Cotton was once king in the Golden State. But over the past six years, acreage has declined to record lows, production costs have skyrocketed, and now the state is in a drought. Most growers have all but given up producing a once lucrative commodity, but many have not.

For those who are staying with cotton as part of their cropping scheme, research, education and new technology are more critical than ever.

The Central Coast Cotton Conference has evolved into one of the key events where the California cotton industry comes together to learn about those critical elements.

The sixth annual conference will be held Jan. 21-23, 2009 at The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, Calif. The location isn't new, but the dates are. The first three meetings were held at The Cliffs Resort, but the conference has moved from November to January.

“As California's cotton industry narrows to a strategic level, only the most efficient producers will survive,” said Bruce Roberts, the J.G. Boswell Chair of Agronomy at California State University, Fresno, and member of the conference steering committee.

“Staying on top of every new development in this dynamically changing industry is the only way to sustain economic viability. Cotton growers who don't keep up with the changing times might as well park their pickers,” Roberts added.

Roberts and others believe that the Central Coast Cotton Conference is more important now than ever. California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association President Earl Williams calls it a “must meeting for cotton growers, pest control advisers and allied industry groups.”

“Based on feedback, many growers and ginners are interested in attending the meeting, but are unable to do so in November,” said conference organizer Becky Zelinski. “The conference has evolved from a continuing education course for PCAs to an industry-wide meeting. In order to properly serve the industry, we want to accommodate as many people as possible.”

The theme for the 2009 meeting is “New Frontiers: Innovative production strategies for a changing industry.” Topics will explore new technologies to help growers maximize production while minimizing costs; adapting new technologies such as precision farming; implementing integrated farming solutions; and water issues. The conference will also include sessions on production and agronomy and an industry outlook and updates.

Zelinski said the conference steering committee works hard to develop a meeting that will provide valuable insight and information as well as a one-of-a-kind networking opportunity.

“We have a great steering committee,” Zelinski said. “They volunteer their time because they believe in the conference and want to help it succeed. The members possess a wide range of experience and opinions, they are in tune with the industry, and help guide us in the right direction.”

Steering committee members include conference staff, Lowell and Becky Zelinski; Sam Carreiro, Carreiro & Sons; Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, the official publication for the conference; Vern Crawford, Wilbur-Ellis Co.; Pete Goodell and Bob Hutmacher, University of California Cooperative Extension; Mike Hemman, DuPont; Rick Leonard, Bayer CropScience; Tim Sherrill, J.G. Boswell Co.; Roberts and Williams.

Sponsorship and exhibitor registration is open. Conference registration will begin Sept. 1, 2008 and hotel registration is open now.

For complete details about the conference or to register to sponsor or exhibit, visit www.cottonconference.com or call (805) 239-8200.