They’re growing all stacked-gene cotton, with an emphasis on quality fiber. In 2010 they’re planting Phytogen 375WRF and FiberMax 9160, 9170, 9063 and 1880. “All of those are stacked varieties,” Shawn says.

They’ll grow the Phytogen for seed. “With seed production, we can’t have any volunteer cotton,” Shawn says, “so we have to follow another crop. We have to do everything right to grow seed.”

Weed control is important to their entire crop and they work with a reduced tillage system and the herbicide tolerant varieties. “We cut stalks after harvest to 8 inches to 10 inches tall,” Todd says. “We plant back into the stalks.”

They’re planting sunflowers on about one-fourth their acreage (Tyson also has some grain sorghum) and will plant cotton into sunflower residue. “Stalks keep sand from blowing,” Todd says.

They apply 2, 4-D and Banvel in early spring to control winter weeds. They plant and then spray Paraquat to kill volunteer cotton. They also use some Direx then Roundup over the top, sometimes mixed with Dual around the first of July for residual activity.

“This system helps prevent weed resistance,” Todd says. “We’ve been using this program for three or four years and it works well. Sometimes we may use sweeps to get volunteer cotton. If it weren’t for volunteer cotton we would never till at all.”

New rotation

Sunflowers have been a good addition to the Knight operation. They’re growing seed sunflowers for oil, on contract with Triumph. “They’ve done really well for us and are easy to grow,” Todd says.

They plant pollinators in early April and the rest of the crop a few weeks later. They typically water into July then switch irrigation to cotton into August. They harvest sunflowers in September.

The rotation is an advantage, too. “We’ve made some of our best cotton behind sunflowers,” Todd says.  “We grow dwarf varieties that take less out of the soil than taller plants. At first we put sunflowers on our weaker land but we’ve moved them to better soils.”

They irrigate 90 percent of their acreage, mostly through pivots but with some subsurface drip systems. “We’ve made our best yields on drip irrigation,” Shawn says, “but we baby the drip a little bit.”

Water supply, for the most part, remains fairly stable. “We’ve declined some but not too bad,” Todd says. “We used a lot last year.”

They had not turned the pivots on by early April and had good planting moisture to get the crop started. Todd says they’ll make one pass across the fields to apply about an inch before planting. “But we have good deep moisture.”

They recently installed a new control system on pivot irrigation. “We control pivots with a computer, through cell phones,” Todd says. GPS coordinates help analyze the system. “It tells us if they break down and we can adjust application rates or cut the system off from a phone.”

“We still need to check it,” Shawn says, “but we know where we need to go first.”

Todd says they discussed the control system for four or five years. “It finally got affordable. And as important as irrigation is, we have to keep it going. It’s one of our biggest expenses, along with seed and fertilizer.”