One of the real pleasures in visiting farmers across the Cotton Belt through the years is when I make a return trip to one of them a few years after our initial meeting. First, it is always fun to see a friend again. But, more importantly, it’s a chance to observe how a particular farming operation might have changed through the years. Such was the case recently when I ventured to Humboldt, Tenn., to visit the farm of Jason Luckey.
It was just a few years ago that I made the trek to his family farm just north of Jackson, Tenn. During that visit, I was mainly concentrating on a profile story of the family operation and how everyone contributed to its success – including his father Rege, brother Ken and nephew Zac. At the time, I thought it was even more remarkable that the Luckey family was committed to dryland cotton production that has stayed so consistent through the years.
This time, I had a more specific thought in mind. I wanted to know how Jason was dealing with a serious problem affecting cotton farms throughout West Tennessee and the rest of the Belt. And what problem would that be? You guessed it. Resistant pigweed.
As you’ll see in our cover story, the Luckey farm has embraced a very strict and diversified crop mix through the years – mainly consisting of cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans. As Jason puts it, “we don’t chase markets.” In other words, by maintaining a balanced mix of crops, the farm benefits from valuable crop rotation strategies.
However, as disciplined as the Luckey farm operates, more help is needed to deal with a problem that is affecting cotton acreage in West Tennessee. It takes more than an effective burndown, crop rotation and residual herbicide programs to deal with resistant pigweed. And that is why Jason is embracing some new RR XtendFlex technology that hopefully will reduce weed control costs in the future. Right now, he’s observing these new varieties on his farm, and the early reports are encouraging.
When you consider that cotton acreage in West Tennessee this year has dropped to 90,000 after being as high as 400,000 just a few years ago, it’s obvious that this crop needs help. Farmers want higher prices, but they also need another tool to deal with this killer weed.
Jason and veteran West Tennessee veteran consultant Billy Beegle are optimistic about cotton’s future and share their thoughts in our cover story. As Billy so aptly put it, farmers “just need to hang on” in the current quest for more cotton acres. Truer words were never spoken. Let’s hope that better days are ahead.