Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Buggy full of GMO Cotton

For harvest season this year, I left my office each day at noon to go run the boll buggy for the Farmer I Kiss.  So why would I go to work early to get my office work done, then drive 40 miles to the dusty, noisy, bumpy, late night job of cotton harvesting?   Because harvest season is the best time of the year.  It means we actually beat the Chihuahuan Desert and produced cotton! 
The cotton harvester puts a load of cotton in my buggy, then I take it to the module builder.
 What's that got to do with GMO cotton you ask?  Running the boll buggy gives me time to think in peace without the mess of papers that clutter my desk back in town.  Being the cotton ginner's daughter and farmer kisser that I am, I sat there thinking about, what else but cotton and how GMO technology has made our industry very different than the cotton industry of just a decade ago. Some people don't understand the science behind the technology, and what you don't understand, you normally fear.  Some people, like the Farmer I Kiss, have embraced the technology and love the wonderful benefits that it has provided.
Our beautiful cotton that contains the genetic trait which makes it resistant to the boll worm.
 Thanks to the genetic trait in our cotton that makes it resistant to the boll worm, we did not spray one drop of insecticide on our fields this year.  Not one drop.  Because we don't have to spray for the boll worm any longer, the beneficial insects are flourishing and naturally control the other minor pests.  Now, if we planted non-GMO cotton, like the farmers in Brazil that Daniel met last spring, we might have to spray our cotton up to 13 times with insecticide.  That's what the Brazilian farmers told him they have to do in order to save their non-GMO cotton crop.  Once they start spraying for the boll worm, then they have to spray for other pests because the beneficials are gone. 13 applications verses 0 applications.  In my book, there is no comparison.

Daniel and some other Texas farmers in a cotton field in Brazil.
Another benefit is how clean our fields stay because of the herbicide resistant trait.  With our fields basically free of weeds, the tractor can stay parked more often.  Daniel uses both herbicides and tillage to control weeds.  This year, he sprayed the entire field once before planting to kill the late winter and young spring weeds.  Then after the spring rains and planting, he sprayed only the parts of the fields that got a second crop of early summer weeds.  This is actually less herbicide used than if he planted non-GMO cotton, because instead of a second spraying on just some of the acres, he would have used a pre-emergant herbicide on all the acres at planting.  He also plowed only around the edges of the fields where weeds love to get started from the roadsides. Other farmers have had the same results as us with different GMO crops.
Daniel and our son-in-law Chris harvesting a clean field of cotton.
 These two genetic traits have cleaned both the air I breath and the water I drink and are preserving the soil that grows my beloved cotton.  Cleaner air since the tractor can stay parked more often.  Cleaner water since there is less herbicide on the surface to run off.  Preserving the soil since tillage has been greatly reduced.  A cleaner product since the insecticide is reduced or even eliminated in some years. That's what thinking time pulling a boll buggy full of GMO cotton will do.  It makes this farmer kisser happy to live in a cleaner world thanks to agriculture's new technology.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There is no Fungus Among Us: TOPGUARD Fungicide proves effective against Cotton Root Rot

In following up on my blog Serendipity, I am happy to report that the Cotton Root Rot fungus that the Farmer I Kiss has fought for 40 years is no where to be found!  The fungicide TOPGUARD worked and our cotton did not die this year.  For the first time in cotton history, there is a treatment THAT WORKS for Cotton Root Rot.

Not a single stalk of dead cotton!
We took a big risk and invested in applying TOPGUARD when we planted our dryland cotton.  It was a huge investment, considering you never know what the year will bring out here next to the Chihuahuan Desert.  The spring started out very favorable with above average rainfall, so in late May Daniel made the final decision to spend $50 per acre on our best farm and see for ourselves if this newest in a long line of promised cures would work.  IT DID!  Where we applied the TOPGUARD at the full approved rate, we had not one dead stalk of cotton.  (OK, that's not totally true.  The pressure dropped on the spray nozzles and there is a tiny little spot where there is dead cotton.)

That's it!  One tiny area where the spray nozzles lost pressure.
Now, take those farmers who decided not to invest in TOPGUARD and you can see the difference:

Neighbor down the road who didn't use TOPGUARD (and who asked to remain anonymous)
TOPGUARD was approved for use on cotton this year for the first time.  It is estimated that cotton root rot causes approximately $29 million dollars damage annually for Texas cotton growers.  Beating this disease will mean amazing cotton production when the rain cooperates.  Right now, the process to allow TOPGUARD to be labeled for cotton permanently is underway.  The fungicide has been used safely on soybean fungus and other crop diseases for many years.

It was only because a fungicide was stockpiled for a soybean fungus that didn't hit the U.S. which caused the whole study on cotton root rot because someone needed to do something with all those jugs in their warehouse and now we don't have dead cotton!  Serendipity folks, serendipity.

See our other posts about TOPGUARD:  If Only and Serendipity