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High Yields Possible During Texas Drought

BY TOMMY HORTON

EDITOR

What are the odds of a young producer in the High Plains of Texas delivering five-bale cotton yields in 2011 and three-bale yelds in 2012? Initially, it seems impossible if you consider drought conditions that have existed in the region for the past two years.

However, that is exactly what 27-year-old producer Justin Foster has accomplished. Consider some other facts surrounding this success story. Foster graduated from Texas Tech University in 2007 where he majored in agricultural economics and minored in agronomy.

After growing up on the family farm and helping his father, he spent three seasons growing mostly corn and wheat in a dryland environment that had poor access to water.

Then he and his father began scouting for better acreage to purchase, and they found it between the communities of Hart and Edmonson due north of Lubbock. The land has access to water, and that made a big difference when Justin decided to shift to cotton and corn as his major crops.

In 2011, Justin made the switch to cotton and corn on 900 acres, planting FM 1740B2F on half of it. He also utilized a 120-acre irrigation pivot system. The results were staggering because the state was suffering through one of its worst droughts.

Two Memorable Seasons

How noteworthy were the results?

Consider that Justin decided to make the switch to cotton, and in his first year he delivered five-bale yields. As the rest of the state’s cotton production struggled to get cotton plants to emerge from the soil, he avoided such pitfalls.

“I was really surprised by our big yields,” he says. “I don’t know how to explain it. I was just hoping I’d see these kinds of yields sometime in my lifetime.We kept a close watch on it and kept watering and managing it.

“I honestly thought we might have some four-bale cotton, but somehow we found an extra bale in that field.”

His yields were so significant that he wound up making it into the FiberMax One Ton Club in his first year to produce cotton.
And what did he do for an encore in 2012? He planted FM 1944GLB2 and FM 2011GT and achieved 3.75 bales per acre on land that had poor subsoil moisture. Drought conditions still persisted even though they weren’t as harsh as 2011.

Justin Foster’s Success Story:
• Five-bale yields in 2011.
• 3.75-bale yields in 2012.
• Corn-cotton rotation program.
• Strip-till production system.
• High yielding varieties.
• Access to water sources.

Compounding the situation even more was a hard freeze that hit his area on Oct. 5-8. Had this weather event not occurred, Justin’s yields would’ve been better. Rainfall was sparse with only four to five inches of precipitation during the season.

His consultant is Nathan Burson, who also works as a representative for Wilbur-Ellis. He makes recommendations on herbicides, insecticides and fertility programs for the farm.

“Justin is definitely farming the right way,” says Burson. “He manages his land in a very efficient way and knows what it’s like to grow a crop without water.”

Barry Street, manager of the Street Community Gin in Kress, Texas, is equally impressed by Justin’s progress.

“It’s amazing what he’s done, but he had some good teachers along the way, including his father and grandfather,” he says. “I’m proud of the job he’s done during the last two years. He has a bright future as a farmer.”

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