FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A new COTMAN Pocket Field Guide from the University of Arkansas provides a handy reference for cotton producers and consultants gathering information for crop management.

COTMAN is a cotton crop monitoring and information system widely used in cotton-producing states in the South to summarize crop developmental status, detect stress, and assist with in-season and end-of-season management decisions.

Its computer software makes it easy to enter data collected from the field and generate the reports used to make management decisions.

It was developed by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture with major financial support from Cotton Incorporated.

"The aim of the program is to optimize yield and quality, and save money on inputs in order to get the most out of your crop," said Bill Robertson, Extension cotton specialist. To accomplish this, producers can use COTMAN to promote plant health and vigor, early fruiting, and to reduce the use of late-season insecticide applications.

The COTMAN Pocket Field Guide walks users, step-by-step, through data collection techniques to insure reliable information is obtained, said Diana Danforth, senior research associate at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. This data is then entered into a computer program — available free from the UA Division of Agriculture — that helps guide producers with tough decisions on irrigation, pesticide applications and other crop management decisions.

The system is divided into two parts.

SQUAREMAN is used to monitor crop development up to time of first flowers. Reports provide feedback on square retention and plant stress.

"This is where the program helps you make money," Robertson said. "It provides a sensitive monitor of plant stress that can tell producers when small management adjustments can save yields and prevent the need for larger, costlier adjustments down the road."

The second part, BOLLMAN, is used when the crop is flowering to monitor boll-loading stress and to assist with end-of-season termination decisions. "BOLLMAN helps save money by indicating when insecticide use can be terminated, typically earlier than management systems that don't use COTMAN," Robertson said. "It utilizes node above white flower data that extensive research has proven to be effective indicators of end-of-season timing and management."

Producers can contact their county Extension agents for more information about COTMAN.

The Pocket Field Guide is available from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. It will be mailed with upgraded COTMAN software to all registered users of the system. To register for free use of the system and receive the software and pocket guide, go to the COTMAN Website, click the software link, then the "Request the Software" link.

The Website is http://www.uark.edu/depts/cotman/.

The system and information about it is also available by calling the UA Department Of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, 479-575-2256, and asking for COTMAN.

Fred Miller is science editor for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. e-mail: fmiller@uark.edu.