E. L. Bradford pushes his cotton with fertilizer and water, would rather have it maturing a little early than a little late and is convinced that an in-furrow insecticide and rotation will put more pounds in the picker.

Bradford, who has raised cotton in the Lower Rio Grande Valley for going on 50 years added acreage in the Brazos Valley about six years ago. He says the dependability of moisture near the Brazos allows him to push the crop a bit.

“I row water everything with poly pipe,” he said. ‘I prefer to begin irrigation a little early rather than risk being too late. I started around June 2. Even though we had a little rain I kept watering through July.”

By late August he had watered his Brazos Valley crop three times and anticipated one more application before the crop was made. “Some fields needed only one application,” he said. “It's heavier land and holds water better.

“I push cotton from the start with plenty of water and fertilizer,” Bradford says.

He applies up to 159 units of nitrogen on irrigated cotton. He likes Stoneville 4892BR cotton and says it seems to respond a little better to fertilization.

“I usually plant 17 pounds to 18 pounds of seed per acre.”

He says applying fertilizer early also helps get the cotton off to a good start. “I may lose some with an early application but it helps early growth.”

He's also convinced that cotton behind corn will need less irrigation and make more lint most years. “I had one 200-acre field of cotton following corn,” he says. “I'm convinced that field will out produce others with similar soils.”

He uses 6.5 pounds of Temik under the cotton. “I believe in it and am certain it helps yields,” he says. He doesn't allow early-season insects to damage young cotton.

“I start early on flea hoppers and keep at it,” he says.

Bradford also uses as little tillage as possible. “We had a rainy winter in 2003,” he says, “and didn't get to work the land as much as I like. But I use only Roundup Ready cotton so reduced tillage helps out. I never cultivated and didn't need any hoe hands.

“I just chopped the bed, fertilized and planted. When I got the cotton up, I applied nitrogen and with a little rain it was ready to go.”

Bradford says he doesn't like for cotton to get too big and uses Pix to manage vegetation. “I start out with a four-ounce application,” he says and will use 32 ounces or less.”

He says a growth regulator is crucial on pastureland converted to cotton.

Bradford says even with 50 years of cotton production behind him, he's still learning.

“I have to get better at watering the crop,” he says. “I have adequate water here, so I just need to learn how to use it better.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com