Cotton Links


Risk Management Proves Profitable

How would an outsider describe Texas producer John David Dukatnik? Not only does the Whitharral farmer stand tall at 6 foot, 3 inches, but he knows how to grow big cotton – 3.5-bale yields to be specific.

Dukatnik says that following fundamentals of risk management can keep cotton producers prosperous. In other words, he says to diversify the farm when possible and use products and processes that work.

Farm Diversity

Dukatnik first spreads the risk by dividing his 4,200 acres between milo and cotton. The Texas farmer then further divides his cotton acreage among three or more varieties.

“We used to plant one variety from one side of the farm to the other, but now there are so many options with varying storm tolerance, maturity and traits,” he says.

Once the cotton is planted and emerged, Dukatnik stays busy with petiole sampling and careful fertilizer management. With yield goals of 3.5 bales per acre on his irrigated ground, he applies 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre on the center-pivot acres and up to 180 pounds of nitrogen per acre on the drip-irrigated acres.

Kenny Melton, Bayer CropScience regional cotton agronomist, says this is a solid fertilization strategy.

“The general rule of thumb for nitrogen fertility is 50 to 60 pounds per acre of actual N for each bale of production,” he says. “Determining yield potential is the first step in developing an appropriate management program.”

Stay With What Works

Dukatnik says another key component of producing profitable cotton is knowing what works best on each of his acres. He starts this process by planting FiberMax cotton, which delivers high quality and yields. In 2008, he planted FM 9058F, FM 9180B2F and FM 9063B2F, which he considers his workhorse variety.

“FM 9063B2F is a good plant to manage,” he says. “It responds well to either heavier or lighter water, and it is a good early vigor cotton. On our sandiest soils, it is about the only variety that will even grow at all.”

Access to good germplasm also goes a long way toward his peace of mind, Dukatnik adds.

“When you can grow 3.5- to 4-bale cotton, that helps a whole lot,” he says. “It goes a long way toward providing some breathing room.”

Dukatnik protects his cottonseed investment with an at-plant application of Temik insecticide/nematicide.

“Most everyone uses Temik around here, especially on sandy ground for nematodes,” he says. “But we put three pounds per acre on all irrigated ground whether or not it has nematodes, so we can control fleahoppers and thrips.”

Once he eliminates those early season threats, Dukatnik says the remainder of the season usually isn’t so worrisome. He doesn’t have major weed problems, he doesn’t yet have lygus present at threshold levels, and Bollgard II provides adequate control of his worm populations.

Future Goals

Now that Dukatnik has harvested his 28th cotton crop, he is looking ahead to the opportunities for 2009 and beyond.

The third-generation farmer says his future goals are simple.

“Eliminate equipment and trips across the fields and pray for better prices,” he says.

Rhea and Kaiser, which represents Bayer CropScience, provided information for this article.

How Dukatnik Manages Risk

• Diversifies the farm when possible
• Plants three cotton varieties
• Uses proven products and processes
• Employs a proper fertility program
• Eliminates trips across his fields

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