In the 1920s, leaders within the U.S. cotton industry wondered if science could somehow be used to improve yields and profits for U.S. cotton producers. Eighty years later, a protein, a pheromone and a system of satellites orbiting the Earth proved it could be done.

The results of the aforementioned discoveries and developments — Bt cotton, boll weevil eradication and the Global Positioning System, respectively — have helped forge a new paradigm of cotton production, one that continues to change each year.

For U.S. cotton producers, there is only one comprehensive theater where these new developments are on display and up for discussion — the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

The 2006 Beltwide Cotton Conferences will be held Jan. 3-6 in San Antonio, Texas. Sessions will be held at the Marriott Rivercenter, the Marriott Riverwalk, the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center and the Menger Hotel.

The conferences, coordinated by the National Cotton Council and its cooperating partners, consists of three days of individual reports, panel discussions, hands-on workshops and seminars.

The first day of the conference will feature two panel discussions, noted Dale Thompson, chief coordinator of the Beltwide Production Conferences and NCC manager, marketing and processing technology.

One will focus on the arrival of variable-rate technology — made possible by a satellite constellation in outer space called the Global Positioning System. Panelists participating include Southeast grower and consultant Carl Hobbs, researcher James Mahan, USDA/ARS, Lubbock, and Gunnison, Miss., cotton producer and InTime, Inc., founder Kenneth Hood.

Another panel will discuss the new generation of insect pests in cotton. The boll weevil eradication program, which uses pheromone traps to locate and eradicate weevil populations, and Bt cotton, which has a protein toxic to most worm pests, have changed the insect spectrum in today's cotton fields as well as the strategies for scouting and treating insects.

Year after year, the innovative grower panels remain one of the most popular Beltwide Cotton Conference topics. The second day of the conference will feature a panel including cotton producers Doug Wilde, San Angelo, Texas, and Justin Cariker, Dundee, Miss.

Attendees of the disease conference will hear how variable-rate technology can be used to deal with nematodes. “Populations of nematodes usually don't occur across the entire field, and the challenge is how we can direct our attack on where the pest is,” Thompson noted.

Workshop and seminar topics include:

Lygus and Stink Bug Workshop — Management, Control and Insecticide-Resistance: The workshop has been designed to address key issues surrounding this pest complex. Presentations will address sampling and thresholds, area-wide control and chemical control and resistance.

Disease Resistance in Cotton: The role of genetic markers and gene mapping in understanding and developing disease resistance in cotton plants.

CI's Precision Ag and Recordkeeping Software: Cotton Incorporated-funded research is developing a new system that will provide growers a one-stop shop for all their field history and business accounting needs which allow growers to make informed management decisions. The integrated software package includes modules for mapping, accounting, field and harvest records.

Cotton Economic Outlook: The discussion will center on the U.S. cotton situation, world situation, trade policy issues and market outlook for 2005-06 crop year. Topics will include production costs both for the United States and other countries, the WTO, China and Brazil, and market outlook and risk management strategies.

New Developments From Industry: The annual seminar includes reports on new developments from agribusiness that show promise for cotton production, harvesting and processing. The program is divided into sessions highlighting the latest development in new cotton varieties and hybrids, crop protection tools, fertilizers and equipment.

For further information, contact Debbie Richter, P.O. 820285, Memphis, Tenn., 38182 or 901-274-9030, fax, 901-725-0519 or e-mail Beltwide@cotton.org.