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Johnny Cochran doesn’t want to ruin his peanut rotation, but ...Johnny Cochran doesn’t want to ruin his peanut rotation, but ...

Johnny Cochran believes in crop rotation and uses at least a two-year to cotton and one-year to peanut rotation. But with a year like 2015, even he is tempted to stray from that doctrine and stretch peanut rotation on a few fields.

Brad Haire

February 6, 2015

3 Min Read
<p>JOHNNY COCHRAN sticks to his cotton-peanut rotation to ensure top yield potential, but with cotton prices promising negative cash flow this year, he is tempted to alter his rotation a bit. Peanuts will cash flow better than cotton for him. As of mid-January, though, he wasn&rsquo;t ready to trade yield potential for short-term gain.</p>

Johnny Cochran says it’s just farming’s turn to ride the downside of the economic roller coaster.

“Everything has downturns, and this year will be one for farming. Agriculture didn’t see the downturn much of the economy saw in 2007 through 2010. It looks like this year will start our turn to be down,” said Cochran, who farms in Worth County, Ga. “We have too much invested and too many bills to pay to sit out. … But I’ll tell you, I don’t know where to start this coming up year. It’s perplexing. Margins will be tight to nonexistent. I think this will be a year for survival mode -- a year just to get by.”

Cochran said any thoughts of capital investments, or spending on anything other than his must-fixes or have-to replaces, stopped back in August and September when cotton prices tanked along with yield potential, particularly on his dryland fields. Last June and July brought drought conditions and extreme heat to much of Georgia’s cotton region.

“It looks like cotton will be a negative cash flow, unless you can go three bales per acre. We’ve enjoyed tremendous yields in recent years, but you can’t count on that year in and year out and last year proved that,” said Cochran, on a mid-January day.

Considering he has had consistent, strong peanuts yields in recent years and the farm bill Price Loss Coverage options looks like a good option for his acreage, Cochran says peanuts will be his best bet for cash flow in 2015.

He believes in a strict crop rotation and uses at least a two-year to cotton and one-year to peanut rotation on his land. But with a year like this, with crop prices down almost across the board, even he is tempted to stray from that doctrine, stretch his peanut rotation on a few fields and capitalize on the short-term gain from additional peanut acres, even though that might further supress peanut prices down the road as the market struggles with a huge glut in the supply pipeline.

“The rotation is important to our yields and yields are the only thing really going to make low prices cash flow, and it’s a double-edge sword to cut inputs and yield. How you going to know what to cut? We don’t want to ruin our peanut rotation, but I think you can move a rotation to 50/50 on peanut and cotton, and I know people who can do that and make decent yields.”

To spread risk on his irrigated and dryland fields, he plants at least four different cotton varieties, sticking mostly with Deltapine full-season ones. He is part of Monsanto’s New Product Evaluator program, where he tests varieties on his farm because he wants to know how something will perform on his land before going all in with it. But getting the longer-term data on varieties is harder and harder for growers, he said.

“Seems like cotton varieties are coming out so fast now that the universities don’t have enough time to get two or three years’ worth of data on them to see how they do before that variety is gone or replaced with something else. I like to know, or see the three-year data, before I fully plant a variety,” he said.

Herbicide-resistant pigweed was a major problem several years ago on his farm, but now he has the problem weed under control. It’s costly to manage but under control. If the new auxin-tolerant cotton varieties become available this year, though, he’ll likely try one of the varieties on his bad pigweed problem fields.

But whatever 2015 brings, he knows it will be a season to keep input costs to a minimum, finances tight and a sharp eye on marketing opportunities. “We don’t have a lot of control over (crop) prices. The only thing we have control over is our expenses and figuring out where to cut and where not to cut this year will be the trick,” he said.

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