What is in this article?:
- According to Bayer CropScience’s Steve McPeek, who nominated Little for the Farm Press High Cotton Award, “One thing that sets Johnny apart is that he is willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems on his farm. He is willing to adapt to changes in production and the market.”
JOHNNY LITTLE enjoys producing cotton, but it’s getting tougher with high input costs and low cotton prices relative to grains.
Few words spoken
Not many words are spoken, except when Coffman ribs Little for dropping a few pounds of seed cotton in the field. In short order, it’s vacuumed up with an attachment on the boll buggy.
As he climbs back into the boll buggy, Little repeats a favorite phrase: “That’s farming.”
As harvest continues, he and Coffman, who has been with him for eight years, make mental notes of any repairs or refurbishing that might be needed by the picker and other harvest equipment. After harvest, over the winter months, they’ll spend time in the shop, getting equipment ready for spring. They do about 90 percent of the farm’s equipment repairs in-house, helping keep expenses to a minimum.
Cotton did surprisingly well for Little in 2012, despite a very dry summer. Irrigation and appropriate variety choices for dryland and irrigated fields are critical to making consistently good yields, he says.
For one of his tougher dryland fields, he selected ST 5288 B2F. “With as little rain as we had, and with the field being so sandy, we still ended up averaging around 1,000 pounds — that’s almost unheard of on this type of ground.”
DP 1034 B2RF was planted on dryland fields and DP 5458 B2R on irrigated land. About 600 acres of Little’s 1,500 acres of rolling farmland is irrigated with center pivots..
Stewardship is synonymous with efficiency on the Little farm, and there’s no better example of this relationship than his commitment to no-till. The practice was first adopted 10 years ago, and it has proven to reduce labor requirements significantly while enriching the soil’s tilth.
“Back when Dad was in his prime, we had 11 tractors out here, and we were breaking up the ground and making it look like a garden,” Little says. “Keeping that many people as a labor force is just about impossible these days, which is one reason we went no till and 12-row equipment. That’s why Josh and I are able to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The change to no-till did result in the usual generational gap, he says. “Dad called it ‘ugly farming’. Even when he passed away, I think his mind still wasn’t changed. His favorite question was, ‘You aren’t going to do it that way, are you Johnny?’ He understood the situation — but he loved digging in the dirt.”
Little sees something of the same generational gap between him and Coffman, who at 32, has been quick to catch on to precision agriculture systems. With Coffman’s help, Little has added GPS guidance on all tractors and yield monitors on his combine and cotton picker, and they’ve seen the benefits.