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.

Jason Luckey

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.

In Search Of More Efficiency
West Tennesee CottonHowever, even the Luckeys are aware that they need to find additional ways to become more efficient. They will continue to implement an effective burndown program and rotate crops on a regular basis. But now they are taking advantage of another tool that may reap dividends – Deltapine’s Roundup Ready XtendFlex technology.

Jason planted two XtendFlex varieties this year – DP 1518 B2XF and DP 1522 B2XF – and likes what he has seen so far. Unfortunately, the heavy rains earlier in the season washed out all of the DP 1518 B2XF, which amounted to 300 cotton acres that eventually went to soybeans. But, the progress of the DP 1522 B2XF is moving along well.

“To put it into a nutshell, this new technology means a simpler burndown program,” he says. “I am very excited about what this will mean for us in the future for reducing our weed control costs.”

Jason and truckIn keeping with their diverse approach to cotton production, the Luckeys will also plant NexGen, Phyto- Gen and Stoneville varieties on their cotton acres.

One feature of the Xtend- Flex technology that appeals to the Luckeys is the possibility of a “universal burndown followed by a good rate of dicamba over the top or an early shot of glufosinate.” Having three modes of action would be an excellent way to take care of pigweed escapes, according to Jason.

Although the cost of this new technology comes at a time when cotton prices are low, the Luckeys know that the investment will pay off eventually.

Jason recalls how his family initially didn’t appreciate the value of boll weevil eradication many years ago. But, by the third year of the program, cotton yields increased considerably. Suddenly, paying $30 an acre for eradication seemed like a wise decision. In retrospect, the investment proved crucial for cotton’s future in the region.

For the Luckeys and other West Tennessee cotton producers, timing is crucial for taking advantage of the new DP RR XtendFlex varieties. The latest USDA reports indicate that cotton acreage in West Tennessee could be close to 90,000 acres in 2015. A few years ago, that number was nearly 400,000. This drop in acreage could eventually affect infrastructure such as gins and warehouses.

That’s why the introduction of the new RR XtendFlex varieties could encourage more cotton acres next year. If it leads to a dramatic drop in weed control expenditures, the turnaround could be significant.

Jason Luckey's Cotton Field in West Tennessee
Jason Luckey’s Cotton Field in West Tennessee

High Cost Of Weed Control
What makes the weed resistance problem so challenging is its unpredictable nature. Even the most diligent farmer can miss a spot in the field and cause pigweed escapes. That, in turn, leads to weed control costs that can amount to $100 an acre, according to Extension officials.

In a related way, Jason believes that cotton producers must be prepared if the industry eventually recaptures global cotton demand – making it attractive to increase acres.

“If I had one message for my fellow farmers, it would be not to give up on cotton,” he says. “Be diverse in your crop mix and as efficient as you can. This kind of approach can pull you through some tough times.”

Jason is an optimistic farmer who knows what his potential cotton yields are each year. Even though heavy rains put the crop behind by at least two weeks, he believes it can catch up. He figures that a month of 90-degree temperatures can easily solve the problem, leading to 2.5 to 3-bale yields.

“I like what I see in my cotton fields right now,” he says. “They look clean, and it encourages me about how this new technology will benefit us in the immediate future.”

Tommy Horton
By Tommy Horton, Editor

Contact Tommy Horton at or (901) 767-4020.

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