Feb. 13 set for production tips for profits The 2001 crop year is shaping up to be a challenging one for Southwest farmers.

Increased energy prices will raise production costs for fertilizer, tillage and irrigation. Continued low commodity prices will further hamper profit opportunities. Uncertainty over the direction a new administration will take agricultural policy looms large - and there's always the weather.

Farmers have an opportunity, however, to learn how to deal with these and other challenges at the third Annual Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo, Feb. 13 at the Lubbock Civic Center.

"A good portion of the conference will focus on ways to improve profit potential," says Mike Gonitzke, publisher of Southwest Farm Press, one of the conference co-sponsors. "We have a farmer panel that will share real farm experiences about how they've survived through some of the toughest growing seasons on record. And we have experts in a number of disciplines who will discuss research and production techniques that will help farmers save money."

Randy Boman, Extension cotton agronomist at Lubbock, will discuss "systems trials and other variety tests. The trials were large plots on producers' land," Boman says. "These included fairly new varieties produced in Roundup Ready/BXN or conventional herbicide programs. Results were outstanding."

Boman will discuss data from three sites: Tokio, Muleshoe, and Ralls. "We also had Bollgard trials at three locations."

He says projects were funded by the Plains Cotton Growers/Plains Cotton Improvement Program and Cotton Incorporated Texas State support dollars.

Boman also will concentrate on practices that that might help reduce expenses.

"We'll consider soil sampling/soil testing to identify fields where we really need to spend money on fertilizers, as well as some that might not need as much.

"It's not unusual for some producers to have extremely high soil test values for some nutrients. Why spend money on fertilizers when the field may be considerably above the critical levels?"

Boman also has done quite a bit of work on seeding rates over the last few years. "Findings are similar to another study at the Munday, Texas, Experiment Station that shows potential for significant reductions in seeding rates."

In addition to Southwest Farm Press, sponsors include: Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., Lubbock; The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University; The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station; the Texas Agricultural Extension Service; and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.

Participants also have the opportunity to earn four continuing education units from the Texas Department of Agriculture. They may earn two units in the General category and one each in Laws and Regulations and Integrated Pest Management.

The Texas Crop Consultants Association will award 4.5 units for the conference, 1.25 for Pest Management and 3.25 for Crop Management.

"This will be a timely event for consultants and farmers who will need to renew applicators licenses by March," Gonitzke says. "We always try to hold this conference as close to planting season as possible to provide the latest information available to help with production decisions."

In addition to the conference, participants also have an opportunity to visit with the area's leading agri-businesses during the Expo.

"We've scheduled our sessions to provide time for participants to visit booths during registration, coffee breaks and lunch," Gonitzke says. "We want participants and exhibitors to have plenty of time to interact."

Registration for the Conference and Expo is free. Lunch will be available for a nominal fee. Sponsors encourage pre-registration to help plan for breaks and meals. All participants who pre-register will be eligible for a door prize, a Remington 1100 shotgun.

"To be eligible for the drawing, we need to receive registrations by February 9," says Kevin Hudson, Director of Advertising for Southwest Farm Press. The winner also must be present at the drawing to qualify.

On-site registration will begin at 8 a.m. and seminars start promptly at 9 a.m. The Conference and Expo will close at 5:00 p.m.