In 1998, while I was in high school, Dale Wells hired me to scout cotton. I guess something stuck, because this will be my 18th consecutive season to be scouting crops. After graduating from college, I continued working with Dale, as a full-time consultant, for Cotton Services, Inc. in Leachville, Ark. This year, I branched out on my own and formed Goodson Crop Consulting, LLC.
Last fall, an untimely hailstorm hit open, ready-to-pick cotton, which hurt a lot of area producers. This year, they are hoping to rebound, and margins are tight. Right now, I am meeting with farmers and studying budgets to see what will make the most money for them in 2015. For example, we are considering planting peanuts and grain sorghum on soils where we have root-knot nematode problems. Then we can rotate those acres back into cotton next year, hoping that the price comes back. We want to grow cotton because most of our equipment is geared toward that crop. Plus, we’re more comfortable with cotton due to years of experience. But, we have to grow whatever crop is most profitable this year.
In providing crop consulting services, my farmers get the whole package, the year-long deal. We look at fertility recommendations and apply variable-rate lime, phosphorus and potassium based on the needs of each crop and the yield goals. After deciding what we are going to plant on what acres, we check soil test levels and tailor the recommendations to fit each specific crop.
Insect And Weed Control
We dabbled in a little grain sorghum last year, and, fortunately, did not have any problems with the sugarcane aphid. However, with more acres being planted this year, we anticipate having to treat for this pest and are already planning our control strategy.
In cotton, the main pest in our area is the plant bug. Transform has worked well for us to control this pest, so we are budgeting for two shots of this chemistry. We use the IPM approach and only treat when we have reached economic threshold levels. We usually treat with a neonicotinoid the first time across to help preserve beneficial insects, then come back with a shot of Transform pre-bloom followed by another Transform application at bloom. We’ve noticed that we get much better season-long plant bug control if we can zero out that population before canopy closure. Later on, if we have to treat for plant bugs again, we will use tankmixes and switch chemistries to avoid building up resistance.
Glyphosate-resistant pigweed is definitely the main weed issue in this area. All of our acres are infested. Our control plan includes overlapping residuals, taking advantage of new technology and doing everything we can to stay on top of this pest.
The positive side of having fewer acres of cotton this year is that we will be able to stay on top of it and never get behind with weed or insect control. We’ll definitely be able to manage the cotton more intensely.