Technology, good weather equal excellent cotton crop

Kirby Hatley stood at one end of a Briscoe County, Texas, cotton field and watched two cotton strippers move through what looked like a new snowfall, leaving brown streaks of denuded stalks in their wakes.

And he smiled. He smiled a lot.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had farming,” Hatley said, “and I’ve farmed all my life.”

He says Flex cotton, 30-inch row spacings, timely rainfall and new varieties made the 2007 cotton crop a memorable one.

“This is our first year with Flex cotton,” says Hatley who farms with his son Jeff in Briscoe and Hall Counties.

“All our cotton was in Flex varieties this year,” Jeff says “We like it a lot. That’s all I’ll have from now on.”

Weed control could have presented a tough challenge during a moist summer. “We sprayed Roundup twice over the top. And we used a yellow herbicide,” Kirby says. “With that (pre-emergence application) and two Roundup applications, we took care of the weeds.”

They say careless weed is the most troublesome, but also have a few morningglories and tumbleweeds. Flex cotton has made those problems less troublesome.

Switching to 30-inch rows also helped. “Narrow row cotton shades the soil quicker and prevents weed emergence,” Kirby says. “Narrow rows also hold moisture and yields look to be better.”

“We’ve only stripped three fields (in late October) but I can tell a difference,” Jeff says. “We’re hoping to see three bales per acre or more on some fields.”

Kirby says a neighbor recommended the narrower rows. “He said I’d make more cotton, so I decided to try it. This is our first year and it looks good.”

Jeff says managing irrigation was a key, even with good rainfall. “We irrigated almost as much as we usually do,” he says.

Kirby says dryland and irrigated acreage both look good.

They planted Americot, FiberMax and Stoneville varieties and like a new Americot variety, AM 1532 B2RF. “It may not be for everybody but it looks good in our fields,” Kirby says.

They fertilize with expectations of good yields, 200 pounds of nitrogen, applied dry, and another 100 pounds through the center pivot systems. They used a bit less on the field they were harvesting in late October. “We had peanuts on this field last year,” Jeff says, “so we used a little less nitrogen.”

They fertilize dryland acreage depending on crop history. They cut back on fertility on a good bit of dryland acreage this year because the crop was “sorry in 2007. We shredded a lot of dryland acres,” Kirby says. “This year, dryland cotton looks very good.”

They had few insect problems. Technology helped there, as well. “We plant all our irrigated acres in Bollgard varieties,” Kirby says. “We plant Flex cotton on dryland fields but we don’t use Bollgard.”

They expect some irrigated acreage to push four bales per acre this year and expect dryland to make two bales. “We’ll probably be harvesting until Christmas,” Kirby says, smiling.

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