With cotton prices where they are, producer Bret Palmer has no choice but to push his crop for every pound he can get.

Variety choice, fertility, good ground and irrigation are keys that keep this approach turning out the bales.

Palmer, a seventh generation producer, and his father, Terry, farm a little over 4,000 acres of corn, cotton and soybeans, about 2,600 acres of which is in cotton. The farm, around the Holly Island/Nimmons community in Clay County in northeast Arkansas, is about 90 percent irrigated, employing both center pivot and furrow irrigation.

Cotton is the most consistent crop that Palmer produces, and that’s a big reason why it’s still in the mix, despite lower prices. “Cotton produces very well in Clay County,” Palmer said. “Ten or 15 years ago, you might not have thought so, especially this far north. You might have thought cotton was too volatile, you would make a killing one year and you lose it the next.

“Over the last 10 years, it’s actually one of the most consistent crops I grow. Last year, the heat hurt the corn and the soybeans.”

While new technologies and strong cotton varieties have provided the potential for big yields, the rest is up to Palmer. “You need intense management, and you have to spend a lot of money on it.” And with the price of cotton down from historic highs of a year ago, “you have to push for everything you can get.”

On heavier ground, Palmer will disk and hip up. “I try to plant on a tall bed. I also want to have enough fertility in the field to make a 1,500 pound yield. We do soil tests and go by the recommendation.”

On sandier ground, Palmer will rebed the ground and sow wheat or rye in every other row with an air seeder on the back of the bedder. The cover provides wind protection for young cotton seedlings.

Palmer’s cotton varieties this season were NG 1511 B2RF, AM 1550 B2RF, ST 4145 LLB2, ST 5445 LLB2, FM 1740 B2F, DP 0912 B2RF and ST 5458 B2F. The latter two varieties are planted on about 70 percent of Palmer’s acreage.