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All that technology provides more than just gadgetry. Each innovation increases production efficiency, reduces costs or improves yield.
They’re trying to manage fertilization expenses a little closer. They apply about 60 percent of the nutrients with a coulter rig, “right by the plant,” Todd says. “We put the rest through the pivots in-season.”
They use two 16-row planters to plant in early May. “The hardest part is loading the seed,” Shawn says.
Insects also cause a lot less trouble than they used to. With boll weevil eradication efforts paying off and Bollgard cotton varieties, they rarely spray for insect pests in-season.
“We use Temik at planting,” Todd says. “That takes care of thrips.”
“We haven’t had to spray for insects in years,” Shawn says.
“Not since we started using stacked varieties,” adds Todd. “That’s what makes the technology pay.”
Shawn says a big planter and a big spray unit increase efficiency. Adding GPS technology makes it even better. “Swath control is invaluable,” he says. “We can’t get a sprayer without it any longer. We now have GPS on all our tractors. It helps us stay in the rows.”
They say with GPS they use half as many tractors and half as much labor.
With the module picker, GPS and better varieties, they also cut back on other expenses. “With picker cotton and picker harvest we’re spraying only a high rate of boll opener,” Todd says, “so we’re saving on harvest aids. We plant mostly medium maturity cotton and reduce the amount of plant growth regulator we use. We want some height on our cotton.”
They admit that equipment is expensive, seed costs are high and that fertilizer prices, even though lower by far than just two years ago, still account for a big chunk of production expenses, but they also agree that technology, including more efficient equipment and stacked gene varieties, have streamlined their operation and increased yield potential.
Economically, the investments make sense.