Little credits employee Josh Coffman for helping with the transition to precision agriculture systems. With Coffman’s help, Little has added GPS guidance on all tractors and yield monitors on his combine and cotton picker, and they’ve seen the benefits.

They’ve also adopted variable-rate fertilizer applications.

He believes the best benefit of variable rate versus blanket applications is the ability to increase productivity on his best soil types, rather than pushing yield on tougher ground.

Southwest winner

Like many Texas and Oklahoma growers, John Wilde, this year’s Southwest High Cotton winner, is still battling the lingering effects of the Drought of 2011.

Wilde produced more than four bales per acre on a field of drip-irrigated cotton near Miles, Texas, in 2012. About 800 acres of the Wilde cotton operation, centered in San Angelo and including farms to the east near Miles and back west near St. Lawrence, are drip-irrigated.

“Water is the key,” says Wilde, who is doing all he knows how to make every drop count.

Subsurface drip irrigation helps, as do reduced-tillage and rotation and subsoiling between the drip tapes. He also uses furrow diking to reduce runoff and has installed wildlife vegetation strips on CRP land.

He is committed to producing the best yields possible. He’s also devoted to conserving soil and water so the land that has been in the family — some for as long as 100 years — will pass on to his heirs in better condition than when he took it over.

Wilde is also adamant about finding something to control root rot, the most economically devastating cotton disease in his area. He has a long-term commitment to helping Texas AgriLife Research and Extension discover a management option for the disease.

Eight years ago, Wilde recognized the importance of increasing irrigation efficiency when they installed the first subsurface drip irrigation on 38 acres. Now they have 800 acres of drip-irrigated cotton. “We started small,” he says.