Danny Davis made one of his best ever cotton crops in 2007, good yields, excellent staple and overall good quality. And he's looking at 2008 with “about as much excitement as I've ever had.”
Pricing opportunities look extremely good, said Davis, who farms with his father, Doc, near Elk City, Okla. “I'm an eternal optimist,” said Danny, during the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Nashville. “I'm really ecstatic about price prospects this year.”
He balances that optimism a bit against what will be significantly higher production costs, especially for fertilizer. He said they got by with less fertilizer last year, following a severe drought that produced meager yields in 2006. But an excellent 2007 crop took most of that nutrient reserve. “We'll get back to a normal, balanced banded fertilizer program this year,” he said. “I don't think we've depleted soil moisture though. We got a good rain in December and another in early January.”
Danny Davis may change the way he applies fertilizer, reverting back to a time-consuming pneumatic fertilization rig on some acreage. “It's a trade-off of time and efficiency,” he said. “But we apply just what the crop will use.”
He'll also change his winter weed control program, with a broadleaf application in March (Banvel or Dicamba). “I'm also looking at more acres with a residual herbicide, probably Prowl, tank mixed with Roundup before planting, probably in April.”
Danny Davis said he's looking at a few new varieties for 2008 but will be hard-pressed to veer much away from DPL 143 B2RF, his best producer last year. “That's my mainstay,” he said. “I'm looking at DPL 104 and DPL 164 for high heat stress, wilt and nematode tolerance. But it will be a tough call getting much acreage away from 143.”
He said he would plant those three varieties and “whatever my seed rep recommends. I have faith in him.”
Danny Davis said the 2007 crop surprised him. “The crop did well after the monsoon season, which lasted from May through the first of July. Last year was a classic example of the more you think you know about a crop the less you really know.”
He said good heat unit accumulations and an exceptionally good fall made the crop. He said he's always tried to plant early but that his earliest cotton did not yield as well in 2007 as late cotton. “Wet weather early hurt,” he said. “We had some disease pressure on early cotton, too.”
Danny Davis said good seed protection technology helped stave off problems, too.
An open fall allowed the later planted cotton to catch up and produce beyond Danny Davis' expectations. “We had a phenomenal defoliation season,” he said. “We made the best quality and the best staple we have ever made. When every bale was classed we had 83 percent of our crop at 35 or better. Without one variety we would have had more than 90 percent at 35 or better.”
He said he would not point out the variety in question. “It has always done well,” he said. “It just got caught by weather.”
He began to suspect that he'd make a decent crop in late summer. “This crop totally surprised me,” he said. “In late August or early September, I thought we'd make a good crop. I got real excited with the first harvest aid application and thought we could make 750 to 800 pounds per acre. Then boll counts indicated we had the potential to make 800 to 900 pounds.
“I got absolutely euphoric when it looked like we would make some 900 to 1,000 pound cotton.”
Danny Davis said some fields did hit 1,000 pounds per acre. “We averaged just under 700 pounds for the whole crop and that included some low yields in fields that are low-lying. They just stayed too wet.”
He got a little concerned in September when an early cold snap pushed temperatures down as low as 47 degrees in the morning. “I got worried about micronaire,” he said, “but it was not an issue.”
Danny Davis said most farmers are looking at the U.S. Congress for a decent farm bill as they prepare for this crop. “We're all hopeful we'll get a good program,” he said. “I think we'll get a workable law.”
He said the adjusted gross income cap is a concern. “I hope they set a soft cap instead of a hard one,” Danny Davis said. “With a hard cap, the precedent is set. When Congress debates the next farm bill, we would stand to lose even more.”
A soft cap, he said, provides more flexibility with commodity price fluctuations.
Danny Davis is more concerned over the Word Trade Organization negotiations and claims against U.S. farm programs than he is a farm bill. “WTO is a deep concern,” he said. “If we have to change our laws at the whim of an arbitration panel, we really don't have a farm program.”