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Danny Darnell, who farms in north Alabama's Tennessee Valley, has been named the Southeast High Cotton Award winner for 2013. Darnell farms with his sons, Jared and Heath.
DANNY DARNELL’S LOVE of farming has resulted in a successful family operation in northwest Alabama’s Tennessee Valley and being named the Southeast High Cotton Award winner.
Cotton planting date changes
The Darnells used to plant cotton on or near the first week of April, but now it’s closer to the end of April, thanks to longer-maturing varieties and larger planters that allow them to plant the entire crop in just three to four days.
Poultry litter, applied at 2 tons per acre each year, plays a big role in their fertilization program, says Jared.
“We sample every year, and work with our consultant, Dwain Reed, on all our recommendations. The poultry litter has allowed us to cut back on our liming. We may lime a field every five years, though we probably don’t have to. Litter has helped with our soil pH. It’s putting organic matter back into the ground and giving us a healthier soil. We get our N, P and K from chicken litter, and then we’ll add in N-Sol as needed for each crop. We band-spray behind the planter, using nitrogen as a carrier for Cotoran in cotton.”
The Darnells participate in the Deltapine New Product Evaluator (NPE) program, evaluating different varieties each year. This past year, they planted DPL 1212, 1133 and 1137, all with good results.
“We haven’t had problems yet from Palmer amaranth (pigweed), but we’ve seen some isolated cases in fields,” says Jared. The keys to keeping it in check, he says, include crop rotation, rotating herbicide chemistries, and keeping the residuals on it with a fall and a spring burndown.
“We use a product called LeadOff from DuPont in the fall, and sometimes we’ll use it in the spring. Cotoran goes behind every row, and we use Diuron at lay-by. We keep a residual on every crop.”
The best tool for controlling pigweed, says youngest son Heath, is “having good farmers around you — and the only farmers left in our area are good farmers.”
For defoliation, they favor ethephon at 1 quart, Def at 10 ounces, and Ginstar at 3 ounces. They also use some Finish.
While rainfall this past season was considered excessive at times, the Darnells aren’t complaining.
“We had big rains that actually washed seed out of the row in places, but we didn’t have any crop stress. Spring was cold and wet, and we had more rain than we normally see in July and August. Some cotton was replanted after heavy rainfall in the spring, but all in all, it was a good year.”