Louis Heckmann and his wife, Debbie, farm 1,100 acres of dryland cotton they rotate with corn and milo in Fort Bend County, Texas.
Historically, they grew a high-yielding competitive variety, but in 2020 they decided to try PhytoGen® brand PHY 400 W3FE.
“We thought PHY 400 W3FE was good enough to compete yield wise with the other high-yielding variety we had grown for years, and we were right,” he says. “We made a good decision in changing over.”
Louis says PHY 400 W3FE has good vigor, a strong root system, bacterial blight resistance, WideStrike® 3 Insect Protection, and the Enlist® weed control system to fight resistant waterhemp.
“Our cotton is managed for 3.5 bales per acre, which is now a possibility in the Texas Upper Gulf Coast region with the newvarieties when the weather is right. In 2020, our average yield was3.25 bales per acre.
“We need rain because we are dryland, and the varieties we have now will stack a lot of fruit quickly. You must have nutrients available relatively early compared to the older varieties.”
PHY 400 W3FE Thrives Despite Bad Weather
In 2021, Mother Nature stepped up and threw a curve ball, starting with excessive rain in May.
“Our cotton started off dry,” Louis says. “Then the rain began after we had some of the crop set on the bottom, so a lot of the bottom crop had boll rot. We started trying to regrow the cotton to make more fruit. This was difficult to do because it was raining in the flowers. When this happens, cotton sometimes is not able to pollinate, so it sheds that piece of fruit.
“With more than a month of rain, we ended up growing a top crop and a crop farther out on the limbs of the plant. That’s where most of our yield came from in 2021.”
And after a long, drawn-out growing season with a lot ofwater on heavy ground that doesn’t drain well, more nitrogen was needed. The nitrogen just wasn’t available.
“We had to sidedress most of our cotton twice with nitrogen,” Louis says. “We had never done that before. But PHY 400 W3FE responded well to the added nitrogen and kept putting on fruit. It was like the plant didn’t want to quit. Because we’ve had years like this in the past, that’s what I look for in a variety — one that will come back and put on more fruit if it has enough nutrients.”
In mid-September, Hurricane Nicholas came through followed by a front that produced strong northern winds.
“PHY 400 W3FE stayed in the burr well even though the hurricane loosened up the cotton,” Louis says.
“We had a really good crop last year, even though we lost some of it to the hurricane. With all the early rains and the late season storm, our average yield was still 2.75 bales per acre.”
Outstanding Fiber Quality Package
Although high mic is common in this area because of rain, heat, boll load and fertility, Louis says he has seen very little high mic withPHY 400 W3FE.
“We also have to plant varieties with good staple length,” he says. “Long, cotton buyers come looking for you. Short, they won’t look at you.”
And even though PHY 400 W3FE got hit with its share ofadverse weather, Louis says about 75% of their cotton waspremium grade.
“PhytoGen has some of the top varieties out there,” he says. “The breeding has gotten so much better. Right now, our best bet is to grow PHY 400 W3FE.
“We also are interested in trying PHY 411 W3FE that was just released for 2022. It’s supposed to yield even better thanPHY 400 W3FE and has the same package as PHY 332 W3FE with both root-knot and reniform resistance.”
A True Family Farm
Louis and Debbie have been married 36 years and have four grown kids and two “grands.” Debbie, son Louis Jr. and daughters Kaley and Heather are actively involved in the family farming operation. The daughters scout cotton in-season and Louis Jr. is a full-time employee. Everyone pitches in to keep the family and crews well fed during harvest.