Cotton farmers across the Coastal Bend area were working diligently to complete harvest of this season's cotton crop during the final week of September.

The vast majority of this year's cotton crop was a month behind from the start, since spring planting was delayed due to wet field conditions. Cooler temperatures this spring never provided the heat units necessary to accelerate cotton development in May and June. Then the unusually wet July and August kept the crop vegetative and fruiting at the top of the plant while waterlogged fields were causing boll decay at the bottom of the plant.

As the month of September ushered in its final days, Nueces County had approximately 15 percent of the cotton crop still remaining in the fields. Most of that cotton was located in the southern portion of the county, and east and west of Bishop. One farmer in that part of the county commented that he had about 75 percent of his cotton acreage harvested but only two fields had been harvested end to end without leaving un-harvested cotton in the "mud holes."

The harvest difficulty and unexpected expense involved with the 2007 Coastal Bend cotton crop has prompted a number of area farmers to consider reducing their cotton acreage in 2008, if feed grain prices remain strong. Some are seriously considering wheat as an alternative to cotton.

That cereal grain crop has reached historic highs in futures markets for both winter and spring wheat types. Since South Texas is the first region of the USA to harvest new crop wheat, the outlook for wheat prices to remain reasonably strong through May's harvest period are promising, even if the major wheat production regions in the northern U.S. grain belt dramatically expand their production of this crop.

Coastal Bend area Extension Agents and Texas Cooperative Extension will conduct a "Wheat Seminar" on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Corpus Christi A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Clarkwood. Registration will begin at 8:15 a.m. and the program is scheduled to conclude shortly before noon.

An excellent group of speakers has been scheduled to discuss important topics. The early morning portion of the program will be devoted to profitable wheat production practices for South Texas. Experts will discuss fertility, seeding rates, and seedbed preparation.

Weed and disease management practices, wheat insect management and adapted varieties for South Texas are additional topics that will provide participants with a pesticide applicators license two hours of continuing education credits needed to renew their license. Speakers will include agronomists Charles Stickler and Gaylon Morgan, along with entomologist Dr. Roy Parker, and seedsman Dean Williams.

Following a mid-morning break the seminar will resume with topics related to wheat production budgets and crop insurance considerations covered by extension economist, Dr. Larry Falconer.

Since the deadline for obtaining multi-peril insurance for the 2008 wheat crop is Sept. 30, Dr. Falconer advises farmers who intend to produce wheat to contact their crop insurance agent for sign-up details before that important deadline.

Dr. Mark Welch, extension grain market specialist, will be on hand to provide an in-depth look at the feed and food grains complex supply and demand prospects for the 2008 season. This presentation should give farmers information to compare wheat profit prospects with the potential returns from area favorites, like grain sorghum and corn.

The final presentation in the wheat seminar line-up will be wheat-marketing strategies, covered by Daniel Bluntzer, director of research for Frontier Risk Management. He will discuss potential marketing strategies that can reduce downside price risks while keeping upside price gains open. This seminar is offered free of charge.