What is in this article?:
• Lee Dickens took over the family farm in 1990, and one of the first things he did was to move the entire farming operation into a no-till system.
• Though cotton has been his money crop for a long time, a beautiful crop of soybeans this year may knock King Cotton off its throne.
• In 2011, he cut about a thousand acres, then another 500 or so acres this year.
NORTH CAROLINA GROWER Lee Dickens says long-term no-till has helped increase his cotton yield and quality.
Room for optimism
This year soybeans and cotton look good. Having forward contracted some of his cotton considerably higher than the current prices and looking at some 50 bushel per acre beans leaves the North Carolina grower with a lot of room for optimism.
So far, he says the cotton and soybean rotation seems to be working well for both crops.
He used to plant a lot of peanuts and peanuts and cotton is generally an ideal rotation. However, Dickens says he seems to consistently see a hundred pounds or more of cotton yield behind soybeans than he had behind peanuts or corn.
Going no-till also allows him to plant his cotton a couple of weeks later than he did when he was in a conventional-tillage system. He now tries to start planting cotton on May 1, which allows him to pick it all in late September and October, and he shoots for picking it all in October.
This year he used Powermax and Sharpen to burn down weeds and residue, prior to planting. He says he is growing some Liberty Link soybeans this year and has tried Liberty Link cotton in the past. The herbicide component, Liberty or Ignite, will be a good tool to have in the future, he says.
Dickens made a major switch to Phytogen variety cotton, which allows him to use Liberty on some of the Phytogen Widestrike cotton he plants. Glufosinate, or Liberty, isn’t labeled for use on Widestrike cotton, but it can be used effectively, and Dickens says he does use the herbicide sparingly on some of his cotton.
He plants his cotton with a John Deere 1720, 12-row planter with a Yetter coulter and heavy duty row closer on the back. “I’ve never been a big fan of row cleaning, it just doesn’t work for me,” Dickens says.
“I try to keep planting as simple as I can. It works well for me,” the North Carolina grower adds.
Going to Phytogen varieties has also played a big role in helping him cut his acreage and stress, he adds.
“I started with a few acres of Phytogen 375 a few years back, and it just out-performed all the other varieties I planted that first year.”
Last year Phytogen 375 really worked well on more acres, leading Dickens to send in his story to the Phytogen Top Yielder Club.
“It was in the winter time, and I had some time, so I just wrote down a few words telling them about my experience with Phytogen 375. I didn’t think much about it, and in fact forgot about it, then I got a call from Laurie Coulter, the Phytogen seed representative in this area, telling me I’d won the award,” Dickens recalls.
The Gator got things off to a good start in 2012 and Mother Nature has come through with a good growing season, leaving Dickens optimistic about both his cotton and soybean crops this year.