Doug Wilde and Willie German grow cotton in completely different environments – hundreds of miles from each other. But, in many ways, their approaches are quite similar.
You wouldn’t think that cotton production in Tennessee and Texas could be remotely similar. However, when it comes to making seed decisions for a new season, there are some striking common denominators.
In short, today’s innovative cotton producer must approach the process of choosing a seed variety with the meticulous resolve of a private detective. He has to look for as much information as he can find and not be swayed by emotion. It pays to be careful in analyzing seed data before making a purchase.
German farms 3,448 cotton acres in the hilly terrain of West Tennessee’s Fayette County, just east of Memphis. His acreage is all dryland, and he tries to match seed varieties with different soil types.
It was a big enough challenge under the best of circumstances, but now he’s trying to find seed varieties that can withstand the constant threat of resistant pigweed.
“There is no question in my mind that choosing a variety for 2012 will be different,” says German. “The resistant pigweed problem is changing everything. I am having to rethink all of our plans.”
Pigweed Influences Decisions
German has decided on his varieties for next year, but he also will be incorporating an aggressive strategy on how to deal with the pigweed problem. As for new varieties, he’ll devote about 20 percent of his acreage to testing new varieties.
In previous years, he has had occasional pigweed outbreaks on his acreage but even chopping the weeds and physically removing them from the field hasn’t solved the problem.
The weeds simply keep coming back.
“Like I have told many folks, we’ll stick with our regular varieties (DG 2570 B2RF, PHY 375 WRF and DP 0912 B2RF), but we’ll also take a look at some LibertyLink varieties because of the pigweed problem,” he says.
By “taking a look,” German will observe how a new variety performs on his farm for a season and then decide if he wants to plant it in specific acreage the next year.
He will purposely plant the Liberty Link varieties on land where he had the pigweed problems.
Keeping Up With Technology
Another aspect of variety selection that challenges German and all cotton producers is how to keep up with technology. Varieties are often commercially released but then quickly taken away after a short time.
“It has gotten to the point where we learn how to grow a variety pretty well, and then it’s gone,” says German. “Then, we have to start all over with a new variety. The entire process has changed a lot in the last 10 years.”
Another variable also makes variety selection for 2012 somewhat more difficult, and that is the price environment. Will cotton continue to stay above one dollar, and what about the price structure for corn and soybeans?
German also must decide if he needs a third harvester – especially if his cotton acreage stays near 3,000 acres. If he gets rid of that harvester, he will have his two on-board module pickers to cover the acreage.
If he decides to increase his cotton acreage to 4,000 acres, he would have a good reason for keeping that third harvester.
What kind of advice would German give to any farmer on how to make the best possible decisions on variety selections for 2012?
First, he suggests that a producer look at all the data available on a variety. This would include Official Variety Trials (OVTs), on-farm trials and any other data.
He says it’s a good idea to look for varieties that perform well in locations with similar weather conditions and different soil types.
“I think it’s important to put a lot of stock in how a variety does on your own farm,” says German. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”
He believes that it’s also essential to understand how soil types vary on his acreage. For that reason, he has to know which variety will do best on the silty loam soil in the creek bottoms or the heavy clay or white dirt elsewhere.
For the record, his creek bottom acres this year will average between 950 and 1,200 pounds, while the hilly land will deliver between 650 and 1,000 pounds. His overall cotton yield average should be 850 pounds or more, compared to 980 pounds last year.
“That’s just the nature of growing dryland cotton in West Tennessee,”he says. “Every year is a completely different experience.”
Surviving Texas Drought
Did someone say that this year’s drought had an enormous impact on cotton production in Texas? That might be a major understatement, but it hasn’t slowed down producer Doug Wilde and his father John. They farm 4,000 acres of cotton near San Angelo, and they understand the importance of picking the right varieties to plant each year.
Although growing conditions are different from what German faces in West Tennessee, the approach to seed variety selection is surprisingly similar for both farms.
The Wildes primarily grow FiberMax 9170 and FiberMax 1740, but they have experimented with FM 2989 and FM 2484 this year. Most of Doug’s acreage is irrigated while his father has some dryland acreage.
“It’s all about quality for us,” says Doug. “This year we’re talking about a potential 10-cent premium above the December futures contract for high quality cotton. That is something we always take into consideration when we do our variety trials.”
The Wildes will certainly pay attention to all data – including the OVT information – but ultimately they put more stock into how new varieties perform in Extension trials and Bayer’s CAP trials on their farm.
It’s a strategy that has worked consistently for them every year.
“Every farmer’s management strategy is different,” says Doug. “A variety might work well for us but might not work for our neighbor.”
Times Have Changed
Wilde recalls how seed selection occurred in earlier years when a farmer would base his decisions on the seed salesman’s recommendations or the Extension specialist’s data. He likes having additional data, and that’s why he endorses on-farm trials.
As for the aforementioned Texas drought and its impact on the state’s overall cotton production, Doug admits that it has been an economic setback. Normally, the Wildes would be looking at four-bale yields. This year those yields will be in the 1.5 to 2 bale range.
“The drought has affected everything, including yield and quality,” says Doug. “We didn’t have any soil moisture, and that was a problem. On some of our land, the plant never came up. That seed is still in the ground.”
Has seed selection become more efficient for Texas farmers? Wilde thinks so.
“I like having more choices,” he says. “Competition is always a good thing out here.”
Texas farmers have only one re-quest as they look ahead to next year – better weather and more rain.
Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willie German Farm
In Somerville, Tenn.
• 3,000 dryland acres.
• Main varieties are DG 2570, PHY 375 WRF and DP 0912 B2RF.
• Three different soil types.
• Hilly terrain and bottomland.
• LL varieties planted in trial plots
John and Doug Wilde Farm In San Angelo, Texas
• 4,000 acres of cotton.
• Most acres are irrigated.
• Main varieties are FM 9170B2F and FM 1740B2F.
• 1.5 to 2-bale yields this year.
• Normal yields are close to four bales.