BY TOMMY HORTON
All it took was a quick trip to south Georgia recently to confirm what I had heard for several months. Cotton production in this part of the Southeast is alive and well. In fact, you might even say it’s thriving. Sure, the competition from grain crops is everywhere. And everybody knows that cotton prices can’t compare with the off-the-chart prices that corn and soybeans are bringing. But what I saw south of Tifton, Ga., near the town of Adel a few weeks ago was very encouraging – to say the least.
As you’ll see in our cover story on pages 8, 9 and 10, the Rountree family, consisting of Chip (father) and sons Luke and Clint, continues to believe in cotton for a very good reason. They know that this crop is suited for the sandy loam and clay soils of south Georgia. Yields approaching 2,000 pounds per acre have reinforced that statement for three straight seasons. But, more importantly, the Rountrees, a fifth-generation farm family, have invested in cotton equipment and are doing everything possible to be efficient in all phases of their business.
The family has seen volatile cotton prices in the past, and they’ll probably see more of the same in the future. But they’ve also been rewarded for staying with this crop because of their willingness to embrace technology, soil sample and find varieties that are best suited for their acreage. Sure, they could sell all of their cotton equipment and make a complete switch to chase high corn or soybean prices. But there are undeniable risks in making such a change – not to mention a lot of financial investment.
Instead, the Rountrees – like many cotton producers – will stick with cotton and perhaps move a small amount of acreage into other crops. But, the core of their operation will continue to be in cotton. Access to a good water supply makes it easy to irrigate a large portion of their acres. They also know that cotton can tolerate drought conditions better than other crops.
So, after spending the better part of a day with this family, it became apparent that the Rountrees would never leave cotton. They love growing the crop, and they do it the right way. Every decision is analyzed. And, if they can’t figure out a problem, they quickly go to their consultant/advisor Steve Bullard, who just happens to be the general manager of the BCT Gin in Moultrie, Ga.
Georgia cotton producers have battled resistant pigweed, droughts and the loss of popular cotton varieties through the years. They are winning the fight against these problems, and it’s because of progressive farmers like the Rountrees – who simply won’t give up.
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