Making Choices To Ensure Success

Chris Drake
Owner of Sandy Points Farms and
Territory Agronomist for PhytoGen Cottonseed
Newsoms, Va.

 
I am a fourth-generation farmer in Southampton County, Va. During the summers while in college, I was employed by different entities in which I worked with cotton programs, including those at the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station under the direction of the cotton specialist. Meanwhile, I maintained my scouting skills working around my father’s cotton fields. In 2011, I was hired as the Extension Agent for Southampton County. Recently, I joined PhytoGen Cottonseed as Territory Agronomist in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

Overall, we do a good job of raising non-irrigated cotton. In 2013, my area had an above-average crop – a little more than two bales – that actually had the potential, based on boll load, to match the record-breaking 2012 crop – well over 1,100 pounds. However, some areas were extremely wet at the beginning of the season, and a lot of replanting was done. Then a stretch of overcast, gloomy weather close to harvest time adversely affected the mid-maturing varieties, causing them to lose some yield potential. Despite these circumstances, the state average in Virginia was 965 pounds per acre. To make these kinds of yields two years in a row on dryland cotton is, in my mind, pretty impressive.

For the most part, we are doing a good job of managing our weeds. One of our key herbicide-resistant weed species is marestail, and we treat the entire population as if it were glyphosate-resistant. We address this issue with 2,4-D or dicamba in burndown programs. We also have a fairly scattered but prevalent pigweed problem that we try to overcome with residuals in the burndown and at planting.

Thrips are usually our most challenging insect pest, and we combat this with seed treatments and early post-emergence sprays of acephate. Some growers are moving to in-furrow insecticides in addition to the seed treatments for longer residual thrips control. Stinkbugs are also a key pest for our area.

For the most part, every field in this part of the world is sampled every year, and fertility programs are based on soil sample recommendations. As more and more farmers are beginning to make variable-rate potash and lime applications, we are starting to move toward precision sampling and precision application based on productivity or soil-type zones.

Farmers in this area rely heavily on Extension and their consultant’s data to help them stay on the forefront of agriculture. In my position, I want to help farmers put the right variety on the right fields and make sure that they are managed correctly to maximize yields. The release of new, early maturing upland cotton varieties with outstanding yield potential such as PHY 333 WRF and PHY 339 WRF, along with proven performers PHY 375 WRF and industry-leading PHY 499 WRF, should lead to continued success in dryland cotton production in my territory. These varieties are extremely beneficial to producers in the uppermost cotton-growing regions to ensure timely harvest and superior yield performance.

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

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Consultant

• Master’s degree in Agricultural Education with a concentration in Crop and Soil Science — Virginia Tech

• Consulted on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat, soybeans,
pumpkins and watermelons and conducted extensive
variety testing on early and mid-maturing cotton varieties
in southeast Virginia while serving as Extension Agent
in Southampton County

• Fourth-generation farmer and owner of Sandy Point Farms; co-owner of Drake Brothers Land LLC; producer of
pumpkins, watermelons and sweet corn since 2002

• Territory Agronomist for PhytoGen Cottonseed in key Virginia counties and 14 northeast North Carolina counties

• Member of Barnes United Methodist Church; very active member of Franklin Southampton County Fair Association

• Avid deer, dove and duck hunter and enjoys softball, paper currency collecting and concerts

Recap: Making Choices To Ensure Success

1. Overall, we do a good job of raising non-irrigated cotton. In 2013, my area had an above-average crop – a little more than two bales – that actually had the potential, based on boll load, to match the record-breaking 2012 crop – well over 1,100 pounds.

2. One of our key herbicide-resistant weed species is marestail, and we treat the entire population as if it were glyphosate-resistant. We address this issue with 2,4-D or dicamba in burndown programs. We also have a fairly scattered but prevalent pigweed problem that we try to overcome with residuals in the burndown and at planting.

3. We combat thrips with seed treatments and early post-emergence sprays of acephate. Some growers are moving to in-furrow insecticides in addition to the seed treatments for longer residual thrips control.

4. The release of new, early maturing upland cotton varieties with outstanding yield potential such as PHY 333 WRF and PHY 339 WRF, along with proven performers PHY 375 WRF and industryleading PHY 499 WRF, should lead to continued success in dryland cotton production in my territory.

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