Southwest cotton producers see irrigation, cotton, rice in Mid-South: Part I

They may farm several hundred miles apart under very different growing conditions, but it usually doesn’t take long for cotton producers to quickly develop a rapport when they spend a few hours together.

That was the case when 12 growers from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas toured Arkansas, Missouri and west Tennessee, including stops at the farming operation of Marianna, Ark., producer Larry McClendon and the Lon Mann Research Station near Marianna.

McClendon, a former chairman of the National Cotton Council, has made trips to Oklahoma and Texas on behalf of the NCC and is familiar with growing conditions in areas of those states. Many of the participants in the Producer Information Exchange or PIE Tour had never been in the “rain belt” states of the Mid-South before.

“Are y’all having weed resistance in Texas and Oklahoma?” McClendon asked the group during a stop at a seed increase field for DP 1522B2XF, one of Monsanto’s new dicamba-tolerant cotton varieties. “When I was out there four or five years ago, I could see a lot of young pigweed. But back then Roundup was still doing a pretty good job on it.”

The Southwest growers answered in the affirmative with glyphosate resistance in Palmer amaranth now having spread to much of the Texas cotton acreage.

McClendon has divided his 6,000-plus acres of cotton between three varieties this year. Those are DP 1522B2XF, PHY 333 WRF and ST 4946GLB2. He also grows several thousand acres of corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and rice.

More herbicide-tolerant crops

“I think for us in these pigweed areas you’re probably going to see us move to the dicamba and Enlist – that has 2,4-D in it – crops in the Mid-South,” said McClendon, who earlier showed his visitors a seed-laden pigweed plant he had dispatched that morning with a hoe he keeps in his truck.

The Southwest growers were intrigued by the irrigation systems on McClendon’s Soudan Farms operation, which lies next to the Mississippi River in Lee County, Arkansas/

Unlike many farmers in the Mid-South, McClendon has not made a shift from sprinkler to furrow irrigation. The rolling terrain of his land along the river is not conducive to polypipe or other furrow systems.

“This is a pivot-irrigated field, and this pivot waters almost 500 acres,” said McClendon, referring to the DP 1522 seed-increase field. “We have six or eight pivots that water 450 to 500 acres, pretty good-sized blocks of ground.”

“It would be hard to find a field big enough for that in our area,” said one of the Texas growers.

“Well, you might not have the water, either,” said McClendon, joining in a laugh with the Southwest growers.

“You’d have to go 20 miles around to find that much water,” said the Texas producer.

‘Pretty decent cotton’

The conversation soon switched back to yields. “This looks like decent cotton,” said McClendon. “We’re pretty excited about it, and we’re thinking we’re going to have a good yield out here this time.”

Bill Robertson, Extension cotton specialist with the University of Arkansas and a native of the High Plains who accompanied the group on part of its tour, said the newer varieties being grown can provide surprises.

“I’ve got one kind-of-average boll that was in the middle of the plant,” said Dr. Robertson. “There was 29 seed in there. I’d like to see more, but when you walk in this variety the thing that jumps out at me is that there’s so many bolls. I’ve been looking at other fields, and it’s just unbelievable how many bolls are out there.

Dr. Robertson acknowledged the bolls looked small, “but you think back on 5415, and it had small bolls. But when it started opening it was unreal as to how much cotton was in those little, bitty bolls. I haven’t counted many seed this year, but this does raise a caution flag.”

“We grew some 5415 on this farm, and I remember the first year we had it,” said McClendon. “It was about this time of the year, and I called Deltapine, and I was panicking. I told them y’all got to come up here – the bolls looked like pecans.

“One of their guys came up here and said ‘What’s wrong?’” said McClendon. “I said ‘look at this!’ He said ‘You’re in good shape.’ It was all cotton and no seed.”

Better growing conditions

“Well, Charles (Braden of Garden City, Texas) has a boll with 39 seed,” Robertson said a few moments later. “I need to let him do all the seed counting.”

McClendon said he grew the 1522 variety in 2014, but did not have a good growing season. “Last spring, it rained so much we planted some cotton three times and never did get a stand on it. It would rain 5 inches and run us out of the field. We’d go to the barn and have to wait four or five days to get back in. This year, we’ve had much better growing weather.”

The Southwest growers started their tour at Bayer CropScience’s new automated greenhouse facility in Memphis, Tenn., and also visited Kelley Farms in Burlison, Tenn.; the White & Flye Farms in Weona, Ark.; Wildy Farms in Manila, Ark.; and several farms in the Wilson, Ark., area.

In the season’s other PIE tours, Southeast producers traveled to California; Mid-South producers traveled to Texas and Far West producers visited Georgia.

For more on the Producer Information Exchange program, go to


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