What is in this article?:
- Holladay worked for his father when he was a kid and represents the fourth generation to farm in the Lamesa area, but says 2011 was the most challenging year he’s experienced in 20 years of farming on his own.
- He’s hoping for better results in 2012, although long-range predictions indicate a strong chance of drought persisting into next spring.
DAWSON COUNTY, Texas, cotton farmer Shawn Holladay is the High Cotton winner for the Southwest region.
Variety selection is a critical part of his production system. “In a year like 2011, variety is very important,” he says. “Typically, we do best with a variety that’s disease resistant and is as late maturing as we can get by with. We usually go through some period of drought stress every year and the less determinant varieties produce a little better quality.”
He says NexGen 4012 was the best variety he planted in 2011. “It’s a new one, and last year was the first time I had a lot of it.”
A drought year is a “tough time to evaluate variety performance,” he says. “The weather last year was so severe it was hard to judge performance. It’s also not a good idea, during a historical drought, to make any management decisions based on performance. I won’t make any changes based on what happened in 2011.”
Holladay says he’s committed to transgenic varieties — “I don’t plant an acre of cotton that’s not stacked gene.” And he considers global positioning system technology “one of the best pieces of technology” he’s seen.
The combination of transgenic cotton and the boll weevil eradication program has revolutionized cotton production, he says.
“I made no pesticide applications in 2011. We have a good story to tell from an environmental standpoint. The changes we’ve seen over the past 20 years are almost unbelievable.
“The boll weevil eradication program is an extraordinary accomplishment, and problems with secondary pests have been solved with transgenics.”
Other challenges pose serious threats, however. Glyphosate resistant pigweeds were recently identified near where Holladay farms.
“We have new chemistry coming that I hope will help us to stave off the bad resistance problems they’ve had in other parts of the country. We hope to learn from others what has worked and what didn’t.”
Part of the resistance prevention strategy, he says, will include going back to traditional herbicide programs, including pre-emergence materials.
“We never left it,” he says. “Now, with resistant pigweed identified in the area, we don’t rule out anything — steel, different chemistries, whatever it takes. We’re not reluctant to do what we need to do.”
Resistance management is another reason he doesn’t stay with no-till production all the time. “We want to be able to plow the ground occasionally,” he says.
Selecting the appropriate chemical and applying it at the proper rate and at the proper time also improves control. “Best rate, applied at the best time, reduces escapes,” Holladay says. “And using a pre-emergence just adds another layer of protection.”
He hopes area farmers can delay resistance until new chemistry is available to combat the tough weeds.
Politics also poses challenges for farmers, he says.
“All we hear lately from Washington is to eliminate farm programs and the farm safety net. That’s the biggest challenge for commercial-size farmers.”
He’s doing his part to help. He has served on the National Cotton Council for years, including chair of the Farm Policy Task Force for the American Cotton Producers, the producer arm of NCC. He’s also a member of the American Cotton Producers and is currently in the officer rotation for Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., serving as secretary.
Holladay has also served on Cotton Incorporated committees and on the Soil and Water Conservation District (now NRCS) for Dawson County.
Being active in commodity organizations takes a lot of time, he says, but is important to keep essential programs alive. “The leadership we develop out in the country keeps these organizations going.”
He’s also in the officer rotation of the Lamesa Cotton Growers and is chairman of the board for United Cotton Gin, a farmer-owned gin at Lamesa.
His wife, Julie, is an equal partner in the farm operation. “She helps with the books and billing, which enables me to be on the farm,” he says.
She’s also busy off the farm, working with the Lubbock Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as well as the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, a local non-profit that supports and promotes the fine arts in the region.
The most important part of their lives is their daughter, Katy, a senior at Lubbock High.
Holladay worked for his father when he was a kid and represents the fourth generation to farm in the Lamesa area, but says 2011 was the most challenging year he’s experienced in 20 years of farming on his own.
He’s hoping for better results in 2012, although long-range predictions indicate a strong chance of drought persisting into next spring.
“We bank moisture very well in this area,” he says, “so fall and winter moisture is extremely important. Without that precipitation, we see limited production the following year. La Niña is bad for us. So, I guess I’m looking forward to another interesting year.”