Sunbelt showcases new technology

Soggy fields resulting from two tropical storm systems didn't deter farmers and others from attending the recent Sunbelt Expo Field Day, held in Moultrie, Ga. Farm Manager Darrell Williams reported that the Expo site had received at least 6 inches of rain from Hurricane Dennis and 26 inches of rainfall since April 1.

University of Georgia Extension team members for both cotton and peanuts showcased their current research at Sunbelt Expo. Cotton specialist Steve M. Brown says one of the new technologies being looked at is Roundup Ready Flex.

“Seed companies project they will have at least three million acres worth of Roundup Ready Flex technology seed for 2006. We're just getting our first look at varieties using this technology. We're looking at different seeding rates and Pix programs,” says Brown.

The purpose of a cotton insect study being conducted at Expo is to verify University of Georgia recommendations for stinkbug thresholds, says Phillip Roberts, Extension entomologist. The current threshold for treating stinkbugs is if 20 percent of bolls the size of a quarter shows injury inside.

“The past few years, we've also generated information showing the impact of stinkbug damage on fiber quality,” says Roberts. “We'll take these plants to yield and gin them at the micro-gin in Tifton. We're re-confirming recommended thresholds in terms of yield and quality. I encourage growers to make sure they start scouting for stinkbugs as soon as cotton begins to bloom.”

Extension Agronomist Glen Harris says the skyrocketing price of nitrogen has spurred interest into how to best manage it on cotton. “We're looking at slow-release technology and other materials. We're also looking at the effects of nutrients on lint quality. Starting this past year, we've looked at potassium, boron and nitrogen to see which nutrients might be affecting fiber quality. The only thing that affected quality was manganese, so we're repeating the study this year,” says Harris.

University of Georgia Extension peanut specialists continue to look at tenting versus inverting harvesting techniques at the Expo. In addition, they're looking at 11 peanut varieties planted in single and twin rows.

“In the 1970s, our standard variety was Florunner, followed by GK-7 in the 1980s,” says John Paulk, research technician. “The 2005 Georgia Peanut Guide has 10 runner varieties listed that are available for planting.”

In the tenting versus inverting harvest test, peanuts this past year were harvested with both methods, says Paulk, and then they lay on top of the ground for two weeks. “We didn't lose any more peanuts with tenting than we did with inverting. Tenting works best on light, sandy soils, especially in Florida and Texas where a lot of heat and sun are reflected off the ground. Tenting stops peanuts from drying at such a rapid rate,” he says.

Tenting improves seed and edible quality, he adds. “We reduce skin slips, splits and bald heads. We actually saw fewer digging losses with tenting, and that could be due to less mechanical action,” he says.

Staci Ingram from the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., explained the Irrigator Pro expert computer systems to participants at the Sunbelt Expo Field Day.

“The Irrigator Pro computerized expert system is designed to manage peanut irrigation and pest management decisions,” says Ingram. “The objective is to improve economic returns for irrigated peanut production and reduce risks associated with aflatoxin, foreign materials, immaturity, off-flavor, chemical residues, and negative environmental impacts.”

Irrigation recommendations are based on more than 20 years of scientific research data and information, she says. Growers begin by entering field data, including planting date, variety planted, previous crop, soil type, and irrigation capacity. A few weeks after the crop has emerged, they place a digital soil thermometer in the field. They also place a rain gauge in the same area, as well as outside the pivot to record rainfall.

“Farmers begin by taking soil temperature readings a couple of times each week and asking for the recommendation that will advise if and how much to irrigate or when to check soil temperatures again. Generally, irrigation recommendations are made to maintain soil temperatures and water in the optimum ranges,” says Ingram.

The program generates graphs showing data in relation to optimum and minimum zones, helping you to diagnose problems that may occur, she adds.

Yields of more than 300 pounds per acre and 2 percentage points in sound mature kernels and sound splits have been seen with the use of Irrigator Pro, says Ingram.

The success of Irrigator Pro has led to comparable models for cotton and corn. “Recommendations are made on the physiological needs of the plant during different stages of growth and development. These models differ from the peanut model in that they require the use of soil moisture sensors,” she says.

With corn and cotton, growers are asked to follow manufacturers' preparation and installation recommendations that accompany the sensors, test them, and then install them at depths of 8, 16 and 24 inches, in the row, after the crop has emerged. Rainfall events are recorded from the day of planting until sensors are installed and readings are entered.

Data specific to each field is required, such as soil type and irrigation capacity. To begin entering data, growers enter farm information, then individual fields, and the data for those fields as it occurs. When sensor readings are entered, recommendations can be retrieved advising if and/or when to irrigation, an amount to irrigate, and when to check sensors again.

A comment section also is included for any information that growers may want to reference later in the season.

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