Growing high quality cotton fiber and getting paid for it is the most important issue of the day for U.S. cotton producers. But what about growing the right quality cotton for the spinning technology used? Is this something cotton producers need think about?

Experts from several segments of the industry will take an extensive look at cotton fiber quality issues during the 2005 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, at the New Orleans Marriott and Sheraton New Orleans hotels Jan. 4-7. The National Cotton Council is the conferences' primary coordinator.

The annual Beltwide Cotton Production Conference is set for Jan. 5-6 and will begin with NCC chairman Woody Anderson's report on key industry issues.

“After that, we're going to kick off with a session on producing quality cotton, looking at world markets and markets in general,” said Dale Thompson, chief coordinator of the Beltwide Production Conferences and the NCC's manager, marketing and processing technology.

“We don't want to forget about our domestic customer,” Thompson stressed. “We want to make sure that our cotton meets their needs. But the bottom line is that we are not only competing in a domestic market, we're competing in a world market, both for raw fiber and in manufacturing.

“We also want to make sure that there is a home for all our cotton, no matter what the quality. We want to emphasize that different spinning systems need different qualities.”

Picking market

The session will focus on all the decisions that affect quality, according to Thompson. “Given that the grower is going to make a decision about the variety, he's in effect saying that he's going after a certain market.

“From that point on, we're going to spend some time on the basic production — the agronomic decisions that go into growing a field of cotton and maximizing what you have out there in terms of yield, properly conditioning the plant for harvest and its impact on quality.”

The session will also focus on ginning practices that preserve quality, according to Thompson. “We know that ginning can't increase fiber quality, but we can maximize what comes out of the gin. You want the output to meet as many uses as possible for that given quality of cotton going into the gin stands.”

The bottom line, according to Thompson. “We want the U.S. producer to have the access to the best technology available to him to produce a field of cotton and to do it competitively with anybody in the world.”

Other production conference sessions will focus on tillage, weed resistance management, nematodes and managing today's insect pests including plant bugs and stink bugs.

As for nematodes, “Each region has its own issues,” Thompson said. “We're going to identify someone who can give us a Beltwide perspective on nematodes.”

Grower panels

The production conference will continue with popular grower panels, according to Thompson. “Year in and year out, producers want to know what their fellow producers are doing across the Cotton Belt. So we'll have a balanced panel representing production from the arid West through the Mid-South and Southeast. There'll be something there for everybody.

“Most of the discussion will focus on production issues, however, some growers will be encouraged to discuss the economic side of cotton production, including marketing strategies. That's a universal issue for all cotton producers.”

The conferences will help U.S. cotton producers keep their competitive edge, Thompson added. “Other parts of the world are beginning to catch up with our systems, including marketing and grading.”

Thompson noted that China is going to make HVI technology available in its country, although they are beginning with small steps.

If China is indeed copying the U.S. classing system, “then we become the yardstick for measuring the quality of their cotton. So if they are catching up with what we're doing, we have to do an even better job in the future, if we are to maintain our market share.”

NCC senior Vice president John Maguire will provide an update on Washington, D.C., activities and Cotton Incorporated CEO Berrye Worsham will discuss his organization's role in achieving the competitive edge. Memphis merchant William B. Dunavant will provide marketplace insights.

The production conference has been shortened from four days to three days beginning in 2005. This includes shortening the general session on the second day to allow for a full complement of special seminars and workshops. All of the 12 cotton technical conferences will be a day and half long and include poster sessions.

The Cotton Foundation Technical Exhibit will be open Jan. 5-6.

Seedling diseases

Another workshop will focus on seedling diseases. The session will cover the value of fungicide, insecticide and nematicide treatments, a description of early-season pests and management options, a comparison of seed treatments for pest management versus other management strategies and what the future holds regarding seedling diseases and their treatment.

For further information, contact the NCC's Debbie Richter, P/O/ 820285, Memphis, TN, 38182, or 90-274-9030, Fax 901-725-0510 or e-mail beltwide@cotton.org.

The theme of the 2005 Beltwide Production Conference is “Innovation and Application, the Competitive Edge.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com