Weeds are causing John Malazzo to change the way he farms on his cotton, grain, and cattle operation near College Station, Texas.
Malazzo considers himself a cotton farmer — typically planting about 50 percent of his crops acreage in cotton and 50 percent in corn — but herbicide-resistant weed pressure has convinced him of the need to change that ratio a bit next year.
“I plan to increase corn acreage,” he said recently, just before welcoming dozens of Brazos Bottoms farmers and other industry representatives to his farm as part of a Monsanto product showcase.
“I’ll go to a 60-40 corn/cotton mix next year,” he says, “or maybe even 65-35. I don’t want weed problems to get out of hand. We have some very effective herbicides available for corn; some of them are deadly on some of the larger weeds.”
His plan is to clean up some of those hard-to-manage weeds in corn. “I want to be 100 percent clean in corn, then clean it up again before I plant cotton.” He expects that rotation to reduce weed pressure. but knows he’ll get other benefits from a better rotation program.
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“There are advantages other than just weed control. Rotation helps the soil, and this will be more important than any other plan we have. Cotton grows better in rotation — we can see a big difference planting cotton behind corn. We also get some additional fertilizer benefit behind corn.
“We’re working on the weed issue. We used pre-emergence herbicides for a while, and they worked great, but we switched to Roundup only. Now, we’re going back to preemerge materials.
“But even adding preemerge herbicides may not be enough any more. We have to consider several options. We’ll go back to using yellow herbicides, like Treflan. We want to start clean and then keep everything clean.”
Using a burndown other than Roundup may also be a good idea, Malazzo says. He’s had some problems from relying on just one mode of action. “We had one field that got really bad because I couldn’t spray for a month. I finally got about an 80 percent kill — but it’s the escapes that hurt us.”
Farmers with large acreages may not be able to be 100 percent clean, he says, particularly with the current labor situation. That’s why he’s switching his crop mix to take advantage of corn herbicides and get cotton ground cleaner at planting time.
He’s had some challenges getting corn and cotton growing this year. “Corn looks good now, even though we had some freeze damage, but cotton looks rough. We had a lot of early severe weather problems and had to replant a lot of cotton.”
Malazzo says he had trouble with wind damage for the first time this year. “We learned what West Texas farmers have to deal with — wind cut cotton off at the ground. I’ve never had to replant cotton because of wind damage before.”
Replanting also put him behind on weed control. “We planted, applied a preemerge, and then got no rain for about three weeks. I replanted, then got 3.5 inches, and the weeds emerged. I’ve had more weeds than normal.”
By mid-June, Malazzo’s corn looked good, though he said it needed some more rain. Cotton was catching up, but most observers pegged the crop at about three weeks behind normal.
He’s hoping his rotation plan reduces some of the risk next year as he farms with his son, Jason, who is back on the farm after earning an agricultural economics degree from Texas A&M.
“I want to stay on the farm,” Jason said.
“He was a day student during his college years,” his father says. “He worked here all the time he was in school.”