This past week the Georgia Cotton Commission held our annual Research Field Day in Tifton. This is a time for our board members, advisory board members, and research advisory committee to see the current research being conducted by the UGA Cotton Team that is funded by the Georgia Cotton Commission. The Cotton Commission and the Cotton Team have worked hand-in-hand for many years to make sure that Georgia cotton producers are getting the most timely and reliable information as possible.
Some research we saw this year included the heavy rye cover crop studies. This is basically where a farmer would plant a higher biomass variety of rye, roll the rye down, spray a burndown herbicide and plant into the heavy rye cover. The research shows lots of potential at reducing weed pressure, reducing thrips pressure, reducing soil moisture loss, and building soil organic matter. The downside is that there may be some modifications/adjustments at planting time that a farmer may have to tinker with to get right. Another downside is that sometimes the soil is too moist in this type environment and a farmer may have a hard time getting a good stand in a wet year with this system.
This is just one of many research projects being conducted by the UGA Cotton Team with support from the Georgia Cotton Commission. Be on the lookout for our next 100% Cotton Newsletter for more information and photos about these research projects.
This week I had the pleasure of attending The Cotton Board’s Young Guns Tour where we toured Cotton Incorporated in Raleigh, NC and Frontier Spinning Mills in Sanford, NC. This is one side of the cotton industry that most farmers and farm groups do not ever get to see, and I can say that I was very impressed and learned a lot on the trip.
The Cotton Board was founded when Congress passed the Cotton Research and Promotion Act of 1966. The Cotton Board contracts with Cotton Incorporated to carry out the actual research and promotion of cotton. The Cotton Board acts very similar to the Georgia Cotton Commission in that we are both funded by a producer per bale assessment. Similarly, we contract with the University of Georgia and other institutions of higher education to carry out our research goals. The Georgia Cotton Commission and The Cotton Board differ in that we are only representing Georgia whereas The Cotton Board is a nationwide program. We also differ in our main objectives. The Georgia Cotton Commission spends the majority of our “research, promotion, and education” money on producer oriented research. This, as mentioned above, is contracted out to UGA and other ag research organizations. The Cotton Board, through Cotton Incorporated, is focused both on “cotton research and promotion” but is more heavily focused on increasing the demand and uses for US grown upland cotton. Without this focus on demand and consumer awareness, cotton would be at great risk to losing out to synthetics in the market place.
And I can attest that Cotton Incorporated is doing a great job at raising consumer awareness and increasing the demand for cotton. We all know that new technologies and cheaper alternatives have allowed cotton to lose some of its share in the market place. I’ve specifically noticed that the sports/performance wear category has been dominated by synthetic fibers for the last decade or so. I was impressed to learn the Cotton Incorporated worked along side Under Armour to introduce Charged Cotton. Cotton Incorporated also has developed a new technology called TransDRY. This is also a performance/sports apparel product that is gaining traction in the market place. Cotton Incorporated has developed new water repellent cottons in Storm Cotton and Storm Denim. These products were demonstrated to us and it made me want to go shopping right away and get a new pair of blue jeans that could repel water.
Cotton Incorporated also has a dedicated team to work on agricultural research and the problems faced by farmers. The Georgia Cotton Commission has worked for many years with many of Cotton Incorporated’s ag research team and we have found them to always be top notch and experts in their field. Specifically Georgia cotton producers have benefited through the State Support Program. This program allows Cotton Incorporated to fund projects in cotton producing states that greatly advance the industry.
In conclusion, both the Georgia Cotton Commission and The Cotton Board/Cotton Incorporated work for the cotton producer. We are tasked with providing research, promotion, and education to advance the cotton industry and create an environment to sustain cotton’s future in America.
Today we had the opportunity to see first hand new technologies that will hopefully be available to cotton producers in the next couple of years. Both Monsanto, with their Deltapine brand, and Dow AgroSciences, with their PhytoGen brand, are looking to implement new technology traits in cotton and soybeans. These technologies are very impressive and should help Georgia cotton farmers in their weed management systems. These technologies add in two herbicides currently not used in cotton production, dicamba (Monsanto) and 2,4-D (Dow). Both dicamba and 2,4-D are currently used in other cropping systems but not with the new formulations that were developed for these new cotton herbicide plans. These new formulations will help the farmer reduce herbicide drift and volatility, which are two of the main concerns expressed with dicamba and 2,4-D.
Previously I wrote about drift, so if you are interested in that topic, read this previous post.
Just a few weeks ago most of the cotton farmers we talked to seemed to be happy that new crop futures (Dec 14) prices were slowing inching up each week. At one point prices almost got to 85 cents, and some of thought that they might inch up just a little more. Then the rain came down. And within two weeks prices dropped about 10 cents. Some may be upset that they didn’t contract in at the high of almost 85 cent, since now (June 6) they are looking at about 77 or 78 cents.
It appears that the main reason for the price drop was the Memorial day weekend rains in Texas. As most folks know, Texas grows about half of the US cotton crop. West Texas (panhandle) is the largest concentration of cotton in the US. They have been experiencing a record drought. Reports just prior to the rains indicated that the current drought had surpassed the 1954 drought which had previously been the benchmark to which all other Texas droughts had been measured.
It seems now that the price may have dropped just a hair too much on the anticipation of the rains. This week has seen some recovery in the new crop futures prices. What is very interesting to note is that the market is still inverted (near futures prices are higher that far away futures prices). This indicates that cotton is still viewed by the folks buying it as less valuable in the future, otherwise new crop futures would be higher than the nearby contract. There may be many reasons for this but the one that stands out the most is China.
The US cotton industry has been holding its breath waiting to see if China will change its reserves policy. All indications are that they will, we just don’t know when. They made some adjustments earlier in the year but it didn’t seem to move much of the reserve. The latest reports indicate that China has about 58 million bales of cotton in their reserve (that is roughly equal to three years of US production). The good thing is that Chinese textile mills seem to still want US cotton and will hopefully always want US cotton to blend with their domestic cotton to make textiles. The dilemma is still over the Chinese import tariffs for foreign cotton and the auction prices for their domestic cotton.
India is also a big player in the world cotton market. Reports came out this week that indicate India will surpass China as the worlds largest cotton producer in about 10 years. Original reports from earlier this year indicated that weather related events would hamper India’s cotton production this year, but those reports have been revised that indicate they now may have a normal or slightly large crop.