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“My grandfather, Will Harris, originally farmed cotton in East Texas,” says West Texas cotton producer
Stacy Smith. “He eventually moved to the New Home, Texas, area and farmed the land I live on today. After
receiving a marketing degree from Texas Tech University, I had the opportunity to come home and farm on my own. Also, my father-in-law is from a multi-generational farm family. After he retired, I had the privilege of stepping into his operation that furthered mine.”
Today, Smith and his wife operate as S&A Smith Farms in Lynn County, Texas. They primarily grow cotton but also raise grain sorghum, corn and wheat. The cotton acres are about 50-50 dryland to irrigated.
Variety Selection Includes The ‘Entire Package’
In 2021, they planted PhytoGen® brand varieties that included PHY 332 W3FE and PHY 443 W3FE. This season, the West Texas farmer says he will plant these same two varieties and also is considering the new PHY 411 W3FE.
“When making variety choices, I look at the benefits of the entire package,” Smith says. “Vigor is very important, especially in West Texas. We need a strong, early start to endure some of the weather conditions we have at that time of year.
“The biggest challenge in my area is reniform nematode, so I am looking for reniform resistance in a variety. This trait allows me to continue growing cotton in upcoming years and reduce my nematode populations, too.
“I strongly believe in crop rotation for soil health. But on some of our drip irrigated fields, reniform-resistant varieties allow me to plant cotton in successive years.”
Smith says the PhytoGen team helps with his variety choices at the beginning of the season, and they also follow up with him throughout the year to answer questions and provide tips for maximum production.
“The PhytoGen team follows up with me multiple times during the season. It’s encouraging that they come walk the fields with me. We’ll also check on the test plot. They care about how the new varieties perform on my farm.”
Sustainability And The Benefits Of Science
In terms of sustainability, Smith says farmers want to make their farms better and preserve the land for future generations. The key to solving some of the issues that he faces today is the new traits and the science behind them that allows cotton farmers to go forward, he adds.
“On my operation, for example, the primary focus has been the reniform nematode, and PhytoGen was on the forefront of that,” Smith says. “The bacterial blight resistance, root-knot nematode resistance and Verticillium wilt tolerance are also important. I can’t stress enough the science that is behind all this. Because of the traits in the PhytoGen varieties, I have acres that will continue to be in cotton that otherwise would have gone to other crops.”
Water availability is another concern in West Texas. Farmers
depend on rainfall for their dryland acres and source their
irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer and private wells.
“We are becoming more efficient with our water in the best ways we can,” Smith says. “It’s important in West Texas to consider how we can go forward with the irrigation water that we have.”
Looking To The Future
When asked what keeps him motivated every day, Smith says farming is his passion.
“The key is to love farming enough to do it for free during a devasting year and then look forward to doing it again,” he says. “I believe American farmers are doing everything they can to keep the land available and sustainable for the children who want to do it as well.”