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
Planting

USDA Projects 9.56 Million Cotton Acres in 2016

March 31, 2016

USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report projects that U.S. cotton growers will plant 9.56 million acres in 2016 – an 11% increase over last year.

Planting

Preplant Burndown Time in NC

March 8, 2016

Mid-March through early April is the ideal time for preplant burndown applications in North Carolina cotton fields.

Planting

Clemson: Focus on Insect Management, Proper Variety Selection

February 4, 2016

Clemson Extension specialists point to insect management and proper variety selection as keys to help SC cotton producers grow more profitable crops in 2016.

Planting

SC Cotton Growers Look to Rebound from 2015 Flood

January 28, 2016

After South Carolina’s cotton crop was essentially flooded out in 2015, what’s in store for the state’s growers this year?

Planting

Market Prices Impacting Early 2016 Crop Decisions

January 19, 2016

As farmers in the Rio Grande Valley try to finalize cropping decisions before planting begins in the coming weeks, many are still struggling with what to plant. For some, that will likely be cotton.

Planting

Mississippi Variety Trial Data and Planning Budgets Now Available

December 4, 2015

Mississippi State University Extension’s 2015 On-Farm Cotton Variety Trials publication and Cotton 2016 Planning Budgets guide are both now available online.

Planting

NC State: PGR Management Considerations

June 17, 2015

Side-dressing could help spur vigorous cotton growth, especially with timely rain. According to the NC State Extension cotton team, it’s time to start PGR management plans.

Around The Gin
Product News

Meister Media Worldwide Website Relaunches With New Resources

April 22, 2016

Meister Media Worldwide — publisher of Cotton Grower magazine – has relaunched its corporate website, highlighting information and services available from one of agriculture’s leading media companies.

Product News

ReinCloud Promises Remote Control

April 18, 2016

New software set to combine irrigation management and data collection – all in the palm of your hand.

Product News

Search Begins for Deltapine Class of 17

April 14, 2016

Deltapine’s NPE program is nine years old, and the search for the company’s Class of 17 cotton varieties is underway.

Product News

Texas Farmer First to Plant Enlist Cotton Variety

April 11, 2016

Dean Hansen of El Campo, TX, was the first cotton grower in North America to plant the first commercially-available cottonseed with the Enlist cotton trait.

Product News

New Options for Roundup Ready PLUS Program

March 25, 2016

The Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions program for 2016 includes a new tool for weed management and new incentives for farmers looking to fight insect pests in corn.

Product News

Greenleaf Launches easyFlow Closed Transfer System

March 24, 2016

Greenleaf Technologies has launched the company’s new easyFlow closed transfer system for the North American market.

Product News

AgLogic Launches Aldicarb Product in Georgia

March 15, 2016

Growers in Georgia will be able to use a new aldicarb pesticide in 2016 for nematode and early season pest control.

Product News

Moss Joins Mid-South Team for Brake Herbicide

February 29, 2016

Ag sales veteran Larry Moss has joined SePRO Corporation as a technical specialist for Brake herbicide in the Mid-South.

Latest News
Planting

USDA Projects 9.56 Million Cotton Acres in 2016

March 31, 2016

USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report projects that U.S. cotton growers will plant 9.56 million acres in 2016 – an 11% increase over last year.

Planting

March Rainfall Could Mean More Cotton Acreage

March 29, 2016

More acres may be shifting back to cotton in 2016. For producers who may be planting cotton for the first time in several years, variety selection can be a formidable challenge.

Planting

Preplant Burndown Time in NC

March 8, 2016

Mid-March through early April is the ideal time for preplant burndown applications in North Carolina cotton fields.

Planting

Reference Guides Online for Proper Variety Placement

March 2, 2016

Charts to help provide guidance to growers on properly placing and managing cotton varieties are now available online from Mississippi State University.

Planting

Clemson: Focus on Insect Management, Proper Variety Selection

February 4, 2016

Clemson Extension specialists point to insect management and proper variety selection as keys to help SC cotton producers grow more profitable crops in 2016.

Planting

SC Cotton Growers Look to Rebound from 2015 Flood

January 28, 2016

After South Carolina’s cotton crop was essentially flooded out in 2015, what’s in store for the state’s growers this year?

Planting

Market Prices Impacting Early 2016 Crop Decisions

January 19, 2016

As farmers in the Rio Grande Valley try to finalize cropping decisions before planting begins in the coming weeks, many are still struggling with what to plant. For some, that will likely be cotton.

Planting

Mississippi Variety Trial Data and Planning Budgets Now Available

December 4, 2015

Mississippi State University Extension’s 2015 On-Farm Cotton Variety Trials publication and Cotton 2016 Planning Budgets guide are both now available online.

Planting

NC State: PGR Management Considerations

June 17, 2015

Side-dressing could help spur vigorous cotton growth, especially with timely rain. According to the NC State Extension cotton team, it’s time to start PGR management plans.

Planting

El Nino Weather Good for High Plains Cotton

May 12, 2015

The Texas High Plains are benefitting from the current El Nino weather pattern. And that’s good news for this year’s cotton crop.

Disease Control / Nematodes

New Cotton Webcasts Focus on Seedling Diseases and Soil Fertility

April 29, 2015

Two new webcasts focusing on seedling diseases and soil fertility have been added to the Focus on Cotton online webcast resource.

Planting

Don’t Let Early Season Thrips and Weed Management Impact Seedling Vigor

April 17, 2015

Increased challenges in early season thrips and weed management can potentially impact the value of vigorous cotton seedling growth.

Planting

Late Cotton Burndown Strategies

April 15, 2015

With cotton planting set to begin soon, many growers are looking for burndown options for their cotton acres.

Planting

Choose Proper Seeding Rate for Optimum Plant Populations

April 15, 2015

With cotton planting ready to begin, it’s important for growers to keep the difference between seeding rates and plant populations in mind.

Planting

Cotton Variety Test Comparisons Now Available Online

April 8, 2015

Cotton Incorporated and Extension cotton specialists have partnered with SeedMatrix to make cotton variety yield test comparisons easily accessible to producers via computer, smartphone or tablet.