Every Year is a New Year

David Carter has been growing cotton exclusively for 20 years, but quickly qualifies that by saying, “This is my 20th year of experience. What you learn about growing a crop doesn’t seem to last longer than a year.”

This High Plains grower remains successful during these challenging times by optimizing his resources, such as water. Additionally, he uses his membership in the local cooperative gin to take advantage of marketing opportunities.

“My independent consultant, Darrell Kitten, helps me schedule irrigations,” says Carter, who farms near Levelland, TX. “In addition to water management, Darrell helps me with fertility, insect and weed control, defoliation and variety selection.

“Our water is limited so we have to make the most with what we have. It seems as though we have to deal with less all the time, but the area producers seem to be doing a better job with less water. We have adjusted the timing of irrigations, and have just managed the resource better. I use Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) pivot irrigation, as well as drip on 350 acres. As a rule, we expect a one-half bale yield increase with drip over pivot.”

With his inputs and sandy loam soils, Carter expects to average 3 bales per acre under center pivots and 3½ bales on his drip. On his dryland corners with the newer varieties, he has been averaging a bale per acre. “The newer, higher yielding varieties are one reason why we’re still in business,” he adds. “If we were making the same yields that we were five years ago, we couldn’t make it.”

Carter likes to use 170 units of nitrogen on his drip irrigated cotton and 150 units on pivot-irrigated. On his corners, he will apply about 40 units if he has some subsoil moisture going into the crop. Additionally, he plants from early to mid-May, using 52,000 seeds per acre, which gives him about 3 plants per foot.

Variety Selection is Critical

“Variety selection is one of my big decisions because I can’t afford any failures,” Carter says. “So many new varieties are now available, and I’m always figuring out which ones fit my operation the best. Certain varieties perform better in certain conditions and locations. It’s critical to spend as much time as it takes deciding where to plant the right variety in the right place because they all bring something different to the table. We’re constantly trying new ones, but we plant the bulk of our land to our basic varieties.”

One new variety that Carter planted last year was NexGen NG 3348 B2RF, a Bollgard II/Roundup Ready Flex cotton. His pivot of NG 3348 B2RF had a rough start: no rain and a lot of wind, followed by 100-degree-plus temperatures.

“We planted NG 3348 B2RF in the middle of May and in spite of the bad weather, it had good emergence,” Carter says. “NG 3348 B2RF performed as well as our standard varieties, and it yielded about 1,400 pounds per acre.”

Carter strips his cotton, although in 2006 he hired a custom picker for some of his crop. In 2007, he and a friend leased a picker. “The markets supposedly demand picked cotton although it has yet to prove an advantage to me; I can operate strippers more economically,” he says. “I stripped all my cotton in 2008, but we’re still considering picked cotton. Last fall was not ideal for a picker on the High Plains. We didn’t start harvesting until after the first freeze, and a picker needs to be in the field much earlier. I like to start stripping by mid-October and finish up by Thanksgiving.”

Marketing Opportunities

Carter uses his membership in a cooperative gin to take advantage of marketing opportunities. “That especially helps during a year like 2008 when the yields aren’t really great,” he says. “However, I had the crop contracted in the right pool and had a good gin rebate because raw cottonseed prices rose.

“The gin helps us with our marketing; they offer several options to growers who decide what best fits their operation. For example, last year my cotton was in Queensland Cotton, which offered 10 cents over loan back when prices were rising. You need to take advantage of opportunities when they’re offered. Looking into 2009, there are starting to be a few opportunities, although certainly none that attractive yet.”

Carter is a member of the United Cotton Growers in Levelland. This cooperative gin is one of the largest in the U.S., ginning about 150,000 bales a year as a five-year average. The five-stand Lummus gin is run by Paul Wilson.

“Gins are hurting right now but we’re fortunate because ours is successful,” Carter says. “Our biggest problem is handling growth, which has come through new varieties, drip irrigation and better management. Our progressive producers are making a lot more than what we used to.”

The increased gin rebate to growers has helped Carter’s bottom line. “One time last summer cottonseed prices rose to more than $400 per ton at the dairy level,” he says. “They told us that dairies would quit feeding when prices rose above $175, but they kept using it. It’s back around $220 per ton, which is twice the amount that we’re accustomed to. It’s added a substantial value to the grower. Many dairies have relocated from California to West Texas and are located 50 to 60 miles north of me. They have helped demand for cottonseed. The good thing about cottonseed is that it’s all for domestic consumption so we don’t have to rely on export markets like we do with our lint.”

Carter says producing cotton profitably goes back to using a crop consultant, managing water and fertility, and taking advantage of pricing opportunities. “It all goes hand in hand,” he says. “We closely watch all of our expenses and make as much yield as possible. The newer varieties have really helped increase our yields.”

Leave a Reply

Planting Stories
Cotton Production

Cotton Grower Acreage Survey: Growers Dialing Back Acres in 2015

January 5, 2015

The 2015 Cotton Grower Acreage Survey suggests cotton farmers could reduce cotton plantings by more than 10 percent this year.

Planting

2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Guide Available Online

December 16, 2014

The 2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Guide is now available online.

Planting

2014 Mississippi Small Plot Trial Data Now Available

December 15, 2014

Data from the 2014 Mississippi Small Plot Cotton Official Variety Trial is now available through Mississippi State University.

Planting

AgriLife Extension’s On-Farm Cotton Variety Trial Data Available

November 26, 2014

The annual Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation trial results for the South, East and Central Regions of Texas are now available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Cotton Production

Planting Pace Picks Up in the Southwest, First Squares Reported

June 2, 2014

The June 1 USDA Crop Progress report shows that Southwestern states made substantial progress in cotton planting over the past week, thanks to much-needed moisture.

Cotton Production

Cotton Planting in Many States Now Ahead of Five-Year Average

May 27, 2014

USDA reports that 62 percent of the U.S. cotton crop has now been planted, with eight states ahead of their five-year planting average.

Cotton Production

Southeast Shows Biggest Weekly Gains in Cotton Planting, Reports USDA

May 19, 2014

Based on the May 18 USDA Crop Progress report, overall cotton planting stayed on track with the five-year average for this date, with 46 percent of the U.S. now in the ground. But growers in the Southeast made the most of the past week, registering impressive gains in cotton seeding.

Around The Gin
Product News

New Cheminova Chemistry to Help Control Herbicide Resistant Weeds

February 23, 2015

Cheminova plans to register pethoxamid, a new herbicide active ingredient, to help growers manage herbicide-resistant weeds.

Product News

Brake Herbicide Receives Section 18 Approvals in Six States

February 18, 2015

Brake Herbicide has received Section 18 emergency use exemptions for control of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth in six cotton producing states.

Precision Technology

TeeJet Matrix 430 Provides Simple, Easy-to-Use Guidance

February 18, 2015

TeeJet Technologies’ new Matrix 430 GNSS guidance system is ideal for a wide range of field applications.

Precision Technology

TeeJet Launches RX520 High-Precision GNSS Receiver

February 17, 2015

TeeJet Technologies has introduced the RX520 dual frequency GNSS receiver for precision farming operations.

Disease Control / Nematodes

Velum Total Approved for Cotton, Peanuts in 2015

February 12, 2015

Bayer CropScience has received registration for Velum Total, a new insecticide/nematicide for use in cotton and peanuts in 2015.

Disease Control / Nematodes

EPA Approves TOPGUARD Terra for Cotton Root Rot Control

February 6, 2015

TOPGUARD Terra fungicide from Cheminova has received EPA registration for control of cotton root rot.

Product News

Deltapine to Release Five Bollgard II XtendFlex Cotton Varieties

January 27, 2015

Following USDA deregulation of the Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton technology, Deltapine has announced plans to offer five new B2XF varieties for the 2015 season.

Product News

Bollgard II XtendFlex Cotton Poised for Limited Introduction

January 21, 2015

A limited introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton varieties is planned for the 2015 planting season through Deltapine and select licensees.

Latest News
Cotton Production

Cotton Grower Acreage Survey: Growers Dialing Back Acres in 2015

January 5, 2015

The 2015 Cotton Grower Acreage Survey suggests cotton farmers could reduce cotton plantings by more than 10 percent this year.

Planting

2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Guide Available Online

December 16, 2014

The 2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Guide is now available online.

Planting

2014 Mississippi Small Plot Trial Data Now Available

December 15, 2014

Data from the 2014 Mississippi Small Plot Cotton Official Variety Trial is now available through Mississippi State University.

Planting

AgriLife Extension’s On-Farm Cotton Variety Trial Data Available

November 26, 2014

The annual Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation trial results for the South, East and Central Regions of Texas are now available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Cotton Production

USDA Says Cotton Planting Nearly Complete, Early Crop in Good Shape

June 9, 2014

According to the June 8 USDA cotton crop reports, 89 percent of this year's crop has now been planted, and the early crop is off to a solid start.

Cotton Production

Setting New Yield Limits

June 4, 2014

A harvesting trip to Texas changed the way Tommy Butner thought about yields on his own Tennessee farm.

Cotton Production

Planting Pace Picks Up in the Southwest, First Squares Reported

June 2, 2014

The June 1 USDA Crop Progress report shows that Southwestern states made substantial progress in cotton planting over the past week, thanks to much-needed moisture.

Cotton Production

Cotton Planting in Many States Now Ahead of Five-Year Average

May 27, 2014

USDA reports that 62 percent of the U.S. cotton crop has now been planted, with eight states ahead of their five-year planting average.

Cotton Production

Southeast Shows Biggest Weekly Gains in Cotton Planting, Reports USDA

May 19, 2014

Based on the May 18 USDA Crop Progress report, overall cotton planting stayed on track with the five-year average for this date, with 46 percent of the U.S. now in the ground. But growers in the Southeast made the most of the past week, registering impressive gains in cotton seeding.

Cotton Production

Planting Surge Puts 2014 Cotton Acres Near Five-Year Average

May 12, 2014

According to the May 11 USDA Crop Progress Report, 30 percent of the U.S. cotton crop is now in the ground. That’s a 15 percent jump in planting in the past week, and only four percentage points below the five-year average for this date.

Cotton Production

USDA Reports Pockets of Progress in 2014 Cotton Planting

May 5, 2014

According to the May 5 USDA Crop Progress Report, planting of the 2014 cotton crop continues to track last year’s start, witih 16 percent of this year’s crop now planted

Cotton Production

New Webcast, Search Tool Added to Focus on Cotton Website

April 30, 2014

A new webcast focusing on cotton nutrition and a one-stop search tool that targets Extension cotton information from 17 states have been added to the Focus on Cotton webpage.

Cotton Production

Cotton Following 2013 Planting Patterns for Most States

April 29, 2014

Based on the April 28 USDA Crop Progress Report, 13 percent of the nation’s cotton crop has been planted – exactly the same percentage in the ground one year ago.

Cotton Production

Five Keys to Higher Cotton Yields

April 24, 2014

As growers in the Southern Cotton Belt begin shifting their planting focus to cotton, they should consider five optimum pre- and early season opportunities to manage for top yields.

Cotton Production

New Questions Facing Thrips Management

April 10, 2014

Control options for thrips still work, but potential issues bear watching.