It’s difficult to erase the imagery of this season’s Mid-South cotton crop — the scraggly cotton hanging from plants, the chronic mud and the layer of bolls that escaped the picker. But one big benefit of the annual Beltwide Cotton Conferences is the opportunity to put the previous season behind you, good, bad or indifferent, and focus on a season anew.

The National Cotton Council-coordinated 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences are set for Jan. 4-7 at the New Orleans Marriott and Sheraton New Orleans hotels.

Detailed programming information as well as instructions for meeting registration and housing reservations is at the BWCC Web site, www.cotton.org/beltwide. Early (online) registration runs through Dec. 7.

The Cotton Production Conference will again feature popular roundtable workshops, said Bill Robertson, the NCC’s manager, agronomy, soils and physiology. Topics are scheduled for insect management, weed control, conservation and variety selection.

“If you’re going to plant single-gene Bollgard cotton next year, you’ve already made that decision,” Robertson said. “You’ve got only so much of that you can plant, so you have a decision to make on what you’re going to plant on the rest of your acreage. Arkansas, Extension cotton specialist Tom Barber is leading that workshop.”

Arkansas Extension entomologist Gus Lorenz will lead a workshop on insect management, and Extension weed scientists Ken Smith, Larry Steckel, Stanley Culpepper and others will participate in a weed management roundtable discussion.

There will also be a roundtable discussion “on what producers can do to enhance their chances of getting conservation projects funded.”

The roundtables will be open forums, noted Robertson. “We can go in whatever direction producers want. We’ll have some consultants there to get conversations going, but we want the producers to help steer the direction.”

Robertson said presentations confirmed for the Cotton Production Conference’s general session include innovative cotton farmers and leading research and Extension scientists discussing such timely topics as the value of transgenics, emerging insect issues, current/future precision agriculture opportunities, and today’s cropping decisions, including a look at rotation options and benefits. In addition, attendees will hear from an “innovative grower panel” about proven production practices they have adopted.

Issues that will require a great deal of attention include resistance issues for weeds and insects, according to Robertson. “We’ll have time on the program to talk about those, and there are going to be some excellent papers in the technical sessions that will interest the producer.”

Robertson said that Randy Taylor, an Extension machinery specialist with Oklahoma State University, will discuss the latest in precision agriculture technology.

Other insightful presentations will include a review of the 2009 growing season, opportunities in conservation programs, a discussion of marketing challenges, an economic outlook and updates on industry issues from the NCC and on key research efforts from The Cotton Foundation and Cotton Incorporated.

A number of experts are projecting that U.S. cotton acreage may increase in 2010 after the lowest plantings in 26 years. With memories of a tough season still looming in the rear view mirror, the Beltwide should provide fresh perspective on the coming year, Robertson noted.

“So many times management decisions are based heavily on what happened the previous year. I think we’ll hear a lot from experts stressing that the 2010 season was such an anomaly. We have experts from all across the country gathering at the Beltwide. It’s a chance for growers to ask them questions one on one in small groups.”

The Production Conference’s workshops will feature: (1) a collaborative report on several years of research from across the Cotton Belt concerning site-specific management of nematodes; (2) geographical sampling concepts and techniques for cotton pest management for precision agriculture uses; (3) variable rate nitrogen applications using on-the-go optical sensors; (4) effective and efficient irrigation for cotton production; (5) roundtable discussions on variety selection, insects, weed resistance and conservation programs, (6) an introduction to options, and (7) an economic outlook. Other sessions include a cotton specialists workshop and the annual New Developments From Industry reports on varieties, chemistry and equipment/technology.

In addition, the third annual Cotton Consultants’ Conference will include educational presentations by Extension and University experts on: (1) spring burndown herbicides and their impact on diseases, insects and weeds; (2) updates on cotton diseases and insect pests, including new products available to combat them; (3) a panel discussion on the value of transgenics and the impact on consultants, and (4) keynote speaker, entomologist J.R. Bradley’s humorous and informative look back on his experiences and a discussion of consultants’ role in helping farmers deal with the challenges and issues that production agriculture faces now and in the future.

The Beltwide Cotton Conferences bring together those with a stake in maintaining a healthy U.S. cotton production sector, including cotton industry members, university and USDA researchers, Extension personnel, consultants, and service providers, to share timely information.

Conferences’ programming is designed to update U.S. cotton producers on new technology, innovative and effective production practices, and key industry issues.