What is in this article?:
• William Dillard was the first grower in his county to take a chance on intercropping cotton and melons. That was three years ago, and since then, others have followed suit.
• Dillard admits he wasn’t totally convinced about the intercropping system in the beginning.
SOUTHWEST GEORGIA FARMER William Dillard has completed his third year of intercropping cotton with melons. The results, he says, have been promising.
Double the worry
“The importance of timing goes double for intercropping, and it’s also double the worry,” he says.
“It’s very time-sensitive, and it stresses the cotton crop some. But we have to concentrate first on our melon crop, and then as soon as we can, we spray them out. In the first year, we grew Phytogen 375 so we’d have the luxury of going in with Roundup. We’re still trying to figure out which cotton variety works best in this system.”
This past season, Dillard intercropped 40 of his 100 acres of melons. “If we didn’t need the land in the fall for small grains, we’d do every acre,” he says.
He’s transplanting his watermelons at about mid-March to early April. “Then, we have to keep a close watch on the growth stage of melons. It’s a time-sensitive thing to try and get right beside the row. In the past we’ve planted the melons on plastic, but we didn’t do that this year just to save ourselves the time and cost.
“We’re on a 6-foot bed with our melons, and we come back with 36-inch row cotton on a six-row pattern. We went back in with Roundup to help take care of any grass problems.
“We don’t start concentrating on the cotton crop until we’re finished with the melons. We have the same scout looking at our melons and cotton, and if he sees something in the cotton that won’t affect the melon crop, we’ll take care of it. Otherwise, we leave it until the melons are out. Once the melons are harvested, we turn our attention to the cotton.”
Dillard’s initial fertilization program is based on the needs of the melon crop. Then, he goes back in and side-dresses cotton just as he normally would.
“We may pull some tissue samples just to see what’s going on with the cotton crop. But when we spray those melons out, we’re right behind them pretty close, side-dressing a little ammonium nitrate, maybe a little K-Mag.
“When I start out, my first priority is the melon crop. After that, we may come back with some foliar feeding or something else to fix any problems.”
Dillard does his layby ahead of time and after planting cotton, he tries to stay out of the field. “Every once in awhile, we see a little damage from harvesting melons, but we try to work with our harvesters to be particular so it doesn’t become an issue.”