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Cotton still king for Jamersons

Tim Jamerson is leaning more on corn and soybeans, pushing his yields a little higher most years. But cotton is still king on his Hornersville, Mo., 2,800-acre farm at the tip of the Bootheel region.

New production, marketing and production programs are helping him get the most out of his cotton. And by using multiple modes of action for weed control, he hopes to escape crop-binding resistant-weed problems for cotton, as well as for corn and soybeans.

“We know what we can do with cotton,” says Jamerson, who farms with his son, Aaron. “We can usually average about 1,100 pounds of lint per acre. So recently we’ve started a new marketing program, where we are ‘booking’ bales.”

In this program, he works directly with various cotton buyers. He books what amounts to 75 percent of his proven yield, about 825 pounds. He agrees to deliver that much cotton to the buyer, unless there are production problems that cause a short crop.

“If you make less than that, you are not penalized for the yield shortfall,” he says.

“Payment is on a sliding scale based on 78.25 cents. At this price, you get a 17-cent equity and can add or subtract accordingly. We will probably book different portions of our contract along the year to take an average.”

Even when corn and soybean prices were taking off and cotton was left behind, the Jamersons saw light at the end of the tunnel and purchased a John Deere 7760 cotton picker, which is equipped with an on-board module builder. They were able to harvest with less equipment and less labor. But that didn’t mean they weren’t interested in grain crops.

“We knew we had to make some adjustments if grain prices stayed on an upward trend,” says Jamerson. “We converted about 10 percent of our acres to soybeans and 5 percent to 10 percent to corn.

“We’ve been able to produce 170 bushels of corn per acre, but we’re looking at raising that to 200-220 bushels with the better corn hybrids we’re seeing. Our soybeans yields have reached 65 bushels planted on land following cotton the previous year.”

As with cotton, Jamerson’s corn and soybeans are grown in 38-inch rows. Corn is all Roundup Ready stacked with YieldGard VT Triple Pro insect control traits. Soybeans are also Roundup Ready. The Jamersons have dodged weed resistance problems for all their crops.

“We’ve been fortunate,” says Jamerson. “We haven’t seen many pigweed problems, but it’s coming. So we plan to use Prowl and Cotoran behind the planter and hope to receive good weed control with glyphosate on our Roundup Ready Flex cotton.

“For corn, we count on atrazine to help with weed control along with glyphosate. For soybeans, we come back with Reflex if needed to control later weeds. We are considering bringing back hooded sprayers for some post-direct applications.”

Better cotton, corn and soybean varieties to cope with weeds, disease, insects and drought are in Jamerson’s sights. “We’re looking forward to drought-tolerant corn that’s coming down the pike,” he says.

If recent weather patterns are any indication, “drought-tolerant” hasn’t sounded like a trait many Mid-South growers need. The wet, cool fall of 2009 and the heavy rains this spring have hampered some production. “We had 80 inches of rain last year,” says Jamerson, “and our fields were muddy from December to April.”

But growers like Jamerson know that summers can nearly always produce too much heat and not enough rainfall at critical growing periods. That’s why he counts on irrigation to assure enough water is available for cotton, corn and beans at the right time.

“Most of our irrigation is under center pivots and we added two new irrigation pivots in 2009,” he says.

Jamerson started what’s termed as “one-pass farming” several years ago. And other than 2009, when wet conditions prevented the one-pass field work, he has used it to save on labor, time and fuel costs.

He runs the One-Pass TerraTill plow from Bigham Brothers, Inc. “I really like this plow,” says Jamerson, who strives to remain 100 percent conservation-tillage. Basically, he runs the plow after harvest, right behind the combine. “We can have the ground completely prepared for planting in the spring. We saved two to three trips with this new equipment.”

In the one-pass operation, he plants a wheat cover crop in the middles with a Gandy air seeder attached to the one-pass plow to help prevent excessive erosion.

He says the plow is available in 4- and 6-row units and is designed to cut through heavy residue, till the row, undercut the stalks, press them into the row and bed up over the stalks in one pass.

With the wet weather last year, he was forced to abandon the one-pass system and just run a stalk cutter behind the cotton picker or combine. “On fields that the picker didn’t make deep tracks in we used a KBH One-Trip Plow to prepare the ground,” he says.

The Jamersons aren’t tied to one gin. They use several which they have rented land from over the years.

“We know we’ll always be big in cotton production,” Jamerson concludes, “but corn and soybeans are going to be around. We just have to adapt to growing all three in a rotation. We are also looking at sorghum. We can’t have all of our eggs in one basket.”

TAGS: Cotton
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