Earlier this month, representatives of Wal-Mart, HanesBrands and Fruit of the Loom traveled to Georgia to see firsthand how efficient cotton production is in Georgia. The trip was organized by Ed Barnes, senior director of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated. Participants stopped at the office of the Georgia Cotton Commission in Perry and visited two farms in Macon County to see the work done by University of Georgia (UGA) Extension Irrigation and Precision Ag Specialist Wes Porter on producer-funded research through Cotton Incorporated.
Porter and Barnes shared data they have collected on water use on farms across Georgia. The goal of this research is to demonstrate that cotton farmers are using less water to produce more cotton. Macon County UGA Extension Coordinator Erin Forte described the diversity of agriculture in the county and each segment’s different needs. One of the participants commented, “It is exciting to see how the story (of cotton) is beginning to be told.” The participants are interested in this research because of consumer demand for more sustainably produced goods.
At CJ Farms outside of Marshallville, Jamie and Adam Hughes discussed the importance of irrigation, technology and innovation on their 4,000-acre farm, which includes 1,600 acres of cotton as well as soybeans, peanuts and corn.
At Rodgers Brothers Farm near Oglethorpe, the group got to see the study in action. The study uses water sensors to track rainfall/irrigation and how much moisture the soil is retaining at different depths. There are three sensors in each field. This information is packaged to give growers the information in an easy-to-use, web-based application so they can make crucial decisions on irrigation.
The first-class work that Georgia farmers along with UGA researchers and Extension personnel are doing matters and is being noticed by industry and hopefully consumers. It appears that sustainability and transparency are more than just a fad with consumers, and going forward, Georgia cotton will continue to lead the nation in both because of forward thinking by the state’s leadership.
by Taylor R. Sills, Georgia Cotton Commission