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6.9-Bale Yield?

Texas Couple Raises The Bar To Spectacular Level

by Tommy Horton, Editor

What are the odds of a young couple in Big Spring, Texas, achieving a cotton yield that has sent shock waves throughout the rest of the U.S. cotton industry?

An impossible suggestion? Well, think again.

6-9.1Remember the names of Vance and Mandie Smith. What they accomplished on their cotton farm in 2013 was nothing short of spectacular.

No one in their part of Texas recalls a yield on an upland field that came close to equalling the 6.9 bales per acre they achieved. The crop had to be seen to be appreciated. The variety planted on the Smith farm last year was FiberMax FM 2484B2F.

When outsiders talk to this young couple, it’s hard to know what is more remarkable – the farm’s cotton yield or their own story.

Vance is a sixth-generation farmer whose family’s history in agriculture dates back to the 1880s. Mandie is a native of South Africa and majored in sports science in college in the hope of someday becoming a rugby coach. However, that dream was put on hold when she opted for a cattle management career.

Unique Farm Family

This new career ultimately brought her to Texas where she was attending a farm show in Muleshoe, a small town in the northern part of the state.

That is where Vance and Mandie met. This month will mark their fouryear wedding anniversary. Although Mandie is a long way from her parents in South Africa, she loves living in Texas and helping her husband manage their farm, which consists of 850 subsurface irrigated acres and 1,500 dryland acres of cotton.

The Smiths are part of a hands-on operation where both Vance and Mandie drive the equipment in order to get the job done quicker. “We complement each other quite well,” she says. “With two of us out in the field, we get things done faster.”

The Smiths have dealt with plenty of adversity through the years, but they have found a way to produce big cotton yields in recent years. They had 2,600- pound yields in 2010, 2,800 pounds in 2011 and 2,960 pounds in 2012. As impressive as those numbers are, they weren’t expecting to see yields nearly hitting seven bales (3,303 pounds) in 2013. “I knew we had some good yields,” says Vance. “But I didn’t think it would be anything quite like this.”

6-9.2

Ideal Conditions Pay Off

It took the perfect combination of a high-performing cotton variety (FM 2484B2F), timely rains, bright sunshine and no extreme hot or cold weather conditions.

Initially, both Vance and Mandie didn’t sense that they were harvesting a record-breaking crop last fall. “On this particular day, Vance and I were in the field, and two other workers were helping,” says Mandie. “I was working on the boll buggie. Before we finished, I kept asking Vance how the cotton was looking. We were excited but still pretty nervous.” Vance says the cotton picked wonderfully and was very clean. Average staple was 39, but there was some cotton that hit 41 and 42 levels. The main crop on the Smith farm is cotton, but occasionally wheat and grain sorghum will be included in the mix. Last year’s dryland cotton was lost due to the drought. While FM 2484B2F has been the main cotton variety, others such as FM 2989GLB2 and FM 1944GLB2 also have performed well.

Meanwhile, Buddy Maedgen, a family friend who consults for the Smiths, is particularly pleased by the performance of a foliar fertilizer (Surge Pro) being used on the farm. He believes it has contributed to higher yields.

“Vance is open to any new ideas,” says Maedgen. “I’m happy that I may have helped them a little bit. But they deserve all of the credit.”

Friend Agrees That Smiths Are Committed To Cotton: Most people who know or work with Vance and Mandie Smith agree that they are unusual farmers committed to each other and their cotton crop. One of their best friends is consultant Amos Dror who lives in Israel but visits the Smith family every year to make crop recommendations. Dror knew Vance’s grandfather and is familiar with the family’s farm. “Vance and Mandie are continuing what Vance’s grandfather started many years ago,” says Dror. “For several years, they have managed the farm very well. They are doing all the right things and getting excellent results.” Dror says the 2013 crop yield was more than just a high-performing variety delivering. He believes Vance and Mandie understand how to manage a crop from start to finish. “Their progress is remarkable,” he says.

Innovative Techniques?

You might call the young couple unique in their approach to farming. Mandie, in particular, says she and her husband pray for their cotton crop every day. And, in perhaps her most innovative approach, she wants to play classical music in the fields. “Don’t call me crazy,” says Mandie. “I have read where this kind of music can relax the plants.” And what would be a message to other farmers who might want to know the secret of their success? “I would say that adversity builds character,” says Vance. “How else can I say it? I was only 18 years old when my mother was killed in a farming accident.

“Tough times come around sometime. But they are there to teach us something. You deal with these things and then move on. Then you deal with what the good Lord gives you. That is all you can do.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767- 4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.