What is in this article?:
• "On our hill land, for non-irrigated production, I don’t think there’s a better crop than cotton," says Oxford, Miss. grower Don Waller, who at 81 is looking forward to another crop this year.
• "With no-till, Roundup Ready technology, and stacked trait varieties, I think we can grow it here in the hills cheaper than anywhere in Mississippi. For me, it’s by far the least risky crop option."
AT AGE 81, Don Waller is looking forward to another year of growing cotton on his farm in north Mississippi.
Less equipment with no-till
“Most of the equipment I use now was bought in the 1990s. With no-till, I don’t really have need for a lot of tractor power any more. One of my tractors has never been used for anything but pulling the planter; another I use with a dirt pan and for other jobs. They have less than 2,000 hours on them. Less use, of course, reduces fuel and maintenance costs.
“I have a self-propelled John Deere sprayer for chemical applications and to apply liquid nitrogen. The spreader truck, for applying potash and phosphorus, is equipped with GPS for greater accuracy and efficiency. That’s pretty much the extent of equipment that I use on a regular basis.
“My picker is an International 420 4-row machine, the last 4-row model they made, and it still serves my needs adequately. We do all our own maintenance, unless it’s something major.”
He soil tests every year. “I try to maintain pH in the 6.0 to 7.0 range, and to keep P and K at optimum levels. I plant fully loaded Deltapine varieties exclusively. I’ve tried most varieties over the years, but these seem to work best year-in and year-out. Deltapine DP 0912 B2RF has been a very good variety, and I’ve grown some of their 2010 class and 2011 class varieties. Last year, I averaged 950 pounds.”
Thus far, Waller says, he’s had no resistant pigweeds. “There have been a few resistant marestails, but nothing that’s been a real problem. I’ve never used anything but Monsanto’s Roundup in my weed control program; it has worked well from day 1, and I’ve stuck with it.
“With the weevil eradicated and with Bt technology, we don’t have many insect problems. Depending on the season, I may spray two or three times for plant bugs and occasionally for a flare of aphids or stink bugs.
“Insect control technology has come a long way since the days of DDT, malathion, and the really potent chemicals. Now, we’re applying materials at ounces, or fractions of an ounce per acre, and they’re much more benign in the environment.”
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While most farmers cuss them for other reasons, Waller says he believes the fire ants in his fields are “a pretty good insect control ally. They really go after aphids or any egg-laying insect. They can be a pain at harvest time, or when I’m out walking in the field, but I think they’re of some benefit in helping to control some insects.”
He applied his burndown application in early March, and says it has worked well despite the wet, cold weather that occurred on into April.
“I seldom plant cotton before May 1, and try to get everything in during the first two weeks of that month. We’ll generally start harvesting in early October.”
He and five other farmers in the area own the Taylor-Lafayette Gin at Taylor, Miss., where his cotton is ginned. “The gin processed about 12,000 bales last year, which was one of the smallest volumes we’ve had over the years,” Waller says. His cotton is marketed through Staplcotn. He also serves on the board of directors and the executive committee of Delta Oil Mill.