Technology improves cotton crop efficiency

Technology and innovation are helping Chip Meyer, a young farmer near Richmond, Texas, boost cotton yields, reduce tillage and improve his soil.

“Last year was the fourth year I've used seed technology,” Meyer says. “I've had Bollgard for four years and Roundup Ready varieties for three or four. Transgenics are an easy fit for this operation.”

Meyer, just 29 years old, planted 1700 acres of cotton last year along with 800 acres of plant milo. He occasionally plants soybeans. He uses Roundup Ready and Bollgard technology on all his acreage except for small plots for refugia.

“Pest management practices have not changed much,” he said. “I haven't had to spray for worms but most everything else is about the same. I use 3.5 pounds of Temik and I tried some Cruiser last year with good results. Cruiser is a good product and the seed treatment is an advantage.”

He says his main insect problems come from aphids and trips. “By mid-season, aphids were still around,” he says. “Fortunately, with Bollgard, we didn't have to spray for worms and the Boll Weevil Eradication Program takes care of weevils.”

He says before Bollgard technology he sprayed at least twice a year for worms in fields where he had continuous cotton.

“We sprayed the 115 acre refugia twice in 2003,” he says.

Meyer said Helena treated his seed for him. “We also had PGRIV put on the seed,” he says. Meyer says seed technology will become increasingly important for cotton farmers.

He says the boll weevil program, in its second year in his zone, “has done a good job. I had tons of squares on top last year. Without the boll weevil program, I wouldn't have had that.

“I saw a few punctures in fields bordered by brush. That's always been a hot spot for boll weevils.”

He destroys cotton stalks as soon after harvest as possible. ‘I use a flail shredder and a stalk puller. I usually don't have to spray them. Then I'll plow and hip the beds.”

He says the assessment rebate provides a monetary incentive for growers to get stalks out before the October 15 deadline.

Herbicide tolerant cotton technology also found a good fit on his operation.

He says Roundup Ready varieties make weed control much easier for broadleaf and grasses. “I can knock them out with one shot. For morningglory and careless weeds, I use a pre-plant herbicide and may come back with a lay by treatment of Diuron, mixed with Roundup, under a hood. I don't cultivate my Roundup Ready cotton.”

That program has allowed him to cut back on tillage. “I've reduced tillage the last several years. I pick up my rows with a hipper, but I may not need to plow every year.

He covers all the milo stubble after harvest. The residue improves soil tilth, he says. “That helps build organic matter. At planting time I can tell where the milo was.”

Meyer says milo usually does better than it did in 2003. “Some of it was pretty bad, around 2,000 pounds per acre. The best only made 4,000 pounds. But a lot of it didn't see a rain until it headed out.”

He puts out dry fertilizer in the fall and put out nitrogen just before planting, when he knock down the beds. He uses about 96 units of nitrogen on his cotton.

“I save time on some fields by putting out all the nitrogen before planting. I cut out side dressing a few years ago but side dressed a few fields last year and those fields did a little better. I think I get some advantage with side dressed nitrogen.”

Meyer says his basic production program will not change much for 2004. “But I will increase my target seeding rate slightly, up to 45,000 to 50,000 seeds per acre.”

He says that bump will give him a little insurance. He was concerned about stands last spring. “We were very dry early and when it started raining it wouldn't stop. We cold have used a one or two-inch rain about a month earlier than we got it.”

He says some of his cotton did not germinate until late June. “It wasn't enough to hurt.”

He says plant population, from the 30,000 to 40,000 target, was skimpy. “Some stands were borderline but we didn't replant.”

He says the stand problems came “mostly from poor planting conditions, but I would have liked a little higher plant population.”

He'll stay with two varieties that did well for him last year, Stoneville 5599 BR and Delta and Pine Land 555, also a stacked gene variety. And he'll add Delta and Pine Land 444, also stacked. Refugia will be in a traditional cotton variety. Meyer says some fields, all dryland, made two-bale cotton last year. “But we averaged about a bale-and-a-half. Rain during harvest time hurt us.

He'll bump cotton acreage to 1900 and plant about 800 acres in milo. He rotates a little more than one-third of his cotton acreage every year. He also hopes to take advantage of improved soybeans prices on a few acres.

“I'll have room fro about 150 acres of soybeans.”

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