Pee Dee REC Field Day teaches about cotton, cover crops, pollinators and more | Local News

DENISE ATTAWAY Clemson University

This year has been great for cotton, and a Clemson Extension cotton specialist says variety selection is the key to success.

At the 2022 Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education (REC) Field Day, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service cotton specialist and professor of agronomy, Michael Jones, told growers that variety selection is the most important decision they can make when planting cotton.

Farmers should prioritize yield potential and stability when choosing which variety to plant, Jones said.

“When it comes to a different option, you have to do your homework,” Jones said. “Study the available information and be patient with your experiments to find the varieties that work best for you.”

Frances Ray-Jones, Clemson Extension entomologist and integrated pest management (IPM) coordinator, tells farmers that modern management of the corn earworm, also known as the cotton bollworm, relies primarily on the use of transgenic Bt technology in both corn and cotton.

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ThryvOn, a new Bt cotton variety, is expected to be released in the U.S. in 2023, Jones said. ThryvOn cotton contains the Bt trait MON 88702, which targets thrips and spotted plant bugs, reducing damage and crop loss caused by these insects. Bt cotton is genetically modified by introducing a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensisto produce certain proteins that are toxic to specific insects.

For 2022, Jones reported planting about 260,000 acres of cotton in the state, yielding about 900 pounds of lint per acre.

In addition to variety selection, field day participants learned that the main pest of cotton is the corn borer. Reay-Jones said the corn earworm is known as the bollworm in cotton. Modern control of the insect is primarily based on the use of transgenic Bt technology in both corn and cotton. But corn earworms in the southeastern United States have developed resistance to several Bt toxins, primarily due to selection pressure on Bt corn, leading to increased late-season problems in Bt cotton.

“Bt corn hybrids containing only the Vip3A toxin have been found to provide excellent levels of control,” Reay-Jones said.

Corn growers are required to manage Bt resistance by planting non-Bt corn refuges. This strategy involves planting non-Bt corn in a Bt corn field or within half a mile of a Bt corn field, which promotes the survival of Bt-susceptible individuals that will later mate and reduce potential resistance. This will help preserve Bt technology in both maize and cotton. For more information, read “Corn earworm as a pest of field corn” in Clemson Extension Land-Grant Press.

Clemson nutrient management specialist Bhupinder Farmaha asked “What rate of chicken litter should be applied to increase soybean yield” and “Does potash application really increase soybean yield?” Overfertilizing potassium can reduce soybean yields, Farmaha said. He also talked about how using broiler litter as fertilizer can have a positive effect on soil health and other functions. But he also said that broiler litter characteristics are variable and depend on litter quality and soil factors.

The field day included a discussion by Tim Bryant about the Clemson IPM Program. Rongzhong Ye spoke about cover crops and soil health, and Ryan Bean discussed the use of prescribed fire and planting wildlife areas to manage forests. Senior scientist Wonkeun Park discussed crop diversity and improvement, Clemson Extension specialist JC Chong concluded the tour with a discussion of new tomato breeding lines resistant to whiteflies and spider mites, and Clemson Extension irrigation specialist Jose Payero demonstrated. using cloud-based soil moisture monitoring technology for irrigation scheduling.

Genetic diversity and cover crops

Sach Rustagi, associate professor of molecular breeding department, informed the participants about his projects related to breeding new traits in cotton and peanuts. Rustgi is the principal investigator of a study supported by Cotton Incorporated to improve the yield of Upland Cotton by changing the growth habit of the crop from perennial to annual.

Perennials regrow each year, while annuals live only one growing season and then die. In addition, perennials conserve assimilations (sugars) for regrowth in the next growing season, which is wasted since cotton is now considered an annual crop. These assimilations can be channeled to produce more shells. Plant defoliation and regrowth after droughts also reduce crop quality and negatively impact income.

“Cotton has an economic impact of $500 billion worldwide,” Rustgi said. “However, cotton production has remained stagnant over the years. Through this study, we aim to identify molecular markers associated with flowering and other growth traits in Upland Cotton in order to dissect the genetic code and create “true” annual diversity. This will increase productivity without increasing input costs.”

Clemson Extension cotton specialist Michael Jones and Todd Campbell of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) are other researchers involved.

Genetic diversity is important in cotton because it allows for improved fiber quality and product stability. In an update on the Pee Dee Cotton Breeding Program, Campbell said a project sponsored by the South Carolina Cotton Council evaluated 18 advanced breeding lines at three locations between South Carolina and North Carolina. Yields were strong, and a number of pedigree lines equaled the high-value Pima cotton in fiber quality.

“Growers need a variety that can withstand changing environmental conditions and still perform well,” Campbell said.

Eric Billman, USDA-ARS research agronomist, spoke about using perennial cover crops to minimize cotton inputs and Binaya Parajuli, a Clemson graduate student in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, about using cover crops to reduce nitrogen loss in row crops.

Pathogens, pollinators, plant breeding, blueberries and butter

A Clemson plant breeder and geneticist talked about how special breeding practices can help improve the yield of grain sorghum in drylands. Rick Boyles, Clemson plant breeder and geneticist, talks about how special breeding practices can help improve the yield of drought grain sorghum.

Other information provided during the field day included a presentation by Clemson grass pathologist Joe Roberts, who discussed root-dwelling pathogens that attack turfgrass grown in South Carolina. These include fungi that cause diseases such as mini-ring. Roberts and other researchers are also looking at nematodes that feed on the roots of grasses year-round and how these nematodes may interact with fungal pathogens.

Rick Boyles, Clemson plant breeder and geneticist, talked about how special breeding practices can help improve the yield of grain sorghum in drylands.

Clemson beekeeper and Pollinator Program coordinator Ben Powell talked about strategies to use for pollinator habitat. Buckwheat is the easiest crop to plant for pollinator support because it “provides ample food for many pollinators as well as honey bees,” Powell said.

Clemson Extension field commercial horticulture agent Bruce McLean looks at alternative soil amendments that offer comparable results to pine bark on blueberries. McLean also works with Jenna Hershberger on vegetable breeding and genetics, vegetable and butter breeding projects. One of their research involves continuing Tony Melton’s research to develop a butternut variety that can thrive in the South Carolina heat. Melton, who worked for Clemson for 40 years, died on April 2, 2022.


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