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

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

Clemson University scientist José Payero, an irrigation specialist at the Edisto Research and Education Center, said Thursday 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. And while it may sound a simple task, it’s not.

In-ground moisture sensors can provide farmers invaluable date 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 those data?

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

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

The afternoon and evening field day included presentations on irrigation and weed management, cotton and soybean insect management, soybean rust management and new variety development.

Clemson entomologist Jeremy Greene demonstrated the extent to which the kudzu bug has invaded South Carolina.

Greene, who last month hosted a national conference at the Edisto center on the problem insect, said kudzu bugs can cause a 50 percent yield loss if left untreated.

Known as bean plataspid, the kudzu bug was first found in the U.S. in October 2009 in Georgia. By the following year it was in 16 South Carolina counties before making its way statewide.

The Asian bug now covers the Southeast from Florida, north to Virginia and west to Alabama, with pockets of infestations reported in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Kudzu bugs feed on kudzu, but also on soybeans, and its destructive power could prove costly. South Carolina growers produce millions of bushes a year of soybeans with a gross value of hundreds of millions of dollars.

With only two years of research behind them, scientists like Greene already 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.” is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.