The 2006 Central Coast Cotton Conference will bring one of the world’s most esteemed cotton specialists back to the Golden State for a rare speaking engagement. Tom Kerby, formerly a long-time University of California cotton specialist will head up a roster of talented speakers for this year’s special session. “Strategies for Success: Integrated farming practices that keep cotton in the mix” is the focus of this year’s meeting which will be held at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa in Monterey from Nov. 15-17.

Today’s California cotton growers are finding that they must use alternative farming methods to remain viable. Conference director, Lowell Zelinski said that integrated farming practices is more of a “systems approach” and can be the key to staying in business.

“Cotton growers are growing more types of crops than ever before,” Zelinski said. “This not only reduces the number of cotton acres but also creates special management challenges in machinery management, irrigation, pest control and crop rotation.”

Zelinski said attending this year’s meeting should be a priority for growers and pest control advisors. The speakers will explore a variety of practical, innovative techniques such as research in reduced tillage. This topic, which will be presented by Jeff Mitchell, a cropping systems specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extensive Service shows how to eliminate tillage operations which reduce the amount of time, labor and equipment needed. Other topics will include drip irrigation, innovative weed management practices and sustainability.

“This is a great opportunity to find out what your neighbor is doing, as well as what’s going on around the world,” Zelinski added.

Tom Kerby, vice president of technical services for Scott, Miss-based Delta & Pine Land Company has spent the last 11 years traveling the globe. He will draw upon his wealth of worldly experiences to show how California producers can benefit from new and innovative techniques.

“Kerby’s vast experience and familiarity with California cotton production gives him a unique ability to relate his experiences from around the world to California,” Zelinski said. “Kerby has been instrumental in the development of cultural practices associated with Round-Up Ready cotton, which has brought great changes to weed management.”

Kevin Lehar, a grower and agronomist for Woolf Farming will talk about his innovative use of drip irrigation for the production of cotton, tomatoes and other crops. Using this integrated farming practice, growers can get more value from their drip system as well as potentially improved yields and reduced water use.

Another topic that will be explored at the 2006 conference is “sustainability.” Though not a popular concept in the cotton industry, according to Roy Cantrell, director of research for Cotton Incorporated, it’s an issue that growers and PCAs should “not be afraid of.”

Cantrell and Cotton Incorporated have recently developed a sustainability campaign to combat the myths and negative media attention brought down upon the cotton industry. Cantrell believes one of the best ways the industry can defeat the impacts of the negative bias is through knowledge. He said integrating sustainability into cotton farming operations will allow “cotton to be truly recognized as a natural, biodegradable, and renewal fiber compared to synthetic man-made fibers.” Cantrell will discuss ways growers can and already benefit from sustainability in monetary terms, as well as ease of operation and time savings.

Bob Hutmacher and Pete Goodell, both specialists with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service will head-up the conference’s first university research session. Researchers will present findings from recent research on topics including relationships between soil potassium levels and nitrogen fertilization, factors impacting root growth and development, and Pima plant mapping experiences. Goodell will discuss updates on pest management research with a focus on lygus feeding and interactions and lead a session on diseases and nematodes.

The conference, now in its fourth year is a continuing education course for pest control advisors, consultants and growers. Attendees can early up to 8.5 continuing education units. There is also a golf tournament and trade show. The pre-registration deadline is Oct. 31 and the hotel cut-off date is Oct. 25. For complete details about the meeting or to register, visit www.cottonconference.com or call (888) 238-6658.