If a farmer has a crop consultant he trusts, it can be almost as valuable as a lifelong friend. A good consultant has integrity. He stays abreast of chemical and technology developments, has superficial business relationships with chemical salesmen, equipment dealers, and other consultants that all tie together to benefit his farmer clients.
Farmers in several of the parishes in east central Louisiana have a person like that in veteran consultant Tim White.
Although he lives 30 miles west of the Mississippi River off Highway 84 in the middle of cotton, soybean, and corn fields, his first love is, and always has been, cotton. “Cotton got in my blood a long time ago. It’s a beautiful crop to watch grow in its early stages,” says White. “When it starts shutting down, it gets ugly, but then after a good defoliation, it’s beautiful again.”
Destined for Agriculture
Growing up in Jonesville, La., the agriculture bug didn’t bite him until his second quarter at Louisiana Tech University when he realized becoming a petroleum engineer meant leaving his home for the oil fields of Texas. He eventually changed his major to ag business. In the summer between his junior and senior years, he met a man who changed his life — consultant Roger Carter.
When he realized his graduation date was drawing near, he called Carter and told him to keep his ears open for any job possibilities. “Roger told me to pay him a visit, and when I walked into his office, he asked me what I wanted my starting salary to be,” remembers White. “I’ve been consulting ever since that day.”
His first year as a summer scout was 1988. He went full-time in 1989, got his license in 1990, and 2018 will mark his 29th season as a consultant. On the day of this interview, he left his house at 5:30 a.m., and returned at 4:30 p.m. “I’ve got around 25 farmer clients I work for who produce cotton, corn, and soybeans,” says White. “I probably scout close to 40,000 acres.”
He admits losing any good sense he ever had in 1995 when, in addition to consulting, he started farming. He kept a straight face when he quipped, “I needed something to do in my free time.” Then he busted out laughing. “After church last Sunday, I jumped on the sprayer and worked until Bible School started that night.”
White farms 1,900 acres of cotton he oversees with his father, Carvel, and three full-time employees who are dependable and familiar with every piece of equipment used on the operation. “The only time we touch a steering wheel is when we turn it around,” says White. “We got our first auto-steer in 2005.”
Louisiana is a unique environment in which to farm. The pest pressure can, at times, be relentless. The humidity hangs in the air like putty. It can shut down a cotton plant’s ability to transpire and cause it to fold under like the collar of a cheap shirt. “When the plant can’t get rid of that moisture to cool itself, it just slows down,” adds White.
Recommendations and Changes
White says that over the years he has worked with a few farmers who thought the only thing more important than his crop recommendations was Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The only thing he asks of those who do not follow his reports is to let him know what they did not do. “I have to know what I’m working with when I go back to those farms,” says White. “Some will tweak my recommendations, but most of them will follow them as closely as possible.”
Plant bugs are the biggest problem right now in the five parishes he covers. Louisiana is again operating under a Section 18 for Transform, and has been since 2012. Along with 1.5 ounces an acre of Transform, he has also been calling on Diamond, an insect growth regulator, to sterilize eggs and control immatures.
It is also that time of the year where he gives a lot of recommendations for Pix. “When growing conditions are right, some of these new varieties are entertaining to watch bloom and produce fruit,” says White. “When I started working in the late 1980s, a large cotton operation might have grown 500 acres. Today we’re growing thousands of acres with nowhere near the labor force needed back then.”
White has seen many changes. Chemistries have gone off-patent and gotten cheaper, and the majority of insect control costs are tied to technologies incorporated into seed. “When David Kerns was still conducting entomology research at LSU, he documented some bollworms I found over in Rapides Parish that were resistant to 2-gene Bt cotton,” remembers White.
“Yes, I expect to have issues this year. It depends on whom you speak with regarding thresholds. Mississippi State is saying spray on an egg threshold, while LSU says to initiate treatment on live larva.”
As the use of drones in agriculture continues to expand, White knows he will eventually become a licensed drone pilot. “It’s inevitable. It will be another tool in a consultant’s arsenal to help farmers make quicker, more informed decisions,” says White. “The potential is there, especially with normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). I’ll be able to cover more acreage much faster.”
In addition to him being an owner/partner in CC Planters Gin, serving on Planters Cottonseed Oil Mill’s board of directors, and vice-chairing the Louisiana Boll Weevil Eradication Commission, White is mentoring Sean Chestovich, a 27-year old college chemistry major who worked for him some last year. “Sean is a bright young man who just needs to take a few ag classes to qualify for his consulting license,” says White. “I have a lot of confidence in that young man.”
When White asked his wife Christie to marry him in 1993, he was team roping during every spare minute of free time. When he started farming in 1995, he had to let the team roping go. “Between farming, consulting and roping, there just weren’t enough hours in the day,” he says.
He has not been on a horse since. “I just couldn’t stand to be on a horse without a rope in my hand,” says the guy who traded his horse for a pickup truck… and agriculture.