Production of cotton requires some of the most intensive uses of pesticides and water resources of any major row crop in the southern United States. Improvement in the environmental stewardship of this crop would have substantial impacts upon the long-term sustainability of agriculture. The average annual job turnover rate for county agents in many southern states annually is often 5-10%. Most non-retirement separations of agents occur with less than 5 years of experience. Many of the newly hired agents step into their roles without extensive education or practical background in row crop production, let alone with cotton. Our proposal is designed to fill this knowledge gap among county agents who work in counties/parishes with cotton production. A certificate program will be designed to enhance the agents’ skills and knowledge about sustainable cotton production. In turn, they will become more effective in promoting those principles among their stakeholders. The program will be designed and administered by cotton experts from Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University and Louisiana State University research and extension agencies. Teaching content will be reviewed by an advisory committee composed of members of cotton commodity groups. Learning material will be focused on practices and principles of sustainable cotton production based upon the pillars of economic viability, social consequences, and environmental impacts.
Project objectives from proposal:
The target audience will be county agents working in counties/parishes with cotton acreage, especially those agents with a limited background in the cotton industry. The goal will be to enhance the agents’ ability to create and deliver educational content that improves the sustainability of cotton production. Specific objectives are:
- Promote best management practices of cotton production.
- Improve the skills and knowledge of county agents in regards to the cotton industry and specifically sustainable production strategies.
- Reduction of unnecessary pesticide applications, inefficient use of synthetic fertilizers and water resources, and improvement of soil health in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana cotton fields.