Delta's Mike Sturdivant Learns To Adapt

By Tommy Horton
Editor

Never let it be said that Mississippi Delta cotton producer Mike Sturdivant Jr. lacks the ability to adapt to new technology or changing production environments on his farm.

Complacency simply isn’t a part of his vocabulary. A willingness to analyze economic trends is one of the reasons why the Sturdivant family operation has succeeded so well in the Delta region between Greenville and Clarksdale.

Even when he switched part of his acreage to corn, soybeans and milo in recent years, Sturdivant never abandoned cotton. Having that flexibility in a crop mix allowed him to take advantage of attractive grain prices while continuing to keep cotton acreage in a regular rotation.

“We have always planted cotton behind corn,” says Sturdivant, who learned the farming business from his father, the late Mike Sturdivant Sr.

“We’ve also added grain sorghum into the mix this year, and we’ll see how that turns out. Our strategy also has centered on finding ways to reduce our water needs.”

Significant Changes

Sturdivant will be the first to acknowledge that it isn’t easy to make significant changes in a farm’s crop mix. Those changes were due to current commodity prices and projected prices for the next year. However, before any planting decision is made, he and long-time consultant Tucker Miller study the spreadsheets and analyze how new varieties have performed in test plots. They also study Official Variety Trial (OVT) data.

Miller and Sturdivant aren’t the only persons involved in farm decisions. Mike’s brothers, Walker and Sykes, also are part of the operation. And even his 16-year-old nephew Neal, who lives in Virginia, has spent summers working on the farm.

Although any change in planting decisions is major, Sturdivant and Miller were pleased with the four varieties chosen for 2013. In particular, two new Stoneville varieties yielded 1,680 pounds (more than three bales per acre) despite late-season rains
in October.

“We were really pleased with the performance of ST 5288B2F because it was a good fit for our sandy loam soil in this specific part of the Delta,” says Sturdivant.

Different Environment

Because of the Sturdivant farm’s location in the middle part of the Delta, it is sometimes difficult to find the right fit for a variety. Areas to the north and south of the farm have different growing conditions – in weather trends and soil composition.

For a veteran consultant such as Miller, it doesn’t make his job any easier, but the challenge doesn’t bother him. He relies on his 36 years of experience to make the best recommendation to Sturdivant.

“It’s still fun for me,” says Miller. “It’s never boring, and we face something new every day. That’s the environment we live in.”

Sturdivant echoes that feeling.

“A lot of things are changing out there, and we have to be prepared to deal with them,” he says.

That might be the ultimate understatement for any farmer.

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


Sturdivant Farming Operation:

• Cotton varieties planted include:
ST 5288B2F
DP 174 RF
ST 4946GLB2
FM 1944GLB2

• Crop acreage breakdown includes:
Corn – 51 percent
Soybeans – 29 percent
Cotton – 16 percent
Milo – 4 percent

 

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