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Finding the Perfect Fit for His Fields

Finding the Perfect Fit for His Fields

Last August, Tim Luckey was walking a field of PhytoGen PHY 340 W3FE on his farm near Humboldt, TN, looking for any traces of weeds that may have escaped his weed control efforts. Finding none, he looked around and said simply, “It worked real well.”

The “it” he was referring to was the Enlist Weed Control System from Dow AgroSciences. Luckey was getting an on-farm look at the new weed management technology for the second year. To say he was pleased would be an understatement.

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“I’ve grown PhytoGen since they came out with PHY 333 WRF,” he recalls. “It was a good variety for us. It was early, had good growth to it, good yields and good grades. Then Chris Main (PhytoGen cotton development specialist) asked if I had a place where I could grow 150-200 acres of the new Enlist cotton. I told him we had a good site, but it was on weak soil. He said that’s what this kind of cotton will perform in, and that it would be a real good test.”

The weak soil was just one of the issues impacting the test. That particular field also happened to be one of the worst pigweed patches among Luckey’s 4,000 total acres.

“We sprayed it three times with Liberty in 2016 to help clean it up,” says Luckey. “We also have marestail, and we used to think that was a problem until Palmer amaranth showed up. But when you get something that will kill pigweed, marestail doesn’t stand a chance.”

The Enlist cotton passed Luckey’s test. The variety – PHY 490 W3FE – yielded 1,350 pounds dryland in a year with adequate rainfall. In 2017, Luckey put 1,100 of his 2,000 cotton acres in four PhytoGen Enlist varieties – PHY 490 W3FE, PHY 340 W3FE, PHY 300 W3FE and PHY 330 W3FE. And, he was able to utilize both Enlist Duo and Enlist One herbicides based on the weed pressure in each of his farm fields.

Enlist Duo is a proprietary blend of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate. Enlist One is straight goods 2,4-D choline, which Luckey used in combination with Liberty.

“We wanted to see how each product would work,” he says. “There’s definitely a place for both of them.”

A Five Generation Farm

The land that Luckey lives and farms on was originally bought by his great-grandfather in the early 1900s. He grandfather built the family home place, and his father continued the family farming tradition while also managing a career in public works.

“I wanted to farm full time,” says Luckey. “So I started renting more acres.”

Today, the farming operation covers 4,000 acres – roughly 2,000 acres of cotton, 1,800 acres of soybeans and few hundred acres of corn. Only 550 acres are irrigated. Luckey’s two sons Clay and Grant farm with him. Clay is responsible for all spraying. Grant handles planting and joins his dad in the field for harvest. They still rely on two basket pickers and module builders to cover their cotton acres.

Before the new weed management products came to market, Luckey says pigweed control was handled the old fashioned way – lots of chopping.

“We filled up trailer loads and hauled them out of the fields,” he recalls. “When Liberty came around, it worked really well in the cotton we were growing. Now with Enlist, we have even more flexibility.”

Luckey also has experience with the Xtend technology in both cotton and soybeans.

“In the soybeans, that technology worked really well for us, because the pigweed was getting immune to Reflex,” he notes. “We desperately needed another tool in the bean fields. I had two fields with XtendFlex cotton close to neighbors who also planted those varieties. Clay did a good job of spraying dicamba – even beside his garden and other gardens – and never had a problem. It’s all about being smart with what you’re doing and talk with your neighbors up front. There’s a right way to use all of these products if you’ll do it.”

Sticking With What Works

So, just how did Luckey’s Enlist varieties work in 2017?

“We found a lot of cotton in the fields,” he reports. “We had some weather issues in some fields that made about two bales. Then we had some other fields that went up to 1,200-1,350 pounds on the better non-irrigated ground. I was really pleased with it.”

That also provides a bit of a comfort level when it comes to marketing his cotton, too. Luckey markets his crop through Shoaf Cotton Company in Milan, TN. “We put it in the loan, and whenever I feel like I want to get a price different from when it went in the loan, I pull the trigger. Now, the volatility of when you sell your crop means as much as growing the crop. It’s really rolling the dice.”

This season, Luckey has bumped up his Enlist cotton to roughly 75% of his total cotton acreage – up from a bit over half in 2017. The other fourth of his overall cotton acres are set based on his neighbors and what they’re planting.

“I’m just trying to be considerate and avoid possible problems,” he says. “But I’ve been very happy with the PhytoGen varieties and Enlist. We’ve had excellent results. Once the varieties come up, they grow off real well. It’s just a good fit for us.”

That perfect fit – as well as his family – is important to Luckey. In addition to his managing the farm, he also finds time for a few other activities. He was a county commissioner for 12 years, and was even convinced to run for county mayor at one time (“Thank goodness the good Lord let me get beat,” he laughs). These days, it’s likely you’ll find him cruising the local roads on weekends in his Mustang convertible, often with grandkids in tow. And always, wearing his ever-present Tennessee “Power T” cap.

“When the Vols are doing well, that T stands for Tennessee,” he quips. “When they’re not, it just stands for Tim.”

 

From Cotton Grower Magazine – May/June 2018