Today I got to accompany my husband to Monsanto's field day in Union City, TN. I thought this was my first field day, but looking back I did go to one in high school for roughly 30 minutes in one of my ag classes. This one was much more memorable. (I hope!)
We started the day at a 1-hour presentation about cotton, at which I more than quadrupled my cotton knowledge. I learned all about white flowers and early vs late producing plants and cotton bolls and perfect weather conditions for each stage of cotton and how to tell how close a plant is to harvest by either counting bolls or cutting open a boll. I also learned about defoliant (which I had heard of only once before) and chopping a field (which I still don't really know why or when). I also learned that they use A LOT of chemicals on cotton: one or two chemical applications to kill weeds before planting, more chemicals at planting, more one or two weeks (or both) after planting, more as needed for weed and pest control, then one or two passes with a defoliant. (Just listening to all these chemical applications made me want to run out and buy all new t-shirts...organic only!) The great thing was, I thought of all kinds of questions, such as "is there a defoliant that is approved for organic cotton?" and "how does a cotton plant not look like a cotton plant" (which he had mentioned about one of the experimental varieties). Unfortunately, everyone else in attendance was a real farmer with real farm questions (especially about pig-weed, which seems to be a big problem right now with the cotton), so I was left only wishing I had a guide to explain terms to me and to answer my more general questions.
Next we visited a presentation about weeds. The plan seemed to be to talk about all weeds and Round-Up Ready products, but the farmers wanted to concentrate on pig-weed. I did finally get to see this Pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri...a pigweed that is resistant to the protein glyphosate used in Round-Up Ready products). I also learned about a pesticide that kills caterpillars from the inside out (which made me glad we don't use chemicals on our farm).
We finished out the day by checking out the corn varieties. Nothing too exciting there: we are from Illinois, after all. Overall, it was a very interesting, educational day. And I don't mean to put down Monsanto at all and am sorry if that is how this blog has come across. They do what they do well, it is just not necessarily the way I would choose to do things on our farm.
By the way, I Googled organic cotton when we got home. According to HAE Now's article "Why Choose Organic", no defoliant is approved for use on organic cotton.