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- 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.
GPS and computer software have led to increased efficiency with the adoption of variable-rate fertilizer applications, a practice started two years ago.
“It has showed us some things,” Little says. “We found that we could really save on lime. Instead of making a blanket application, we can put it in spots where we really need it, and cut back in some of the other places. It has been a real money-saver for us.”
He also makes variable-rate potassium and phosphorus applications with the help of Crop Production Services at Grenada, Miss. “Bill Bailey is my CPS representative,” he says. “We have a good relationship, going back about 25 years.”
Last year, CPS grid sampled the farm and wrote variable-rate prescriptions, which Little applied. Last fall, CPS ran a Veris rig (soil electrical conductivity mapping cart), at an initial cost of $10.50 per acre, to establish management zones.
“We’ll know exactly how much we’ve mined out of the soil, so we'll know how much to put back in,” he says.
He believes the best benefit of variable rate versus blanket applications is the ability to increase productivity on his best soil types, rather than pushing yield on tougher ground.
The farm hasn’t had glyphosate-resistant pigweed yet, but he isn’t taking any chances.
“I’m scared to death it’s coming,” he says. “I haven’t started applying residuals in the fall yet, but pretty early in the spring I apply Valor and Roundup, and that usually holds it. Sometimes, I’ve had to go back between then and planting with another shot of Roundup. I’m also using Warrant and diuron at layby.
Resistant weeds have the potential to add new meaning to his father’s old adage, “Pray for a good harvest — but continue to hoe.
“We’ve sprayed the ditches and everywhere this year to try and deter resistant weeds,” Little says. “But we haven’t had to do any chopping yet.”
He is a stickler for using brand names and appropriate rates of pesticides, which he believes is tied to good stewardship.
“With brands, you know you’re getting what you pay for. I feel a lot of glyphosate resistance has been caused by cutting rates. I believe that whatever is supposed to be applied needs to be applied.”
That goes for insecticides, too. “Whatever my consultant, Ty Edwards, recommends for plant bugs is what I apply. I make sure my machinery is in good shape and calibrated to apply the correct rate.”
Little gins his cotton at Vaiden Gin, Vaiden, Miss., and markets with Sam Gullette, Gullette Cotton Co., at Greenwood, Miss.
“I make the calls. Sometimes, I do well and other times, like this past year, I don’t. But that’s farming.”