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Fifth-generation farmer Shane Isbell operates Isbell Farms in Colbert County, Alabama, in partnership with his father, Neal. Shane’s son, Tyler, also works full time in the operation.
“My grandfather, Hollis Isbell, is a visionary who is responsible for originally growing the farm,” Shane says. “He still comes out here, so we have four active generations involved.”
The Isbells grow 6,500 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat on some of the same land that has been in their family for more than 120 years. About 40% of the operation is irrigated with center pivots, and their cotton acreage typically ranges from 1,700 to 2,000 acres.
The Alabama farmer says the No. 1 factor he considers when selecting varieties is yield.
“We conduct variety trials on our farm each year, and seven years ago, PhytoGen started winning these trials,” Shane says.
In 2020, their intentions are to plant 1,800 acres of cotton to root-knot-nematode-resistant PhytoGen® brand PHY 320 W3FE, PHY 360 W3FE and PHY 400 W3FE.
“We have a big nematode problem on Isbell Farms — root-knot and reniform,” Shane says. “PhytoGen also has some new varieties coming out in the near future with reniform nematode resistance. I am going to try a couple of them this year on a small scale to see how they perform in a field where I have big- time reniform pressure.
“Another benefit we have seen with the PhytoGen varieties is excellent vigor and emergence. We farm near the Tennessee River in northwest Alabama, so the ground doesn’t warm up as fast as it does in other areas. Since we started growing PhytoGen, we’ve seen a better stand of cotton and a healthier stalk coming out of the ground than we have with any other company’s varieties.”
Improved Weed and Insect Control
In addition to high yields and the PhytoGen Breeding Traits™ that protect those yields, Shane says, the Enlist™ weed control system helps control glyphosate-resistant pigweed and marestail.
“Pigweed is the No. 1 weed we fight in cotton, and No. 2 is morningglory. We try to get out in front of the weed pressure with a good burndown program, and we like being able to tank- mix Enlist One herbicide and glyphosate throughout the year. The tank-mix flexibility that Enlist One offers is beneficial to us because rarely do we cross the field without tank-mixing something with it whether it is an insecticide or another herbicide.
“Before we started growing PhytoGen varieties with WideStrike 3 Insect Protection, bollworms were also an issue for us. Now they are not. WideStrike has cut our insecticide sprays way down,” Shane says.
Thriving With High Yield, High Quality
In reflecting on the 2019 season, Shane says, “God gave us perfect weather and the best yields we have ever had in the entire six generations of our farm. We planted PHY 320 W3FE, PHY 330 W3FE and PHY 350 W3FE and picked 1,600 pounds of cotton per acre across 2,000 acres.
“After defoliation, we only had one late rain during harvest, so we averaged 2 to 3 cents above market on all our grades. Color was great, leaf and mic were low, and staple length was outstanding. We had a dream year across the board.”
As a Cotton Incorporated director for Alabama, Shane is aware that grade is becoming more important as cotton retailers are in the market for environmentally friendly and sustainably grown cotton.
“Grade becomes a bigger issue every year,” he says. “Buyers look at grades and say, ‘These people are taking care of their cotton.’ This may not always be fair to the farmer because weather plays a big role in how grades turn out. But the buyer’s perception is our reality. Growing high-quality cotton is a big deal.”
™ ® Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. The Enlist weed control system is owned and developed by Dow AgroSciences LLC. PhytoGen Seed Company is a joint venture between Mycogen Corporation, an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences LLC, and the J.G. Boswell Company.