What is in this article?:
- You can’t short-change a cotton crop.
- “Our biggest fear this year is the market.”
- Tweaking a few things to improve efficiency.
COTTON PLANTING was just about half done in late May for Wesley Butchee, Gaines County, Texas farmer.
Proven varieties have performed well for him. “Nothing worked well last year, however. It just got too hot. Fields where we pumped all season made a good crop; it was just expensive to grow.”
He says varieties carry better genetics than they used to. “Last year we really couldn’t tell a difference, but we always look at variety trials from the Extension Service and Plains Cotton Growers’ Cotton Improvement Program. Those trials are more valuable because they do acreage, not just test plots.” Information from acreage trials, he says, “translates to the farm. I can be confident the variety will perform.”
He’s planting mostly Phytogen seed this year, 375 and a seed block of 499. “I like the 375 and have had it here for four years. It yields and is not a high maintenance cotton. It responds well to irrigation and has good staple, leaf and strength.”
Butchee says GPS technology also provides significant benefits. “We have a lot of technology available,” he says. “GPS is a good tool. We can monitor to prevent over-spraying and over-planting. We also use iPhones and smart phones like laptop computers now.”
He’s not sure agriculture is ready to see a “manless” tractor but doesn’t doubt the capability of the industry.
“We updated our GPS system just last year to a new model that is faster, more accurate and with a touch screen. It also takes up less room in the tractor cab.”
A new issue, he says, is finding people to run it. “We need someone who can go over it one time and get it instead of spending three weeks training and then have them move on.”
In late May, his daughter, Ashley, a Texas Tech student, was helping plant cotton. “She grew up with computers,” Butchee says. And she gets it with one session.
He also credits his father for pushing new technology.
Butchee is not pessimistic about cotton production. He’s much more positive about this crop than he was about the 2011 season this time last year. “I never saw a year that bad.” He’s farmed on his own for nearly 30 years.
“My dad, who has farmed for more than 55 years, also never saw a year like that. It was a perfect storm of drought, heat and wind. We’re hoping this will not be nearly as bad a year. We have some moisture in the ground, and wind in March was not as bad.”
Butchee says he feels much better about prospects for this crop. In late May he was “a little more than half through planting,” with most of the irrigated cotton in the ground and a good portion of dryland still to be done.
“We’ve had some rain,” he says, “but we need some more.”