Home Farm Equipment Producers see big savings with wide-row cotton

Producers see big savings with wide-row cotton


Darrell and Donnie VandeVen imagine they’ve discovered a greater strategy to develop cotton. 

The brothers run a 6,000-acre row crop operation in northeastern Louisiana. Lately they are saying they had been simply breaking even on their cotton crop, however they weren’t prepared to surrender on it. 

“A lot of guys have quit cotton in our area, but we want to grow it,” Darrell VandeVen stated. “We enjoy growing cotton, and we don’t want to lose the infrastructure.” 

The VandeVens felt a radical change was wanted to make their cotton extra worthwhile. Darrell started researching wider row configurations. He knew growers in Georgia had been transferring to wider rows to fight boll rot points. Growers in West Texas had been utilizing broad rows to scale back competitors for moisture. It speaks to the flexibility and complexity of cotton that the identical administration observe could possibly be used to deal with seemingly reverse points. 

Darrell thought the wide-row cotton sample might tackle financial points, too. 

“With 60-inch rows I saw a chance to save money,” he stated. 

Final yr the brothers transformed their whole cotton crop to a strong 60-inch row sample. Darrell described the 2020 crop as glorious, and he estimates the savings in seed and enter prices totaled greater than $100 per acre. 

“If you can save $100 to $120 an acre, you can make $100 to $120 per acre,” Darrell stated. “That’s a game changer. Subtract $100 in expenses and cotton can look as good or better than corn.” 

How does it yield? 

The thought behind wide-row cotton is that the additional area will encourage lateral branching and extra fruiting. Does that sideways progress really translate to increased yields? That could be a top-of-mind query for a lot of curious observers. 

“If you ask if it yields better, you’re missing the point,” insists VandeVen, who stated his 2020 cotton yield was in line with Louisiana averages.  

Dennis Burns/LSU AgCenter

Cotton grows on 60-inch rows with a canopy crop on the LSU AgCenter Northeast Analysis Station.

“Yield is a function of environment. There’s probably nothing we can do to consistently bump productivity by 30%, but we found you can cut expenses by 30%. That’s where the opportunity lies,” he added. 

The brothers have saved cash by means of decreased seeding charges and decreased fertilizer wants, however they’ve additionally saved on pesticides. They constructed a rig that may spray a 20-inch band, which has lower chemical prices by greater than 60%. 

One other benefit — 60-inch cotton permits growers to plant 30-inch corn and soybeans with much less tools on one set of rows. They plant their corn and soybeans on the facet of the row beds, whereas the cotton comes within the middles. Darrell says the configuration has required much less fall subject work, has eased planting and allowed them to make planting selections later within the season.  

Vast-row cotton analysis 

Simply down the street from the VandeVens at LSU’s Northeast Analysis Station, scientists are inspecting the advantages and challenges of rising cotton on wider rows. Curiosity in 60-inch row cotton is rising, in response to the station’s analysis coordinator Dennis Burns. 

“I think the interest in 30-inch corn and soybeans is really driving the interest in 60-inch cotton,” Burns stated. “We know corn and soybeans like 30-inch rows better than 38-inch rows. Cotton on 60-inch rows matches up with 30-inch corn and soybeans and gives producers more flexibility in their planting decisions.” 

Final season LSU researchers took their first stab at wide-row cotton evaluations. The challenge in contrast 40-inch rows to 60-inch rows each with and with out cowl crops. Plant populations had been 40,000 and 26,000, respectively. Within the first yr, the 40-inch cotton out yielded the broader rows by about 300 kilos per acre. However Burns says in the event you take a look at simply row acres, the 60-inch cotton really carried out higher. 

“We were pleased and somewhat surprised by the 2020 yield,” stated Burns. “2021 was a completely different growing environment, though. The excess rain has made our cotton later and weed control has been a struggle all year, but the cotton is looking good and we’re eager to evaluate the data after harvest.” 

James HendrixDennis Burns

Dennis Burns, analysis coordinator on the LSU AgCenter Northeast Analysis Station, sees many potential advantages to planting cotton on 60-inch rows.

Primarily based on his analysis, Burns has concluded that wide-row cotton wants extra frequent PGR purposes in smaller doses. He additionally says the system isn’t for each soil kind and never for each cotton selection. 

“I don’t know that this system is going to work on clay soils,” Burns stated. “Our trials on clay do not look good this year. It’s just been too wet.” 

“You also have to pick the right variety,” he added. “You don’t want a tall, skinny plant on a wide row.” The VandeVens have had success planting varieties with bushier progress habits, equivalent to Phytogen 400 and NexGen 4936. 

“However, the cost savings and flexibility this system offers could be a positive change for growers in our area,” Burns stated. “And by not having to tear down beds every year as you rotate between crops you can improve your soil health.” 

Not a blanket answer 

For all its advantages, wide-row cotton isn’t with out challenges — most notably delayed maturity. Cotton planted on 60-inch rows could also be as a lot as per week behind 38-inch row cotton. That’s not a big challenge in Louisiana, however in the northern finish of the Cotton Belt, per week could make or break a crop. 

“Every three days you’re stacking fruit going vertically and about every six you’re going laterally, so you can do the math” stated Brian Pieralisi, cotton specialist with Mississippi State College. “If you plant on time, it could work, but in a year like 2021, when you can’t get into the field until late May or even early June, it could cause yield reduction.” 

Ginger RowseyPierlisi Rutland in Wide-Row Cotton

Brian Pieralisi, cotton specialist with Mississippi State College, can be evaluating wide-row cotton. He’s pictured right here with graduate pupil Will Rutland (proper) in a Starkville, Miss. analysis plot that was planted on 76-inch rows.

Pieralisi is evaluating wide-row cotton in Starkville and Stoneville, Miss. He’s 60-inch rows in addition to 76-inch rows that may complement the 38-inch row patterns extra generally discovered within the northern a part of his state. He’s evaluating a variety of plant populations within the broad row system — from as excessive as 60,000 to as little as 7,500. 

“We’re trying to push these plant populations to find the point where we can see a definitive impact. We’re also really interested in fiber quality in this system.” 

Pieralisi and his graduate pupil, Will Rutland, plan to gin the cotton within the broad row analysis plots by place to determine a mortgage worth primarily based on place on the plant. 

“We want to see where the fiber quality is coming from, because those are the bolls you really want to protect,” stated Rutland. “We think the lateral positions will be lower quality. Is the contribution to yield offset by reduction in quality? And are you hurting overall quality by waiting on outside bolls to mature? Those are the questions we want to answer.” 

Ginger RowseyWeeds in wide-row cotton

Weed management might be harder in wide-row cotton. It is one purpose researchers say the system isn’t an excellent match on all farms.

Whereas the analysis is in its first yr, Pieralisi isn’t optimistic that wide-row cotton will likely be a possible possibility for northern Cotton Belt growers — citing considerations with weed management and issues with defoliation because of lateness. He recollects the expertise of a northern Mississippi Delta producer in 2020 who had a gorgeous 60-inch cotton crop, loaded with bolls. Sadly, hurricane remnants handed by means of previous to defoliation inflicting his crop to lodge.  

“It didn’t defoliate well. It didn’t pick well, and he didn’t do it again,” Pieralisi stated. “I think this system could be a good option in southern Mississippi, where they have more issues with boll rot and more producers are planting on 30-inch rows, but I don’t think it’s going to be feasible to delay cotton as you move north. Particularly in a 76/38 system.” 

Ginger RowseyPierlisi Grad Student Look at Cotton

Pieralisi (proper) and Rutland are evaluating fiber high quality in a wide-row system.

Farmers like a problem 

Whereas not a blanket answer, Darrell VandeVen feels assured 60-inch cotton can maintain this crop worthwhile in his a part of the world. Retaining cotton worthwhile means holding infrastructure round. It additionally means persevering with to develop the crop he most enjoys. 

“Cotton takes a higher degree of management,” he added, “but that’s why many of us enjoy growing cotton. Good cotton farmers like a challenge.” 


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