Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Cutting Edge Of Cotton

Davis Family Farms Is Dedicated To Remaining Sustainable And Preserving Its Legacy

• By Carroll Smith,
Editor •

Bart Davis (second from right) runs Davis Family Farms with his son, Trey (left), son Jedd and his son-in-law, Taylor Buckner. Davis’ daughter, Laykn, is also an active participant in the operation.

When Bart Davis was 17 years old, he lost his mother. When he was 18, his father passed away, and Davis had to bring in the 1982 cotton crop on his own. This past year marked his 40th season.

Davis is always moving forward in a positive, proactive direction. That’s the kind of man he is. Today, he operates Davis Family Farms with his wife, Paula, his sons, Trey and Jedd, and his daughter, Laykn. They grow 7,500 acres of cotton, corn, peanuts, wheat and registered beef cattle.

“Dad started farming on his own when I was born, so I am the second generation,” Davis says. “My nephew, Alex Apperson, also works for us along with my son-in-law, Taylor Buckner. We are a true family farm. We hire extra employees when we are planting and harvesting.

“Trey is involved in a lot of the management responsibilities, including banking and Farm Service Agency paperwork. Laykn works in the office, and Jedd is more of an outside, hands-on person like me with the employees. He participates in getting the crop in, getting it out, and taking care of the day-to-day crop production.”

2021 Growing Season

In 2021, they grew 4,400 acres of cotton, which is about 95% irrigated with low-pressure, overhead pivots to save water and be more efficient.

“We have a lot of good land on Tifton soils and some soils that are a little lighter, a little loamier,” Davis says. “Our crop consultant, Scott Brown, helps us get the right variety on the right field to maximize our yields. We’ve worked with him for years.”

Last year, they grew all Deltapine varieties, matching them to the fields on which they thought they would perform the best. 

“2021 was one of the wettest growing seasons I’ve ever had in my farming career,” Davis says. “Although we got 5 to 6 inches of rain toward the end of April, we did have to irrigate when we got into May to get everything planted. Then it started raining again June 5, and we fought a wet environment all summer.”

Despite experiencing some adverse growing conditions, he says the cotton averaged 1,300 pounds per acre and the grades were decent.

NPE Trials And ThryvOn Technology 

Davis also is in a 50-50 partnership with owner Tony Lasseter to farm Windy Pond Farms near Moultrie, Georgia. Lasseter and consultant Brown began participating in the Deltapine New Product Evaluator Program when it began in 2008. Davis has continued the NPE Program on Windy Pond Farms since 2015.

In 2021, Davis and Brown conducted a Class of ’22 NPE trial and a ThryvOn technology comparison trial.

“We divided a 50-acre field between the ThryvOn variety DP 2131 B3TXF and DP 2055 B3XF for a head-to-head comparison,” Brown says. “In terms of thrips control, the ThryvOn technology performed so well it was unbelievable. We did not have enough plant bug pressure to conduct a good evaluation regarding them, but we were able to note differences between the two varieties.

“From this one observation, we saw less plant bug damage and no reproduction in the ThryvOn cotton. We didn’t find any plant bug nymphs in the ThryvOn, but we did find them at below threshold levels in the 2055. They weren’t bad enough to treat, but we could find nymphs. They were basically non-existent in the ThryvOn in our trial. Square retention was also better in the ThryvOn than in the 2055.”

Brown says they evaluated dirty blooms caused by plant bugs feeding on the squares after they get some size on them.

“We could not find any dirty blooms in the ThryvOn cotton and didn’t find heavy dirty bloom presence in the 2055, but we did find them,” he says. “I take that as evidence there was less feeding in the ThryvOn cotton.” For the 2022 growing season, DP 2211 B3TXF and DP 2131 B3TXF will be available for planting only through the Deltapine Stewarded Ground Breakers Field Trials.

Brown, who has observed how the cotton plant grows and develops almost his entire 41-year career, says he always learns something when working on Davis Family Farms.

“Bart and his family are very proactive and progressive in what they do,” he says. “They are always open to trying new things.”

Wildlife Habitat Project

Davis Family Farms is also a proponent of precision agriculture. 

“We want to be on the cutting edge and be as efficient as we can,” Davis says. “We make variable-rate applications of lime and fertilizer and are even doing some variable-rate seeding. It all works together to be profitable and more sustainable. We use the John Deere Operations Center to analyze our data to see where we are making money and where we are not.”

Although most of their cotton acres are pivot-irrigated, Davis says the corners of the field the pivot misses are low productivity spots that have a negative impact on their bottom line. To help turn this around, they took advantage of NRCS conservation programs. With the guidance of Chaz Holt, precision ag and conservationist specialist, they began participating in Quail Forever. This is the quail division of Pheasants Forever — an organization dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation. Davis Family Farms planted 17.5 acres of dryland pivot corners with a pollinator planting mix, which results in an attractive habitat for bees, beneficial insects and quail.

Bart Davis, chairman of the Georgia Cotton Commission, participates in various organizations to do his part in moving the cotton industry forward.
PHOTOS BY EMILY TUCKER

“The experience Quail Forever has had working with producers in the cotton and quail range across the Southeast has been great,” Holt says. “I am very proud to be working with family farms like the Davis’ to help preserve agricultural legacies and Southern hunting heritage alike. It’s been my pleasure to know and work with them.”

In recognition of their “innovative use of precision ag to identify profitable solutions for agriculture and wildlife habitat conservation,” Davis Family Farms was presented with the Quail Forever and Pheasant Forever’s 2021 Precision Farmer of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere.

Giving Back To The Industry

Davis likes to stay on the cutting edge of cotton outside the field by participating in industry organizations. 

“I always wanted to get involved, but I didn’t have anyone to look after the place until my children got old enough to help me,” he says.

“I do what I can to help the cotton industry because it’s important to my farm and all the cotton farmers in Georgia.”

Today, he is chairman of the Georgia Cotton Commission, chairman of the Georgia Boll Weevil Eradication Program, Southern Cotton Growers director and NCC delegate.

“The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization whose goals are research, promotion and education,” Davis says. “We spend about $750,000 a year on research through the University of Georgia. We wouldn’t be where we are today in cotton production if it weren’t for Extension and the research that’s been done.

“Georgia is the largest cotton growing state in the country behind Texas. Cotton is Georgia’s No. 1 row crop and has a big impact on the economy. I do what I can to help the cotton industry because it’s important to my farm and all the cotton farmers in Georgia.”

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