As Monsanto continually strives to improve the gene makeup of Roundup Ready cotton, Delta Research and Extension Center plant physiologist Harold Hurst and colleagues are trying to keep a step ahead with their weed research.

"Monsanto continues to study new technology that would extend the time farmers have to make a Roundup application over the top of cotton to later in the season," says Hurst, who spoke at the Aug. 15 cotton field day in Stoneville, Miss.

Hurst anticipates such technology being in cotton soon. In an over-the-top Roundup test for morningglory control, Hurst looked at several things: what a greater application would do to morningglory control, what delayed applications would do, and what lower application rates applied consistently through the season would do.

Hurst holds up a plant and says, "This is ivy-leaf morningglory, a hairy type. It's generally been thought as easier to control than slick-leaf types. In the test there are three species.

"In this test, when I applied Roundup at a quart when the plants weren't more than 3 to 4 inches tall, I didn't see any difference between control of any of the types."

In the test, Hurst had a conventional test, "where we looked at a pre-emerge and then directed applications. Also on that treatment, there was a late-season herbicide applied for brown-top millet."

Treatments 2-10 (see chart) are all Roundup.

"We had a general treatment on a 20-inch band on May 29 when cotton was three-leaf. We then had subsequent treatments at various rates and timings."

Looking at the chart, you'll notice that with the exception of treatment 10, Hurst had over-the-top and directed treatments at the same time.

Researchers estimated control using a visual evaluation. They marked a certain area of the field and made repeated counts on the same area.

"We had some old plants and some new plants. The new plants were those that had germinated since the previous application. By and large, they were 3 inches or less - more likely 0.5 to 1 inch because the counts were made on weekly intervals."

Old plants were identified as those that showed no regrowth or were showing regrowth. Anything alive, Hurst counted.

As the season progressed, the old plant count was separated into two categories.

"We had `R,' which indicated the plant was there and had regrowth. We had `I' which indicated the plant was there with no regrowth."

When Hurst made the initial application to the band in a row, the morningglory plants were mostly 1 to 2 inches high. A few were up to 8 inches high.

On June 1, three days later, Hurst made the first application to summer plots and "we knew that new plants had just emerged and some old plants were up to 8 inches. Some of the old showed some injury from the May 29 application."

All subsequent applications were broadcast. The test field hasn't had a cultivator in it this year. Hurst did that so he would have a good estimate of what the control was.

For the June 9 application, the new plants were up to 3 inches. The old plants were grown up to 5-inch vines.

"On June 16, we made estimations of height on plants where treatments hadn't been applied yet. The old plants were up to 8 inches and the new was 1 inch. A week later, the old plants were up to 22 inches long.

"That's tremendous spurts of growth and understates the fact that if you delay and a rain comes and keeps you out of the field, these things will grow off and leave you behind. That's why we harp on putting everything out on small weeds."

Subsequent applications on June 30 and July 7, were made to plants that were much smaller. Most of those plants were up to 10 inches or so, says Hurst. Lots of those plants indicated regrowth.

"An interesting thing involved treatment number 10. We had an initial application of 0.5 pound on the row. We went broadcast and every week we put out 0.25 pound over-the-top. That was the best treatment out there. We don't have many weeds at all."

Predominant weeds were morningglory, brown-top millet and slender amaranth - a pigweed that isn't a tall plant like Palmer or smooth pigweed as it grows only to about 3 feet high.

"I wouldn't advocate that you put out 0.25 pound weekly. Most of these over-the-top applications are mostly off-label. The direct applications aren't.

"When Monsanto gets the gene put into the plant and we can put the product out over-the-top label-wise when the cotton is taller, this info will help us make some decisions on how to deal with morningglory. I think we can all agree that morningglory is one of the worst weeds in cotton."

For the test, Hurst used Roundup Ultra. The cotton was DPL 451 stacked gene. The directed sprayings were made with a piece of equipment - an S&N sprayer - manufactured by a company in Greenwood, Miss.

FARMERS AND ranchers are hit particularly hard by arthritis and should seek help early to establish self-management programs for their ailment, said an Extension specialist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Karen Funkenbusch with the MU Farmers and Arthritis Project said farmers are vulnerable to arthritis-related disabilities. "Unlike most workers, farmers tend to continue farming, a physically demanding job, well into their seventies," she said. "They tend to work long, hard hours in difficult conditions and to use heavy equipment."

Since rural health care facilities may be limited, some farmers may not know that arthritis can be effectively treated, she said. "It is especially crucial that farm people be properly educated about arthritis and participate in programs to minimize effects of the disease," she said.

Information on arthritis-related programs is available by calling 800-995-8503.

The Farmers and Arthritis project is a joint effort of the Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at MU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farm families can receive help in establishing self-management programs, equipment modification, information on health service providers in their rural area, sources of financial help and links to self-help groups to increase arthritis awareness.

"Rural isolation, limited personal resources and gaps in rural delivery systems can frustrate farm families," she said.

A recent survey by the Missouri center indicated that almost one-third of farmers interviewed said they were unable to do some work-related activities because of arthritis. Sixty percent of those interviewed said that they had problems with fingers and knees. The problem may become more severe considering the average age of a Missouri farmer is 54.7 years, compared to 38.7 for all U.S. workers.

"Getting the word out is critical," said Funkenbusch. "Research indicates that self-management courses help people reduce arthritis pain, yet as of 1997 less than 1 percent of those with arthritis have taken advantage of such courses."

About 43 million Americans of all ages suffer from arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number, with an aging generation of baby boomers, is predicted to hit 60 million in the next 20 years.

Precision agriculture has become more than just a "buzzword" in farming. Practical applications abound - as visitors to the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition will see at this year's show, to be held Oct. 17-19 in Moultrie, Ga.

"We actually show the farmers in a real-life setting how technology works and how to implement it into their operations," said Chip Blalock, Expo director.

In the Expo fields, farmers will learn how to be more efficient - economically and environmentally - through such techniques as precise applications of fertilizers and pesticides.

Debbie Waters of Southern States said some of the techniques her company will demonstrate are variable lime, fertilizer and nematicide application; GPS (satellite) navigation and soil sampling; and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data management. Grain and cotton yield monitors as well as a new nitrogen sensor (in the testing stages) will also be on display.

Advanced precision ag users will marvel at Trimble Navigation Limited's line-up for the Sunbelt Expo field demos. The AgGPS 132 is the world's first 12-channel, high performance receiver to use "The Choice" technology, a combination of a GPS receiver, a Coast Guard beacon, and a satellite differential correction receiver.

"This system insures the availability of a real-time DGPS on almost any farm in the world," said Sue Huber of Trimble.

Trimble's user-friendly options include a smart antenna that mounts on the cab roof; a remote display and logger for in-the-field use; and a rugged field computer built to withstand environmental extremes.

Precision Agriculture demonstrations will be held in the fields each day of the Sunbelt Expo at 10 am and 2 pm. Hours for the three-day show are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is $5 per person each day.

For more information, contact the Expo office at (912) 985-1968, Fax: (912) 890-8518.

Beef herd owners in the Show Me Select Heifer Development program are learning to apply proven management practices, said Richard Randle, University of Missouri Extension veterinarian.

At the MU Greenley Center Field Day, Randle reported on progress made during the first three years of the heifer program. Show Me Select has grown from 33 herds in 1997 to 238 herds statewide last year. Randle said enrollment is still being counted for this year, but he expects about the same number of herds as last year. There were 10,246 heifers in the program in 1999.

The Show Me Select program helps herd-owners have their replacement heifers in condition for success in the breeding season.

The program involves two on-farm examinations of the heifers. The first is about a month to 45 days in advance of the breeding season. A follow-up pregnancy exam is given before 120 days of gestation.

Those in the program the longest are learning how to improve their herds the most, Randle said.

One of the key measures of success is the number of heifers that are cycling at the start of the breeding season. Records from last year show that first-time participants had 58 percent of their heifers cycling. The herd-owners in for the third year had 70 percent cycling by the start of breeding season.

"Through participation, producers are doing a better job of developing their heifers," Randle said. "Improved management is the purpose of the educational program."

Records also show improved response to synchronization and success with artificial insemination, Randle said.

There have been major accomplishments with the Show Me Select Heifer program, Randle told field day visitors.

"A majority of the producers are using technologies beneficial to heifer development and reproductive management," he said. "Producers get a better understanding of the concepts as they stay involved in the program."