Doug Wilde expects to make a good cotton crop on both dryland and irrigated acreage this year, but he learned a few things from this crop he hopes will help him fine-tune production next year and do even better.

Doug Wilde and his father John opened part of their farm to the Tom Green County cotton tour recently. Doug Wilde explained some of the production methods he uses to keep yields up.

He's in the fourth year with drip irrigation and credits that system with pushing production. “We've done well with the drip system,” he said. “We've made four bales per acre and the crop looks good this year.”

He fertilizes the drip plots (400 acres) with feed yard manure. “That's an economical fertilizer and it provides some organic nutrients,” he said. “We've been using the manure since we started with drip irrigation.” He also put 125 units of nitrogen through the drip tape.

He said a preventive approach to fleahopper control helps protect yield potential. “With four bale potential we can't let the crop get behind,” he said. “We use seed treatments, Gaucho Grande and Aeries and then hit the crop again with an insecticide when those treatments run out.”

Doug Wilde also found nematodes in some fields late in the season. “We think we may have

Reniform and Rootknot,” he said. “We've never seen nematodes before.”

He plans to use Temik at planting next year to knock back populations. “And we'll do a little better job with rotation.”

They'll put corn into the crop mix. “We planted corn this year and were pleased with our first time with growing corn for grain. We still have things to learn, but we made 205 bushels per acre and the price was good.”

They learned a bit about plant growth regulators this year, too. “We have to manage the plant and keep the energy on fruiting, making new bolls, filling out bolls and not making vegetation. We should be able to make 4 bales per acre from 36 inch tall cotton plants.”

He started off with Stance plant growth regulator and finished with Mepiquat chloride. They got caught by drought in 2006 and were more conservative with plant growth regulators this season. “Last year we had to catch up with irrigation and got hurt.”

In a wetter year, they needed to adjust PGR rates. “We could have started out with a higher rate of Stance,” he said. “Next year we'll be ready.”

The Wildes learn from the variety trials they have on their farm. “We get to see what new varieties will do in our conditions,” he said. “Some varieties I'd choose may not perform well on my neighbor's fields and the ones he'd pick might not do well here.”

He said one of his best varieties, FM1880, could have used a bit more plant growth regulator this year. “It's done well with a high loan value, long staple and good yield.”

Doug Wilde expects his best yields to come from his drip irrigated cotton but said furrow irrigated and dryland acreage also look good. “This will be a good year for dryland cotton,” he said.