Following is his Special Report.
The expansive fields of defoliated cotton on Davis Family Farms in Doerun, Ga., caused 51-year-old Bart Davis to sit back in his pickup truck, take a deep breath, exhale and smile.
“I love this time of the year. It’s a big relief to see those harvesters running down straight rows of three-plus bale cotton,” says Davis, with a great sense of relief in his voice as his son confirmed from the picker a yield monitor reading of nearly 2,000 pounds.
The farmer and father of three with 34 cotton crops under his belt was thrust into farming’s center stage when he was only 18-years-old after both his mother and father passed away in a span of six months.
“That was a tough period in my life. I’ll be honest with you, I was scared,” remembers Davis.
He was a high school senior. Luckily, he had earned nearly all of his credits and had to attend classes only one quarter that year. Davis never played sports because his life revolved around school and the family farm. At the time, his father was farming between 1,200 and 1,500 acres before complications from diabetes caused declining health. By the fall of 1981, he was diagnosed with cancer.
“My father was respected by the people with whom he did business. He taught me the basics of farming, and if I wasn’t in school, I was with him,” says Davis, remembering his dad.
From their agri-business suppliers to the family’s long-time banker, everyone knew that Bart had the intestinal fortitude not only to continue the family’s operation, but do it with the dedication, honesty and respect his father was known to exhibit throughout his life.
Davis Farms Today
As Davis oversees his 34th cotton harvest, he is more than thankful to have the helping hands of wife, Paula; sons, Trey (28) and Jedd (26); and daughter, Lakyn (19). Although Lakyn is attending nursing school, she still makes time to help her mom with farm recordkeeping, run to town for parts or move water tanks. Jedd and Trey spend a lot of time driving tractors or in the seat of the on-board module harvester when it comes time to pick cotton.
Today, Davis dedicates time away from his operation to serve on the boards of the Georgia Cotton Commission and Southern Cotton Growers, and is an alternate on the board of Cotton Incorporated. He will admit serving on industry boards has broadened his perspective of agriculture, while also making him more outgoing.
“Dad’s always been a shy, quiet person, but since he’s been participating on these boards, he’s really come out of his shell and is now more vocal in general,” says Jedd Davis, with a wry smile on his face.
Ask Bart Davis what has helped keep his operation profitable, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
“We’re 80 percent irrigated and have found a variety that we love, and that loves our Tifton soils – DP 1555 B2RF. It’s a long-season variety with much improved fiber qualities over DP 1252 B2RF, especially in our full-maturing growing environments,” says Davis.
“I actually had to slow the harvester down because it was getting choked, especially on the outside rows as the yield monitor bumped back and forth between 1,400 to 2,000 pounds. It was picking very clean,” adds Jedd.
Inputs, Weed Control And The Future
The commercialization of Boll-gard, the Boll Weevil Eradication Program and Roundup get credit from Davis for helping him stay in farming. He is looking forward to the protection the new Deltapine Bollgard II XtendFlex varieties will offer but admits he will keep dicamba “on deck” for the time being.
“I’m very proactive when it comes to preventing weeds,” Davis says. “My mindset is to prevent them instead of having to deal with them once they emerge.”
That mindset keeps his weed control costs in the range of $50 to $70 an acre. Pest pressure over the past two years has increased, and that causes Davis a bit of worry. His consultant, Scott Brown, a retired county agent, is on speed dial and has Davis Farms on a tight stink bug schedule.
“It’s a given we’re going to spray for plant bugs and aphids early on if we have to, but we spray for thrips only on Scott’s recommendation. Scott knows his stuff, and I trust him implicitly,” says Davis.
Plant growth is monitored closely, and plant growth regulator applications keep the cotton plant’s energy directed toward making fiber.
Bart Davis is a conscientious person – a fact that has its good and bad sides. “Yes, I worry too much. I guess I do let little things keep me up at night more often than not,” he says with a deep-chested laugh.
Davis is known to be a hard worker and a man of faith who has strong family ties. He loves farming and is adamant about keeping cotton production strong in Georgia and the United States.
“Cotton commands the largest acreage in Georgia and has the largest across-the-board economic impact in our state. Right now, if we don’t have high yields, it’s break-even for us. Thankfully, we’re enjoying yields like I’ve not seen before, thanks in no small part to Deltapine,” Davis says.
Brad Robb is a freelance writer based in Collierville, Tenn. Go to cottonfarming.com to view the Special Reports and Yielding Solutions videos to see how Deltapine varieties are yielding solutions to cotton farmers.