As more and more growers in the San Joaquin Valley begin diversifying their crop mix, the more important basic soils knowledge becomes. From soil biology to knowing which fertilizers to apply, long-time cotton farmer Gary Martin of Pikalok Farming in Firebaugh says, “The more you know, the easier it is to know what you need and not be sold on something you may not need.”

“We’ve been mono-cropping cotton for more than 13 years,” Martin said. “When you’re going to plant something different, it’s important to start thinking more about your soils. It’s also important to know about fertilizers, how the different types of fertilizers affect the soil and which ones best meet your needs.”

This is why one of the topics at the 2009 Central Coast Cotton Conference will be a back-to-the-basics look at soil fertility. The Central Coast Cotton Conference is a continuing education course for pest control advisors, growers, agronomists and consultants. The sixth annual meeting will be held Jan. 21-23, 2009, at The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, Calif.

According to Martin, basic soils information is what growers need right now.

“My cotton focus in the past has always been on plant physiology but because we’re now planting other crops, I’m paying more attention to the dirt,” Martin said. “I enjoyed Dr. Ruehr’s presentation last year and when it’s something you need to learn, it makes it even more worthwhile.”

The theme for 2009 Central Coast Cotton Conference is “New Frontiers: Innovative production strategies for a changing industry.” Three half-day sessions will include topics to help growers maximize production while minimizing costs; adapt new technologies such as precision farming; implement integrated farming solutions; and address water issues. The conference also features production and agronomy sessions with topics such as soils and pest management.

The focus of the next meeting has been expanded to include other field crops and address topics that can be applied to multiple field crops. There will be 18 topics and more than 20 speakers presenting in three, half-day sessions. The meeting is sponsored by Western Farm Press magazine, Bayer CropScience, Precision Ag, Inc. and others.

To register for the conference or get more information, call (805) 239-8200 or visit www.cottonconference.com.