When I was 14 years old, I started scouting cotton for Bill Harris, a local consultant here in the county and a charter member of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association. I worked for Bill for eight crops, and he was really instrumental in steering me toward a consulting career. After college, I worked for Jim McCrory, another local consultant. After all those years of training, I felt confident in being able to go out on my own.
To keep cotton here in Mississippi, we push the yields so that this crop can compete economically with corn. This year’s crop is about a month late, and my experience tells me that what we are able to do with it is dictated by the weather that we receive in July and August. Although it’s a
little early to judge right now, I would say that we have a fair cotton crop. We’ve been through layby and were able to stay on top of the pigweed situation. At this point, we are busy fighting plant bugs.
List Of Steps Leads To Success
As a consultant, my job is to make every cotton acre as profitable as I can. For the last three or four years, our yields have gone to another level based on several factors that have come into play. I live by a list of steps in my cotton business. The first step is to have no flaws in the fertility program. I do GPS soil sampling, using variable rate technology. When we are preparing a field, I check the Ph and the potash levels to make sure they are right. I like to set the foundation for a good, profitable crop.
Next, we place the right variety in the right field. One of the cotton varieties that stands out is PhytoGen 499 WRF. It is hands down the dryland leader in my area. We had some 499 that made 1,400 pounds on dryland last year. Knowing that we have put the right variety in the right situation to perform well is a good feeling.
Timely Irrigation Protects Yield
Once we get the crop up and growing, I do square retention counts in every field during the first three weeks of squaring. When you lose squares in Mississippi on cotton prior to bloom, it’s usually because of plant bug pressure. I’ll be very aggressive on plant bugs, even if it means tightening up the spray intervals to five or seven days. Another critical thing that I have learned in the last few years is that if you are trying to make 1,400 to 1,500 pounds, you have to water that cotton in a dry June. You can’t get behind when it comes to irrigation. When we’re two weeks from bloom and the field is bone dry, it’s time to lay pipe, or it will cost us a lot of pounds. You just learn these things as you go.
Being a consultant is more than a career or a job. It’s a part of your life. I compare notes with other consultants, which helps with the scouting process and knowing what’s going on outside of my core area. I also know from experience that a person needs a supportive family, like I have, to pursue this career. It’s is all about family.
Click here to ask Billy Bryant a question or submit a comment about this month’s Cotton Consultant’s Corner.
• B.S. in Agronomy, Mississippi State University, 1983
• Has been a crop consultant for 30 years
• Member and past director of Mississippi Agricultural
Consultants Association (MACA)
• Consults on cotton, soybeans, wheat, peanuts, corn
• Married to wife, Debbie. Three kids at home in Carroll
County, Miss.: Hallie, who has been very successful
in her 4-H career; Clayton and Hillary
• Enjoys hunting and fishing and working on their hobby
farm, where they raise chickens, have a large garden
and custom feed cattle
Recap: Persistence Keeps Cotton Competitive
1. We push the yields so that cotton can compete economically with corn.
2. This crop is about a month late, but we have been through layby and were able to stay on top of the pigweed situation.
3. We put a good fertility program in place to set the foundation for a profitable cotton crop.
4. The next step is to place the right variety in the right field. PhytoGen 499 WRF is hands down the dryland leader in my area. Some 499 made 1,400 pounds on dryland last year.
5. When you lose squares in Mississippi on cotton prior to bloom, it’s usually because of plant bug pressure. I’m very aggressive on plant bugs, even if it means tightening up the spray intervals to five or seven days.
6. If you are trying to make 1,400 to 1,500 pounds of cotton per acre, you have to water it in a dry June.
7. If it is two weeks from bloom and the field is bone dry, it’s time to lay pipe or it will cost us a lot of pounds.