Cotton Farming editor Carroll Smith went into the field this fall to capture strong cotton stories from farmers who planted Deltapine Bollgard II XtendFlex varieties. Following is her special report on Jimmy Webb in Georgia.
In Calhoun County, Georgia, small communities 12 to 15 miles apart once dotted the roadsides. Folklore passed down by word of mouth says the towns were in such close proximity because that’s how far the horses that people rode could walk in a day before needing a rest. Many of these locales have since disappeared, and folks traveling by more modern means now look out over lush cotton fields that turn to “snow” in the fall.
Jimmy Webb, a third-generation producer, says he still loves “watching the cotton grow” and shares short videos throughout the season with his Twitter followers. Today, he and his brother Wesley farm about 3,500 irrigated acres of cotton, peanuts and corn on Harvey Jordan Farms near Leary, Georgia.
Webb planted about 35 percent of his cotton acres to DP 1646 B2XF for the first time last year after area farmers who participate in the Deltapine New Product Evaluator Program told him how well the variety performed for them.
“We use a strip-till system so I put in a wheat cover crop in January, fertilized it with 2 tons of chicken litter and burned it down about 14 days before planting DP 1646 B2XF in April,” he says. “At planting, I ran a KMC Rip Strip tillage tool along with the planter so I only made one pass through the field. I applied a sidedress application of 80 pounds nitrogen and 30 pounds potash.”
Although pigweed pressure is present on the farm, Webb says they keep this pest under control by watering in early herbicide applications with center pivots to activate the chemistry.
“Most of my cotton circles typically receive between 40 to 60 ounces of plant growth regulator, depending on the soil type,” he says. “We often spot spray the PGR because some places in the field need it and some do not. We control the growth so we have a uniform canopy and uniform plants.
“To me, strong cotton means having excellent vigor and good growth potential. And DP 1646 B2XF definitely has that. You want to have to use PGRs to get the necessary height to make the high yields we need in our area.”
As the season progresses and Webb makes his layby herbicide application, he says the crop is usually in good shape before it’s time to defoliate.
In 2017, however, Mother Nature threw a couple of curve balls.
“We had rainy, cloudy weather in July, causing some of the fruit to abort,” Webb says. “This created a void in the middle of the plants, which decreased our yield.
“When Hurricane Irma moved from Florida into Georgia in September, it brought 12 to 15 hours of 30 to 40 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph. The wind twisted the cotton and knocked it down, which was easy to do since the bolls were heavy. I was worried, but the cotton stood back up pretty well.”
The top crop did not mature because of storm damage, and the University of Georgia Extension Service felt that Irma’s strong winds and heavy rain caused a 200 pound-per-acre loss overall, Webb says.
Yield And Quality Results
Although 2017 was an unusual year in terms of weather, Webb was pleased with how DP 1646 B2XF turned out at harvest.
“The quality of DP 1646 B2XF was excellent,” he says. “At one time, uniformity was not that good in Georgia. Now it’s much better. The mic is good, and the strength and staple have gone through the roof. The loan value for my DP 1646 B2XF was 55 cents. It’s nice to look on the loan chart and see how much premium we get with Deltapine strong cotton.”
In addition to quality, Webb always considers a variety’s yield potential on his farm. “If I see a variety, such as DP 1646 B2XF, that has good quality and yields well, it’s going to get my acreage,” he says. “High yields keep my cost per acre down, and good quality gives us a plus in marketing.
“After going through a season under tough weather conditions — including tropical storm force winds in September — the DP 1646 B2XF averaged 1,283 pounds per acre. It was the highest yielder of the three varieties we grew last year. Our intentions are to plant 50-plus percent of our acreage to DP 1646 B2XF in 2018.”
Staying The Course
Although some years are more challenging than others, Webb says he is sticking with cotton.
“It’s in my blood, and I enjoy the ‘cotton family,’ all the friends I have made over the years,” he says.
“I also appreciate the value of the Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated. The research efforts and product promotion from these organizations have kept us all in business. And we get great legislative help from our friends at the National Cotton Council.
“On our farm here in Georgia, we originally started out with cotton as a good rotation for peanuts and to help spread out the work. Now we are in it for the long haul.”