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Coastal Bend:
From Fallow To Farming Again
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Justin Chopelas
JWC Consulting, Inc.
Odem, Texas

In 2009, the Coastal Bend experienced a total crop failure. Therefore, we are headed into 2010 with a much different attitude than years past. For the first time in numerous years our soil profile is full, and we have the potential for a great crop. Producers are anxious to establish a crop and get back to what we all enjoy – farming.

It has been said that everything starts with the seed, and I cannot agree more. Currently, we are waiting for the ground to dry and for the soil temperature to reach 65 degrees. Cotton planting will begin mid-March, and, if all goes well, should be concluded by the first week of April. Our weather is so volatile during planting season that a perfect stand is hard to achieve.

I prefer 50,000 plants per acre on 30-inch rows. In areas where crusting is a problem, I recommend hill-drop planting. The higher plant population allows for more flexibility to overcome seedling loss due to wind damage and disease. Also, adding a seed-applied fungicide may help reduce seedling loss and guarantee a better stand, especially in cool, wet planting conditions.

I highly recommend that my producers continue to use a pre-plant herbicide for grass and small-seeded broadleaf control. The cotton industry has seen what happens when growers rely on one herbicide trait alone. We are fortunate because Liberty Link cotton has a fit here and offers us an alternative to the one-trait approach.

There are several issues we may face after lying fallow for a year. Our organic matter levels will be lower than normal, and blowing soils will be a major concern. Another consideration will be plant growth regulators. Mepiquat applications may be heavier than normal to keep plant height under control and to prevent vegetative growth. The newer varieties can have aggressive growth habits and will be monitored closely for proper fruit set.

One thing I strive for in my consulting practice is to be readily available to assist my growers. In my short tenure, the role of a crop consultant has changed considerably. It is no longer simply counting insects and making an insecticide recommendation. It has transformed into a 365-day approach at being efficient, diversified and profitable.

 
Click here to ask Justin Chopelas a question or submit a comment about this month’s Cotton Consultant’s Corner.

• Bachelor of Science degree in Entomology,
  1996 – Texas Tech University
• ASA Certified Crop Advisor since 1996
• Consults on cotton, wheat, sorghum, sunflowers
   and corn
• Member of Texas Ag Industries Association
• Panel member for “The First 40 Days – Fruiting
   to Finish,” 2006-2007
• Independent Crop Consultant since 1998
• Married to Tammy Chopelas
• Enjoys hunting/guiding, scuba diving, college
  sports and traveling

Recap: Coastal Bend:
From Fallow To Farming
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