He’s trying a few new techniques. “I used some zone tillage that lifts the soil at 12 to 15 inches deep. The roots find the trench. I’m also trying to get some sodium to leach out of the top six inches of soil. Soil tests have shown a little too much sodium on the top. Of course, if we get enough rain it will not matter.”

He’s also bedding some cotton. “Not many are bedding cotton now,” he said. “I tried some this spring. I think it held moisture better after a shower, and then seedlings popped right out of the ground.”

He says just a shallow ridge also moves water away from the young cotton plants.

Landers missed a corn crop this year. “It was just too wet to plant.” He often plants corn for silage.

He’s double-cropping soybeans behind wheat and has 130 acres under a center pivot. “Irrigation has paid for itself every year but last year,” he said.

Dryland soybeans typically will do okay, “if we can get them into late August or early September,” he said. “Soybeans are bringing a good price, so we can do all right with 15 bushels per acre.”

He plants a 5.5 maturity variety, Dyna-Gro 3355 this year.

If he gets moisture in time, he likes to plant soybeans behind wheat. He may also plant milo or he may fallow harvested wheat land and plant cotton the following spring.

Wheat this year was far beyond expectations, the best he ever made with an 80-bushel-per-acre average yield, not an unusual mark in this Northeast Texas area this year. “We had some fields that went over 100 bushels per acre,” Landers said.

He said it looked good all spring. “But wheat yield is always tough to guess. You really don’t know until you put a combine in the field.”

Applying a fungicide made a difference this year.

“Fungicide applications paid off big time,” said Jim Swart, Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist in Commerce. He said in some cases fungicide resulted in a 10- to 15- bushel-per-acre yield bump.

“It was a magical year for wheat,” Landers said. “We may not see another wheat crop like it, but we could get another one next year.”

Landers likes diversification because it spreads risks and evens out labor demands. “I’m also a fireman, so I want to spread the work load.

“I try to rotate everything,” he said. “That also helps avoid herbicide resistant ryegrass in wheat.”

And he likes rotation as a way to get organic matter back into the soil. “That helps hold moisture,” he said.

Landers is using chicken litter to supplement commercial fertilizer. “I add from one to one-and-a-half tons of chicken litter on cotton land,” he said. “I add commercial fertilizer based on soil tests. I added chicken litter to wheat land last year and could tell the difference in the next crops where I had residual left.”

He buys chicken litter mostly for the phosphorus and potassium. “Supplies of chicken litter may be getting tight, but I should be able to get it. I apply it in the fall for spring crops and in the spring for wheat.”

Landers farms just a quarter mile from where he grew up. “I spent my fair share of time hoeing out cotton,” he said. “Raising cotton paid my way through college.”

Now, cotton is back on the farm and helping Landers diversify, spread risks and offer an alternative when heat and dry weather limit soybean production.