Integrated pest management can reduce grower cost

This feature article, appearing on June 15 in Delta Farm Press, provides some of the best reasons that growers should practice the techniques of integrated pest management: scouting their fields, measuring their soil nutrition, and waiting to use chemical intervention until it’s warranted. Spoken by an Extension professional who came from the crop consulting field, the message summarizes what the Regional Centers and state IPM Coordinators stand for.

In Delta Farm Press

by Ernie Flint, Mississippi State University

Growing a crop is very expensive.

Current budgets from the Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural Economics show that a grower can expect to spend around $900 per acre in the production of cotton — and believe it or not, that does not include land cost.

For soybeans the figure is almost $400, which used to be the cost of growing cotton.

For corn, better get ready to spend around $700 per acre plus whatever the land costs.

And the cost of growing peanuts — the newest agronomic crop in our area — comes in at around $750 per acre.

These costs are for irrigated production. Here in the Hills where we don’t do much irrigation we can chop significant numbers from these figures, but we also have to take the risk that we may not receive adequate rainfall to allow our crops to produce yields that will allow at least some profit.

We have seen years when rains did not arrive in time for corn and soybeans, and our yields were very low as they were last year. Cotton is more drought-tolerant in most cases

The best and really the only way we can significantly reduce production costs in our crops, particularly cotton and soybeans, is to avoid spending whenever possible.

And the only way to do that effectively is to scout fields and only expend funds on those practices that are necessary.

This is a very sensitive subject for many people. Prior to joining the Extension Service I experienced this first-hand as a consultant when I did not recommend treating fields for certain pests even though neighboring farms were spraying regularly. Some people simply cannot stand to see others spending money without spending some, too.

As I have said many times, there is very often more psychology involved than agronomy, entomology, weed science, or plant pathology.

Perhaps the best example of this is cotton, a crop that has traditionally been treated intensively for insects.

There is still a strong feeling among growers that the presence of insects in their fields is a negative thing when in truth the scout or consultant or whoever is monitoring the crop should understand that a balance of predators and pests is acceptable. The cotton plant has a tremendous capability for compensation for the loss of fruiting forms and is still be able to produce normal yield.

The fact that we no longer have boll weevils means that cotton can now be allowed to grow almost naturally just as it did prior to the entry of that pest in the 1920s.

The same principles also apply to other crops, only not as directly as in cotton.

Read the rest of the story in Delta Farm Press.

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