conducting in-field training for pest control advisors when my wife and business partner decided we should try holding a conference.”

Continuing education

The Zelinskis also started the conference because they believe that now, more than ever, continuing education is a crucial part of keeping the California cotton industry viable.

“With declining acreage and the production challenges facing growers today, it's crucial that they, and the decision-makers they rely on, keep abreast of what's going on and keep their skills honed. And that's what the conference is all about,” Zelinski said.

The meeting features sessions taught by Zelinski and other experts. The general sessions include an overview of cotton production and agronomy led by Zelinski. New for 2005, Zelinski's session will include an in-depth look at irrigation management.

Also new this year is the inclusion of an expanded pest management session and a one unit session on laws and regulations. The pest management session will focus on weed management taught by Tulare County Farm Advisor Steve Wright. Brian Settlemire, vice president of Bakersfield-based Guardian Safety Services will discuss respiratory protection.

The 2005 special session is “Changing Attitudes: how to stay in business in the changing California cotton industry.” In keeping with the popular, interactive format of the conference, the special session will include brief presentations by each speaker, followed by a guided panel discussion.

Special session speakers include J. Berrye Worsham, president of Cotton Incorporated; Bruce Allbright, president of Allbright Cotton; Marc Lewkowitz, vice president of the Supima Association; Wayne Howard, an agricultural business professor from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; and Richard Plant, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis.

The conference also features a golf tournament hosted by Monsanto and a welcome reception hosted by DuPont. The cotton harvest ball is sponsored by Golden Bale sponsor Bayer CropScience. It will feature a luau and Polynesian entertainment. Earl Williams, president and chief executive officer of the California Cotton Growers & Ginners Association will be the guest speaker.

To register or for more information, visit www.cottonconference.com or contact Becky Zelinski at (805) 434-0113.