Cotton accounts for about one-fourth of the acreage this year at Moore Farms, located in Tallahatchie County, Miss., at the eastern edge of the Delta along the bluff hills — but that’s a sharp drop from 85 percent four or five years ago.

“We’ve got about 1,000 acres of cotton this year,” says Josh James, who farms with his uncle, Walt Moore. “We’ve cut ‘way back in favor of grains, and this year, for the first time, peanuts. Grain prices have been a factor in the cotton cutbacks, but Uncle Walt has always wanted to get more diversity into our operation, and we’ve been able to move in that direction with corn and peanuts.”

With corn harvest under their belts, he breaks into a broad grin when asked about yield.

“We had 550 acres this year, all Pioneer 1615, and bar none, it’s the best corn I’ve ever seen. We were done harvesting in late August, with an average of about 220 bushels. On the dryland part of one odd-shaped field where the pivot doesn’t reach, we were cutting about 100 bushels, but on some of the watered portions the yield monitor was showing 335 bushels per acre — which is absolutely phenomenal!

“In years past, we’ve averaged about 175 bushels, with some fields going 200 or better.

“All our corn is irrigated, some under two center pivots, the rest furrow. We got all of it planted early before the spring rains, and then we got some good rains during the season. We really stayed on top of our watering this year and put all the corn on stronger ground. Everything has just some together well.”

About one-third of their land is irrigated, with the majority of that furrow. They have three center pivots, all Valley; one covers 80 acres, another 175 acres, and the one added this year covers 300 acres.

“While water is still plentiful at shallow depths here in the Delta, we all know that we need to make more efficient use of this resource,” Josh says. “At young farmer meetings in recent years, most of the talk has been about marketing, but this year it was all about water and what an important — and serious — issue it is.

“Here on our farms, our plan is to continue to expand our irrigation capability. We pump from wells and also relift water from a pond.”

They harvest corn at about 17 percent moisture, which then requires only minimal drying. They have 60,000 bushels of grain storage in two bins, and plan to add two more bins this year, doubling capacity to 120,000 bushels.

“We believe putting our money into additional irrigation and storage offers a greater return on our investment than anything else right now,” Josh says.

As August ebbed into September, they were expecting to start defoliation as soon as rains from Hurricane Isaac moved out of the area — “about the same time we hope to start digging peanuts,”  he says, noting that “this year’s cotton crop has done well.”

“We have Stoneville 5288B2F and 4145LLB2, which is a LibertyLink variety. We also have Deltapine 0912 B2RF, and Deltapine 1137 B2RF. This is our fourth year for the 0912, and we’ve really loved this variety. It has performed well for us.

“Last year we had some Deltapine 1048 B2RFcotton, which developed a lot of four bract squares. We really had to nurse it, but it was still one of our best-yielding varieties in 2011.”

Their year-in, year-out cotton average is about 2.5 bales, he says.