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Information, expertise hone grower's production program

Mike Watts knew it would be an interesting year when Clarksdale, Miss., received 5 to 6 inches of rain in a few hours in mid-May. From that point, land on the Fullen Farms operation Watts manages near Clarksdale received much more rain than “normal.”

Despite all the moisture, Watts was able to contain the size of his cotton plants, a factor that contributed to the successful defoliation of the crop on Fullen Farms, which is headquartered in Ripley, Tenn.

“With all the rains that we had this year, I used up to 140 ounces of Mepex plant growth regulator, trying to hold back the crop,” says Watts. “We hit it with a 24-ounce rate several times and finally slowed it down.

“I had planted DP 444 BG/RR, Phytogen 370 WR and ST 5599BR. The Phytogen 370 WR wasn't as aggressive as the ST 5599BR,” he noted. “We held the crop back successfully with Mepex and later were able to do a great defoliation job.”

Watts attributes much of that success to receiving information and expertise almost on a daily basis from his local retailer, Jimmy Sanders Seed Co.

“We've been with Jimmy Sanders for two years now,” says Watts. “I've worked with (Sanders' agronomist) Jim Corley all during that time. I rely on him for recommendations on weed control, soil sampling, fertilizer application, variety selection, defoliation and insect control.

“Jim is a good field rep and keeps updated on all the newer products and stays in close relationships with the products' representatives.”

One example of this teamwork was defoliation. “Defoliation is a gamble on what you do every year,” he says. “I've had good success with defoliation this year. Matter of fact, our aerial applicator said we had done the best defoliation job he had seen this year.”

Using Corley's advice, Watts applied Adios and a boll opener, Super Boll. He went back on his ranker cotton with a second shot with Dropp/Def/Prep. The Dropp helps hold down regrowth.

Watts says Corley also helps him keep up on the profusion of generic products, which can save him money. “We want to use good products and want good people backing up those products,” Watts says. “Jim and I discuss the prices on several products and select the one that we feel will work the best while being price competitive.”

Sanders also does Watts' soil sampling and fertilizer application. He might have some bean ground sampled every year but otherwise is on a five-year grid program. He has grid almost all of his operation, except for the bean ground.

“On one corn field that I had land-formed about five years ago, we did a 10-acre grid on it, and we now variable rate our potash and phosphorus. My cotton is on 5-acre grids because cotton is a little more sensitive.”

Sanders also helps with insect control. “We also use a consultant, Greg Williams out of Memphis, who is very good,” Watts says. “Jim, who is also an entomologist, helps me on a daily basis and gives me a second opinion.

“Whether we're talking cotton, corn, or beans, Jim and I look at the situation and determine together what materials to put out. And we consider the growing conditions.

Things like the available moisture all figure in, and he's a specialist on it. It's key having someone local who can help us adjust our program to the growing conditions, which can change quickly.”

This past season, Watts farmed 1,600 acres of cotton, 400 of corn, 300 of wheat and 700 of soybeans. About 1,300 acres of his cotton were irrigated. He can irrigate about two-thirds of his land.

Watts also uses Sanders when he does his winter planning. “Sanders helps with the resources for the upcoming year,” Watts says.

“We always try do the best job possible for our growers,” says Corley.

“We try to give them honest, dependable, timely information. We also try to get in their fields on a timely basis when they need us. When they are rolling, we talk daily — sometimes several times daily.”

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