Tony Cox always has an infectious laugh that seems to settle into a warm smile. Farming just outside of Wellington, Texas, since he was a teenager, Tony had a lot to smile about during last year’s harvest as he stepped out of his pickup truck and pointed toward his field of DP 1518 B2XF that lived up to the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.”
Located 15 miles from the Texas-Oklahoma border and 25 miles from Memphis (Texas, that is), Cox learned to farm from a good farmer and a good man – his father.
“Dad always had excellent insight whether he was giving me advice on farming or about life in general. I remember when I thought college was the best career path for me, but he told me if I didn’t bear down and apply myself, I wouldn’t be going to college. He knew my propensity for ‘having a good time,’ and it turned out, he was right,” laughs Cox, shaking his head and confirming his father’s early intuitive observation.
So, when Tony’s senior year of high school rolled around, he found himself heading back home to the farm every day after class, and with no regrets, he has been farming ever since.
If you ask Cox what commodities he produces on his operation, his answer is short and only takes one word – cotton.
“A guy would starve to death growing wheat out here unless he had cattle. We used to grow some peanuts, but we slowly gravitated away from that,” Cox says.
Last year, T&D Loco Farms planted cotton in the Texas counties of Collingsworth and Childress, as well as across the state line in Harmon County, Okla. At 56 years young, Cox can’t believe how fast the crop years have flown by, which is how he has come to measure time.
After nearly 40 years of producing cotton, he and his wife, Debbie, and their 27-year-old son, Sonny, love the
cotton farming lifestyle despite the trials and tribulations that come
“We’re still early in our harvest, but from the windshield, this year looks like it will be our best year ever. Did I just say that? I still find it hard to believe,” he says, scratching his head, his eyes wincing from the piercing sun that was a sporadic commodity in Texas last year.
XtendFlex And Dicamba
Thirty inches of rain early in the season delayed planting by a month, but late-season heat units pushed his crop to maturity. Then the rains came again. After that much rain, one would think the biggest problem Cox faced in 2015 was too much moisture. But that assumption would be dead wrong.
“The biggest production-related hurdle we had to clear last year was weeds,” Cox says emphatically.
He admits that overall the rain was a blessing, but the proliferation of weeds kept him and his team working overtime, spraying early and trying to keep resistant weeds from smothering his young stands of cotton. He leaned on Staple and Roundup but will readily admit that manual hoeing played a large part in his 2015 weed control program. “We didn’t consider Liberty this year, so we had to get after the weeds very early. We were adamant about not letting them get out of hand, but it was tough. We were darn lucky we didn’t lose some of our fields,” he recalls.
Cox, who has been a Deltapine New Product Evaluator farmer for eight years, is already planning ahead for 2016. He is staying with Deltapine Bollgard II XtendFlex varieties because of the consistently high yields and good fiber qualities they deliver. He can spoon-feed nutrients to them through a sub-surface drip irrigation system, while maximizing his water use efficiency because water is delivered directly to the thirsty roots.
He also is more than excited about the possibility of having dicamba in his weed control arsenal. When asked which technologies he has adopted through the years that have made a positive difference in his success as a farmer, he was quick to answer.
“Going way back, I’d say Roundup Ready and Bt cotton. That’s why I can’t wait to get our hands on dicamba in 2016. When I couple my trusted Deltapine varieties with dicamba, I’m sure that combination will eliminate a lot of the weed pressure that we endured this year,” he adds.
Along with his son, Cox only has four other production-related employees to help him keep up with nearly 5,000 acres of cotton. But, he reveals, there’s a method to the madness.
Recordkeeping And Rye
“I was irrigating 160 acres when my dad left this earth. It is hard for me to fathom the number of acres we’re irrigating today,” he admits.
Cox told his bookkeeper, Cecilia Orozco, they had to be able to schedule and track input applications on every field over their three-county farmscape. Today, they have iPads that sync the information to everyone as soon as a task is completed. Spray operators first enter a field’s location/identity number, which will reveal the field’s variety and the date it was last sprayed. It also shows upcoming spray schedules and what product(s) have been used. No matter where Tony is located, he can know exactly what’s been done on his entire operation on any given day.
“I’m a hands-on, in-the-field kind of person, and technology has really streamlined our operation. It has allowed me to stay in the field and still be aware of what’s going on inside the office. We’re all on the same page now, and that eliminates the guesswork, duplication of effort, and more importantly, the gray areas,” explains Cox.
One gray area he never faces is deciding on a cover crop. Cox has been sowing rye on his cotton ground after each year’s harvest for several seasons. He lets it reach the boot stage before terminating it with Roundup.
“I could not farm the number of acres I’m farming today if I hadn’t started this form of conservation tillage. Our non- permeable soil turns to concrete after a pounding rain, so we leave a 10-inch space on the bed and come in with Banvel herbicide and 2,4-D well before planting into the standing rye stubble. The rye’s dead root system decays and does a great job promoting infiltration,” he explains.
If you look inside Cox’s truck that is crammed with lunch sacks, cups and hats, you’d think he was a hoarder. But if you learn about his operation and look at the smile on his face as he drives down the turnrow, you would know he’s a successful cotton farmer.
Brad Robb is a freelance writer based in Collierville, Tenn. Go to cottonfarming.com to view the Special Reports and the Yielding Solutions videos to see how Deltapine varieties are yielding solutions to cotton farmers.