The 12th annual National Conservation Systems Cotton & Rice Conference is scheduled for Jan. 26-27 and will be held in Marksville, La. Sponsored by Cotton Incorporated and US Rice Producers Association, and a production of MidAmerica Farm Publications, the event is scheduled for the Paragon Casino Resort Convention Center.

As in the past 11 years, the conference is co-sponsored by seven Mid-South universities: University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, University of Missouri, University of Tennessee, Louisiana State University, Auburn University, and Texas A&M. USDA-NRCS of Washington, D.C., and USDA-ARS centers in the Southern states are co-sponsors as well.

The conference has numerous corporate co-sponsors and a large trade show. Ag-media co-sponsor is Farm Press Publications — Delta Farm Press and Southwest Farm Press.

The National Conservation Systems Conference first opened in Little Rock, Ark., in 1997 and alternated locations in succeeding years between Texas and Mississippi. Last year’s venue in Tunica, Miss., drew a record attendance of farmers who accounted for over 1.4 million acres of agriculture production in 2008.

The two-day conference will include over 100 presentations, with 97 speakers from eight states. A wide range of topics will be covered, with up to 20 different sessions per hour for attendees to select from. There will also be 10 one-on-one roundtable sessions where growers can present particular problems or questions for peer review. Each roundtable session will be directed by a facilitator.

Among the roundtable sessions offered: Twin-Row Corn, Con-Till Cotton and Rice Weed Control, Precision Agriculture, Hybrid Rice Stand Establishment and Management, Precision Land Formation, Herbicide Drift, Con-Till Rice Establishment, and Corn/Soybean Production with Kip Cullers.

The Conservation Systems event merges three distinct meetings: the Cotton & Rice Conference, the Mid-South Corn & Soybean Conference, and the Mid-South Precision Ag Conference.

• At the Cotton & Rice Conference, cotton production experts from six states will be conducting sessions. One of the featured speakers, George LaCour Jr., a Louisiana cotton farmer, will advocate for simplification of cotton growing methods.

“The overhead costs of raising cotton have to be streamlined. We can’t afford to have the labor costs we have had in the past. Flex cotton will help you treat cotton more like soybeans.” Flex cotton offers reduced labor by eliminating the need to handspray beneath leaves. Flex allows for the use of a spray rig for over-the-top spraying. LaCour estimates a spray rig can cover 500 acres a day, with hand labor only able to manage 100 acres in the same time.

“The only difference between us and the rest of the world in cotton production is labor,” says LaCour. “The rest of the world has cheap labor.”

For a complete listing of presenters and abstracts of all cotton presentations, visit www.nctd.net.

Rice sessions will feature experts from five rice-producing states conducting 28 unique rice presentations. Steve Prather, a Mississippi rice farmer, will offer his knowledge and experience. “We started doing a few acres of rice, then we added a few more,” he says. He changed his system as he went along.

For 10 years, all his rice had either been no-till or minimum till, but he added deep till in 2006. The deep till allows him to get the crop in earlier. Prather’s five-year running average yield is 160 to 165 bushels per acre. For a listing of rice presentations, please visit www.nctd.net.

• The Mid-South Corn & Soybean Conference will include corn production experts from four states. Thirteen unique corn presentations are scheduled. The pros and cons of twin-row corn will be presented by Mississippi farmer George Rea Walker Jr. “Twin-row corn is a little more trouble than single row,” he says.

He questions the economic importance of twin-row corn versus single-row corn — with so many variables to take into consideration, such as different plant populations and different varieties.

Soybean sessions will include 13 presenters, highlighted by soybean yield world record holder Kip Cullers. Cullers has spoken to growers across the United States, sharing his expertise on soybean yields. Cullers has a reputation for taking a proven practice and incorporating it in his own operation.

In his presentation, he will discuss the techniques and management practices from his farm. Most importantly, he says, is to plant the best variety for the area.

Cullers will also speak on product positioning and how to evaluate the growing environment to select the products that provide the best opportunity for success. He will point out “yield robbers” that steal a bountiful harvest, and suggest ways to counter such losses.

Go to www.nctd.net for a complete listing of soybean presentations.

• The Mid-South Precision Ag Conference will be conducted by 10 experts from five states. Included in the sessions will be Ben Guthrie, a fifth-generation farmer, who will focus on the advantages of Electrical Conductivity Data (ECD). “My presentation will show how we are integrating the ECD information on our farm,” says Guthrie.

He raises 9,000 acres of cotton and 3,400 acres of corn.

For a list of precision ag presentations, go to www.nctd.net.

Farmers from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas will be able to receive their state pesticide re-certification credits. Certified crop consultants can select from over 40 hours of qualifying sessions to earn CEUs during the conference.

To register or for more information, please go to www.nctd.net or call (573) 547-2244.