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Neil Lee Family Man, Country Music Fan, Cotton Farmer

Sometimes a man just needs a chance to prove himself. For Bronwood, Ga., cotton farmer Neil Lee, that chance came in 2002 when the manager in his father’s farming operation left to take another job. “I had two years at Georgia Southern University under my belt and had begun classes at Georgia Southwestern when Dad told me about the vacant position,” remembers Lee, thinking in the back of his mind that this might be the chance to start his farming career. The 22-year-old Lee told his father, Ronnie, he would like to take over the position because nobody else would care as much about the operation as a family member. Ronnie Lee didn’t have to consider it for long and said, “Let’s give it a shot.” Neil Lee has been running the crop production side of Lee Farms and learning the intricacies of farming ever since. In 2015, Lee and his farm team planted 5,500 acres of cotton in the heavy red clay soils of Lee and Terrell counties. At the beginning of the 2015 ginning season, they hoped to press 90,000 bales by the time gin stands shut down for the year. Read More »

Choosing a Cotton Variety for 2016

planting cotton

In recent years, the presence of glyphosate-resistant pigweed in Mid-South cotton has compelled producers to grow glufosinate (Liberty)-tolerant varieties. In 2015, more than 85 percent of cotton acreage in Arkansas was planted to varieties that are tolerant to glufosinate. This acreage included 11 percent planted to XtendFlex (resistant to dicamba) varieties. However, dicamba applications beyond the current burndown label were not allowed. Almost half of the transgenic entries in the 2015 Arkansas Cotton Variety Test were resistant to dicamba or 2,4-D (Enlist) – a clear indication of the direction of variety development. The Enlist trait is fully registered in the United States, and the herbicide is labeled in all Mid-South states except Tennessee. Import approvals for some Far East countries are still being pursued. We expect a limited release of Enlist cotton in 2016. It is expected, but at this point still uncertain whether labels will allow spraying of dicamba beyond burndown on XtendFlex cotton in 2016. Thus, producers should make their variety choices accordingly and follow all label requirements. Selection of varieties then returns to long-established principles of choosing varieties that are likely to produce stable, high yields of premium quality cotton – regardless of their transgene conf iguration. Read More »

Cotton Variety Selection ABCs

The ABCs of variety selection may start with letters behind a variety name denoting insect resistance or herbicide tolerance technology, but they certainly do not end there. Beyond the letters are complex characteristics controlled by multiple genes – yield, fiber quality, stress response, disease resistance, plant type and relative maturity. “A” stands for area-appropriate. Consider performance data generated from the same area as your farm. Know specific field production constraints and choose varieties with appropriate disease resistance, nematode tolerance and moisture stress response. “B” is for broadening risk with more than one variety in more than one maturity class so harvest on large farms can be staggered. Broadened risk improves the odds of catching beneficial rains and avoiding widespread hail damage. “C” is for control. Stay grounded with input capabilities. Highhorsepower varieties in low-input situations can lead to quality problems. “Control” reminds me of the first cotton farmer to ask my advice on variety selection – my father, who passed away in May. Professional presentation of yield data did not impress him. He told me, “I can make these varieties yield. Show me something with the potential for good fiber quality. I have less control over that.” Read More »

Arkansas Ginner Maleisa Finch Wants To Help Cotton Stage A Big Comeback

How are you dealing with the current situation? I could probably write a book about this. First, ginners love to gin cotton, but we know it will be a different fall with the reduced cotton acres. To me, the best thing to do is think positive. You can’t shut the doors while the game is still going on. We’ve had something that has been good, and it will probably be good again. It’s all about maintaining an attitude that will help you survive. Can cotton survive in a diversified crop mix in your area? We are definitely looking at a major shift in acres in Arkansas. Frankly, I don’t think we need to go back to a “fencerow to fencerow” cotton environment. I think we need to diversify. The farmers need it, and the soil needs it. The problem occurs when you see cotton harvesters on acres that reduced cotton by 25 to 50 percent. That is a concern. Read More »

Can Technology Help In War Against Pigweed?

Has this been an unusual year for cotton producers in many parts of the Belt? Most would agree with that assessment. First, there is the frustrating cotton price that has stayed in the 60-cent range for months. Then came the floods in Texas and the Mid- South and dry conditions in the Southeast and West. One theme, however, remained consistent – the need for an effective strategy that could deal with weed resistance, namely pigweed. While most producers understand the concept of “starting clean and staying clean,” technology is assisting in the quest to reduce production costs even more. You’d be hard pressed to find a more forward-thinking farmer than Jason Luckey of Humboldt, Tenn., in the western part of the state. He, father Rege, brother Ken and nephew Zac have consistently adhered to a diversified crop mix involving cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. They rarely increase acreage for any one crop and have succeeded in their dryland operation by staying with this philosophy. Read More »

End Of Texas Drought?

Texas High Plains cotton

High Plains Producer Says It’s Full Speed Ahead For Cotton BY SHAWN HOLLADAY LAMESA, TEXAS EDITOR’S NOTE – Texas High Plains producer Shawn Holladay has somehow survived a four-year drought and record rainfall this spring. However, he remains confident that this year’s cotton crop has a chance to survive because of excellent water supplies. Today, for the first time in ... Read More »

Quick Start

Quick Start

Across the Cotton Belt, the strategy is the same this year – no matter the location. Producers must find a way to manage this crop efficiently. And that means planting on time and starting the season strong – much like a racehorse bolting out of the starting gate at top speed. It will be a challenge as farmers deal with low cotton prices, a new farm law, weed resistance and water availability in many locations – namely in California and Texas. Add in the big front-end investment with the seed, and you begin to get the picture. Nobody wants to re-plant the crop, and it is essential that young cotton seedlings have plenty of vigor and growth potential. Read More »