Monday, March 18, 2013

Shouldn't we have parades? It's National Agriculture Day

We have parades in this town at the drop of a hat.  The small street down by the river gets blocked off at least once a month for a line of crate paper adorned floats.  But March 19th will be conspicuously quiet down along the river road.  No floats, no motorcycle groups, no marching bands.  Yet, here in town, we will all eat at least three meals that day, wear clothes and drive our cars.
March 19th is National Agriculture Day.  Not only should we recognize the day, we should have a BIG parade to celebrate those who produce the food we eat, the fiber we wear and the fuel we burn.  San Angelo is an agriculture town.  In fact, at one point in time, we were the wool and mohair capital of the world.  Just get out an old encyclopida and there we are, our one claim to fame.  Shouldn't we block off the river road for trailers full of sheep and goats?  Shouldn't we invite all the farmers to drive their tractors through the middle of downtown while we line the streets to cheer for them?

Sadly, the day may go past with most Americans failing to even know it's National Agriculture Day as they go about their lives eating three meals of safe affordable food, wearing comfortable cotton clothes and driving cars fueled in part by grain derived ethanol.
On March 19th, I plan to thank the Farmer I Kiss and all the other farmers I know for their part in making America such a great place to live.  I hope you do the same!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Decision 2013: Drought Resistant & GMO Cottonseed Varieties leading the polls

About this time each year, the Wilde household takes on a full blown campaign atmosphere.  The Farmer I Kiss and I both have very strong opinions about which brand and variety of cottonseed to plant.  Lying around the house you will find lots of magazines and brochures conspicuously left opened to a favorite brand, or maybe a new, exciting variety.  Big red circles have been drawn around the front runners.
Waiting for our food at the restaurant...Daniel just happened to have some reading to do...
Underneath all the hub-bub, Daniel studies carefully to try and find just that right combination of crossbreed and genetic technologies which could give him just a tiny edge up on the Chihuahuan Desert.  The main concern right now is finding a variety that will tolerate both the extremely low humidity and extremely high heat which we have been experiencing the past few years.  Many brands have varieties that are proving to be drought tolarant, but not all droughts are the same.  Producing cotton with less rainfall is one thing.  Producing cotton with less rainfall, 10% humidity and 110 degree heat is quite another. This is where he depends on the years of cross breeding done by seed companies, followed by farmer planted trial plots to finally isolate the traits which will form the perfect "Edge of the Chihuahuan Desert" dryland cotton variety.

Last year in the Concho Valley, one particular brand and variety,  Deltapine 1044 seemed to beat all the rest in both production and quality.  Unfortunately, we didn't plant that variety.  We planted a variety that has been a top producer with excellent quality for several years, but just didn't hold up to the low humidity and high heat of 2012, FiberMax 1740.  Daniel likes to choose a variety that has a good showing from farm to farm in the farmer field trials.  Not the one that suddenly jumps out of no where to the front of one trial and not the one that lags at the bottom of all the trials.
I am pulling for one of the new-comers this year!
Daniel also has to take into consideration how early he will plant.  The relative maturity of varieties come in Early, Medium and Full season.  If he plants in mid to late May, that takes an entirely different variety than when he has to wait until late June.  Trying to guess the rainfall situation in May or June in order to pre-book a variety now does not always work out as planned!  A change in planting intentions can leave him with a barn of Full season seed while he frantically tries to locate somewhere to buy a barn full of Early seed!

Another vital issue is insect pressure.  Every storm from the south can bring in a new crop of boll worms.  These vile little creatures can strip a cotton plant clean in a matter of a few days.  That makes the bollworm resistant genetic trait (Bt) very important in the decision.  Thanks to the Bt trait, our farms have been insecticide free for five years.  A friend of ours decided three years ago to forego the Bt trait and planted conventional cottonseed.  He had to spray his fields four times with insecticide and still lost over 30% of the crop.  My brother-in-law farms cotton up on the plains north of here where there is very little insect pressure.  He plants cottonseed every year that does not contain the Bt genetic trait.  For us the choice is Bt genetics or lots of insecticide.
Here's hoping this will be waiting for Daniel's cotton stripper this fall!
So what variety of cottonseed is ahead in the polls?  Will it be one of the big name front runners or a small time dark horse that makes it's way to the planter boxes of the Farmer I Kiss?  More campaigning is needed before Decision 2013!