What is in this article?:
• Linwood Vick’s achievements in cotton production and his use of environmentally sound practices have earned him recognition as the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation 2013 High Cotton Award winner for the Southeast region.
COTTON FARMERS face both production and marketing challenges in the future, says North Carolina grower Linwood Vick. Vick is this year’s Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award winner for the Southeast region.
Soil erosion problem
“We had a big problem with soil erosion,” Lyn says. “Early in the growing season especially, our conventional cotton was literally sandblasted by the fine, sandy soils on much of our farm.
“When Roundup Ready cotton came along, we switched to all no-till for cotton, soybeans, double-crop soybeans, and wheat. Our tobacco and sweet potatoes are grown with conventional tillage, so going no-till on cotton and soybeans helped improve the tilth of our soil and helped with erosion problems.”
Much of his cotton is in a four-year rotation with sweet potatoes, tobacco and soybeans. On some land not so well-suited to these crops, he uses a three-year rotation, which sometimes requires back-to-back years of cotton.
Having sweet potatoes and tobacco in their cotton rotation is a bit unusual, but he says it has been a blessing in battling glyphosate-resistant pigweed.
For example, cotton is grown one year, followed by tobacco. “We’re using different chemicals for weed and grass control,” Lyn notes. “Plus, we’re deep plowing and bedding our tobacco land, and in some cases hand hoeing and pulling weeds.
“Thus, we’re able to reduce the seed bank for pigweed. Other than soybeans, we plant wheat on all our land. We’ve found that with a thick cover crop on the land over fall and winter months, we have less weed pressure.
“Even after Roundup Ready cotton came on the market, we continued to use yellow or white herbicides, so we never got the real buildup of pigweed that so many other growers are battling now.
“I remember the long battle we went through to get rid of boll weevils, and now we are facing as big, if not bigger, problems with herbicide-resistant weeds.”
Another advantage of the unusual cotton rotation, Lyn says, is suppression of nematode problems. Most of their tobacco and sweet potato land is treated with Telone and Lorsban, so they are carrying out practices as a part of their normal farming operation that gives a side benefit of reducing nematode populations.
Both sweet potatoes and tobacco are labor-intensive crops, and Vick Farms is a pioneer in using legal, H-2A labor.
“Having adequate labor on hand for these crops can be a big advantage in our cotton operation,” Lyn says. “If we get in a situation where we can’t get in a field with the right herbicide, we can always use some of our labor to clean up those fields.”
Each member of the Vick family speaks Spanish. The farm has 10 full-time employees, and all but two speak Spanish.