With cotton growers continually trying to cut their margins, it's important for pest control advisors and consultants to find ways to increase their value to the grower. One way they can do this is by becoming an expert on pest management issues.

This is just one reason why the Central Coast Cotton Conference will begin this year by including an expanded session on a pest management issue. For 2005, the topic is weed management.

Rick Leonard, a technical sales rep for Bayer CropScience believes the addition of the pest management session to the conference will be a great benefit for PCAs and consultants, and in turn — the grower.

“A PCA can generate a lot of value being an expert or a resource for weed identification and control methods,” Leonard said. “Being able to identify seedling grasses and broadleafs is a tremendous value to the grower and I think the weed management session will help with that.”

In addition to the expanded pest management session, the conference will also include an expanded session on irrigation management and a course on laws and regulations. The meeting will continue to include an overview of cotton production techniques, but also highlight two new topics each year. One will focus on a production issue and the other a pest management issue.

According to conference organizers, the changes are part of ongoing efforts to make the conference an invaluable tool for PCAs, consultants, and growers; and to give them a reason to come back year-after-year.

Popular session

“The cotton production review is a very popular session and will continue to be an important component of the conference,” said conference education director Lowell Zelinski. “Each year we try to make the conference a little better. Last year we did so by adding the special session and more speakers and this year we're doing it by expanding sessions on topics.”

This year's weed management session will be taught by Tulare County Farm Advisor, Steve Wright. Wright covers cotton, small grains and weed control for Tulare and Kings County. He has been with the U.C. Extension service for 25 years, taught weed management courses at California State University, Fresno and is active in weed science societies.

In keeping with the conferences' overall goal of focusing on practical, hands-on knowledge, Wright plans for his session to take PCAs back to the root of the problem.

“So many things have changed out there — there's more dairy manure, more growers leasing from dairies, less crop rotation and other things — we're starting to see things happening that are putting PCAs into a different realm,” Wright said. “We've sort of gotten away from the fundamentals of weed management, which are leading to some serious problems. For this session, I want to bring it back to the fundamentals because weed control is the foundation of the whole system and I think sometimes people forget that.”

The weed management session will include weed identification, herbicide modes of action, application techniques, and resistance management, along with new advances in biotechnology and new herbicide tolerant cottons.

Zelinski will conduct the expanded irrigation segment.

Laws, regulations

The laws and regulations session will address an increasingly important topic in agriculture today: respiratory protection. Brian Settlemire, vice president of Guardian Safety Services of Bakersfield will conduct two one-hour sessions that will give PCAs and certified agronomists one hour of continuing education credit. The session will cover issues such as laws governing the use of respirators and how and when to use them.

The 2005 special session is: “Changing Tides: How to stay afloat in the changing California cotton industry.” The topic will be an overview of what's currently happening in the California cotton industry and how it affects those working in it. It will be presented by a panel of industry experts via a facilitated discussion, and will also include a grower panel.

The 2005 conference will be held Nov. 16-18 at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, Calif. For more information, visit www.cottonconference.com or contact Becky Zelinski at (805) 434-0113.