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More Flex, more rain needed for 07 cotton

Lamesa, Texas, cotton farmer Mike Griggs plans no wholesale changes to his cotton production program for 2007, other than adding some more Roundup Ready Flex to his variety mix.

“I’ll plant wall-to-wall cotton and pray for rain,” Griggs says.

His current system has worked well so far, at least when weather cooperated or on fields he irrigated.

He’d like to put in some more subsurface drip irrigation but has run out of land he owns and can’t convince landlords to make the investment. “They either don’t want to add the expense or they are concerned that they may not have enough water,” Griggs says.

Drip paid off for him the past two years. Severe drought forced him destroy all his dryland cotton to in 2006. He made nothing on non-irrigated cotton. The 400 acres he had on drip irrigation made up to 2200 pounds per acre.

“We averaged 3.8 to 3.9 bales per acre on irrigated cotton,” he says.

All that was on drip. He has no pivot or row water irrigation.

He’ll stick with his variety mix, too. “Stoneville made the highest yield, 2200 pounds,” he says. “FiberMax also did well in 2005 and 2006.”

He earned 1-ton club status with FiberMax in 2005 and hit 2100 pounds with a FiberMax variety in 2006. A NexGen variety made 1,800 pounds per acre.

Grades were good, as well. “Some of my FiberMax cotton went into the loan at 59 cents a pound,” he says. “The Stoneville variety rated 56 cents in the loan, but it had some rain on it that hurt color,” he says. “Staple, mic and strength were about equal.”

Griggs says loan cotton that averages from 56 cents to 59 cents a pound “sure beats that old stripper variety we used to plant. Picker cotton and irrigation make a good combination. I get better yields and better grades.”

He uses a picker to harvest irrigated cotton.

The NexGen variety he planted in 2006 was a Roundup Ready Flex cotton. “I like the Flex technology,” Griggs says. “I sprayed the Flex cotton as it was coming and again when the canopy was just about to close. We didn’t do anything else to control weeds. I usually walk the fields with a hoe and chop weeds, check bolls and watch for insects. I didn’t get to do that in the Flex cotton. I’ll look for some more varieties with Flex technology in 2007.”

He says Flex works so well farmers may be able to revert back to first generation Roundup Ready varieties after a year or two as weed pressures decline. “We will not have as many weed seed to germinate,” he says.

Griggs is hopeful that 2007 brings better cotton weather. “We had fall rains that helped,” he says. “We had good moisture as we worked the fields and got enough rain to keep soil from blowing. But we’ll need a good planting rain in the spring.”

Griggs says if he can get some moisture next year, maintain his yield average and keep grades up, cotton will look pretty good.

“And if we can cut costs, we may make a little money. A dollar here and a dollar there add up.”

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