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Cotton yield starts with erosion control

For Mid-South High Cotton Award winner B Lindsey, good yields begin and end with erosion control — lots of it.

Lindsey farms 4,000 acres of cotton around Caldwell, Ark., on both sides of a geologic structure rising out of the landscape called Crowley’s Ridge.

The problem with farming around Crowley’s Ridge in Arkansas is that sheet erosion running off the ridge can decimate valuable topsoil and bust yields.

Lindsey has installed dozens of drop pipes and drop inlets on the farm, including several V-shaped terraces around 21-inch drop pipes to hold water longer and facilitate flow into the drop pipes. He’s also built berms to divert water into ditches to keep it from washing through the fields.

Lindsey plants wheat cover crops on land prone to erosion and uses minimum till — a practice that limits the amount of plowing — on much of his cotton, bedding up over existing rows after cutting stalks.

In nominating Lindsey for the award, Cross County Extension agent Rick Wimberley wrote that B Lindsey “loves to farm, loves the land and is a steward of the land with the goal of passing it on in much better shape than he found it.”

With the soil right, Lindsey, pushes fertility and irrigation. Lindsey’s consultant Clay Fletcher noted that with new fast-fruiting cotton varieties, farmers have to stay ahead of the crop. “B does a good job of that. And there is not a field that doesn’t have the correct pH. They’re not going to spare any expense giving the crop what it needs.”

To insure adequate fertility for a 3-bale yield, Lindsey and his consultants soil sample annually and usually apply phosphate, potash, lime, nitrogen, boron and sulfur. The number of stresses plants have during the season determines how close he gets to his objective. He’ll hit the 3-bale threshold on some of his best fields, and average 1,150 to 1,250 pounds over the entire farm.

With cotton prices ranging from 30 cents a pound to 80 cents a pound over the span of the last few years, profitability in cotton farming means having just enough acres to justify inputs, labor and machinery, said Lindsey. He has found that 2,000-acre units are highly efficient and each can be farmed with three people and a farm manager.

Farming is actually Lindsey’s second career. After graduating from Forrest City (Ark.) High School, he played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinal organization for several years before returning to Arkansas to farm.

Lindsey was accompanied at the award presentation at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Nashville by his wife, Jenny, brother, Jim, sons, Jay and Bubba, and Jay’s wife, Kasie.

Southeast High Cotton winner Mike Haddock and his brother, Timmy, Trenton, N.C., harvested very good yields in 2007 despite farming in the epicenter of one of the worst droughts in recent history. In accepting his award, Mike said, “We used every bit of the moisture we had, and no-till has allowed us to do that.” Haddock has converted 100 percent of his cotton acres to no-till.

Western High Cotton Award winner “Sonny” Hatley farms under the watchful eye of nearly 4 million people in nearby Phoenix, Ariz., and adjacent to a freeway on which over 155,000 automobiles pass by daily. Western Farm Press editor Harry Cline said Hatley “works hard to protect the environment while farming in an environmental microscope. He is also a mentor to young farmers and is a quiet, respected leader.”

Southwest High Cotton Award winner Clint Abernathy, Altus, Okla., has embraced technology to increase production and to conserve vital resources. Drip irrigation on some of his fields helps conserve a sometimes-limited water supply. Conservation tillage reduces labor, energy costs and soil loss from blowing sand that can be devastating in the spring. He farms with his sons, Jason and Justin, who say they’ve never contemplated doing anything else.

The High Cotton Awards, now in their 14th year, are sponsored by Farm Press Publications through a grant to The Cotton Foundation. Farm Press publishes Delta Farm Press, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Western Farm Press.

Co-sponsors of this year’s awards are Ace Pumps, Americot/NexGen, Beltwide Cotton Cooperative, Delta and Pine Land Business, ETIGRA, Farm Credit System, Helena Chemical Co., John Deere Co., Syngenta, U.S. Borax, WinField Solutions (A Land O’Lakes company).


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