At Cotton and Soybean Field Day, water and bugs present challenges

By Peter Hull

Cotton field dayTo any farmer, water means money, and using the right amount of water can bring significant rewards.  

José Payero, an irrigation specialist at Clemson's Edisto Research and Education Center, told farmers at the center's Cotton and Soybean Field Day that irrigation is a matter of how much and when.  

Correct irrigation of a field can increase yield by as much as 65 percent -- and maximize profits, he said.  

It's not as simple as it sounds. In-ground moisture sensors can provide farmers valuable data and help take the guesswork out of when and where to irrigate. The question becomes: How much is a farmer willing to spend to gain that data?  

Modern technology allows farmers to receive data immediately from the field wirelessly via cell phones or even satellite. Such precision can generate significant long-term savings, but technology comes with up-front costs, Payero said.  

“Continuous data require investment, but can bring long-term savings in water and fertilizer,” Payero said. “It all depends how much the farmer wants to invest.”  

Other field day presentations covered new crop varieties and management of weeds, diseases and insects.  

Clemson entomologist Jeremy Greene demonstrated the extent to which the kudzu bug has invaded South Carolina. He said kudzu bugs can cause a 50 percent yield loss if left untreated.  

With only two years of research behind them, scientists like Greene already have formulated insecticides that effectively kill swarms, minimizing damage the bugs cause to soybean harvests.  

The insects reproduce in such large numbers and move about so freely, timing pesticide sprays is a tricky business, but crucial.  

"The kudzu bug is a new pest, but it looks like it’s here to stay," Greene said. "We've got to find a way to deal with it, because it can be a devastating insect."