Brad Williams covers a lot of territory and grows a lot of cotton, by any standard. His family operation is spread over roughly a 45-mile radius in southwest Tennessee, mostly in Tipton and Shelby counties.
But, his favorite part of the farm is a stand of cotton along the Hatchie River in eastern Tipton County.
“Sometimes, in the evening, I like to come out here just to walk through the crop by myself. It is the best way to unwind at the end of the day,” Williams says.
The field is weed free, thanks in large part to being planted in the Deltapine variety DP 2012 B3XF., which offers great weed control because of Bollgard 3 technology. Williams admits that this year’s weed control is better than previous years due to increased use of different pre-herbicide programs.
The large field along the Hatchie is just down the road from the New Product Evaluation plots he is growing for Deltapine.
The Deltapine NPE program works with roughly 200 cotton producers across the Belt to grow and evaluate cotton variety candidates on large-acre plots before the varieties are released to the public.
“We’ve been part of the program since 2008 and have seen some great varieties come out of it,” Williams says. He is currently evaluating the Deltapine varieties for the class of 2021.
This year, he is growing 70 acres for the program and is seeing several varieties that have good potential.
“We treat the 70 acres of cotton in the NPE program just like every other acre on the farm,” Williams says. “The plots are a true example of how we farm overall.
“We are predominately dry land with 14,000 acres of cotton this year — 2,600 of that is irrigated.”
In addition to the 300 acres of DP 2012 B3XF he is growing commercially down on the Hatchie, he has planted 60 acres of DP 2020 B3XF as well as 60 acres of DP 2038 B3XF. All three varieties he evaluated in 2019 for the class of 2020.
The Deltapine Bollgard 3 XtendFlex varieties offer three modes of action against bollworms and triple-stacked herbicide resistance for crop protection.
He has planted other Deltapine varieties across the expanse of the operation.
In 2020, he began planting in early May on 38-inch rows with a John Deere 1725 planter with 45,000 seeds per acre.
“This year, we had the best seed vigor we’ve had in the last few years,” he said. “We had good emergence.”
By early to mid-August, most of Williams’ cotton was blooming out the top and loading up, including two particular varieties in the NPE plots — 19R132B3XF and 19R125B3XF. Both are early to mid-season varieties that may be performing well enough to be introduced to producers in 2021.
“We had a late bollworm infestation,” Williams says. “But all that cotton is Bollgard 3, and we haven’t seen any damage.”
He has made several applications to control plant bugs. And, Deltapine is on that as well. In December of 2019, Bayer revealed that a new biotechnology trait, ThryvOn Technology, is in the pipeline to protect cotton from plant bugs and thrips. It is expected to be available in Deltapine varieties, pending regulatory approval, within the next few years.
Williams stated that by late August, “We have had ample, ample rainfall.”
He says that as Hurricane Laura blew through his area, it dropped a perfect amount of rain for his crop and left it unaffected, unlike areas in Louisiana and Arkansas. Additional rain following the hurricane will help finish out the season.
Williams has been in the cotton business for well over 28 years. He started by marketing and warehousing cotton after college.
Williams started farming with his wife Kerry and in-laws, Richard and Charlotte Kelley, when he joined the operation in 1995. He initially came on board to help Richard expand the Burlison Gin Co./Kelcot Warehouse, LLC, cotton ginning and warehouse operation outside of Covington, Tennessee.
Brother-in-law Michael Roane, who is married to Kerry’s sister Leslie, is also part of the Kelley Enterprises, a family farm operation.
Since 1996, they have expanded the farm from 4,500 acres to the current 14,000 acres of cotton. They stay active in cotton farming and cotton ginning leadership through county, state and national organizations. Williams is the 2020 president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.
Regarding chopping weeds along the Hatchie River, Williams says, “At one point, it was a common late-afternoon chore to prevent any escapes that may have occurred. Integrated plant technology as well as constant stewardship has helped us win most of the battles, but new resistance will continue. It is just part of a constant change with agriculture and Mother Nature.”
To learn more about the Deltapine New Product Evaluator program or Deltapine cotton products, go to www.deltapine.com.