Cotton Links


‘Not Afraid To Try’

Tenn. Farmer’s Open-Minded Attitude Toward Technology


By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer

In the off-season, Eugene Pugh, Jr. spends most of his time thinking of ways to further improve the productivity, profitability and efficiency of his 9,300-acre operation near Halls, Tenn.

“Eugene’s not afraid to put out a new product,” says crop consultant Billy Beegle, TennArk Crop Service, Dyers-burg, Tenn. “He’s also willing to try new varieties, whether it’s cotton, corn or beans. If we want to take a look at a new variety, Eugene is more than willing to take a look at it with us.”

Beegle and his partner Tim Roberts have consulted for the Pugh operation since the early ’80s.

As a farmer cooperator, Pugh has an opportunity to help companies see their products perform in an on-farm scenario, while he also gets to see how well suited they are for his own operation. This season, Pugh participated in Bayer CropScience’s Cotton Agronomic Performance (CAP) trials. Bayer set up the trials in 140 locations across the Cotton Belt in 2008.

“This (Pugh’s trial) is one of six CAP trials in Tennessee,” says Rick Rebstock, a seed and technology rep with Bayer. “The purpose of this trial is to evaluate our experimental lines that we intend to bring forward against our current lines that we are selling commercially.

“We will take each one of these to yield,” he adds. “There are 14 varieties in this plot – six experimental lines from Bayer, two competitive checks and six commercial lines that Bayer is already selling.”

Irrigation Capability Challenges

Of his 9,300 row crop acres, Pugh says about 3,000 are irrigated. With 14 pivots in the Mississippi River bottom area of his farm, it would seem logical that the Tennessee farmer would work toward setting up irrigation on the rest of the acres.

“In West Tennessee, most of our acres are dryland, but in the last couple of years, we’ve seen that irrigation really pays off for us,” Beegle says.

“The Pughs are being very aggressive about getting as much irrigation going as possible but have run into challenges in certain areas of the farm.”

For example, the ground in the Forked Deer River bottom is ideal for pivots because it is level, and there are no trees. To move forward with his plan to increase irrigation capability, Pugh bought a new pivot system and drilled a test well. The well digger said he thought he could supply enough water for the system, so he dug a well 250 feet deep and turned it on. Soon after, the well ran out of water. The well digger came back and drilled another well about 480 feet deep. He turned that well on, but it ran out of water in about an hour.

“So we were sitting out there with a $100,000 irrigation rig and no water,” Pugh says. “However, the well digger was able to hook the two wells together, and we think we can run the system using both wells. For some reason, water is just not available in the amounts that we need to run those pivots in the Forked Deer River bottom.”

Variable Rates Equal Savings

Beegle notes that the Pughs also are reaping the benefits of variable rate fertilizer applications. First, they utilize grid sampling for soil testing. Then they download data from their pickers to create yield maps.

“This tells us what yield comes from what area in the field,” Pugh says. “Next we look at the University of Ten-nessee’s fertilizer recommendations to see how much fertilizer that much crop removes, then we add 20 percent to that. We use variable rate application for our lime, phosphate and potash, but not for our nitrogen.”

Pugh puts out the phosphate and potash right behind the pickers, then runs paratills, and the field is ready for next year. By using variable rate applications, he estimates that he saves $11 to $12 an acre.

Thoughts On Future Efficiencies

As far as something else he would like to try to create further efficiencies in his cotton operation is a couple of the on-board module-building pickers.

“Right now we run three 6-row pickers, three module builders, three boll buggies and have two or three folks putting tarps on modules and picking up cotton,” Pugh says. “It’s like a three-ring circus, and I am right in the middle of it.

“If I had two of the on-board module-building pickers, I think I could pick my cotton with two people instead of 12,” he explains. “I’ve got to do something along those lines if I am going to stay in the cotton business.

“My consultants, Billy Beegle and Tim Roberts, are an important part of our operation, too. They’ve consulted for me for many years, and I put a lot of confidence in what they tell me.”

There’s no arguing that the Pugh operation is big, with acreage consisting of 4,000 cotton, 4,000 beans, 850 corn, 400 milo and 150 brood cows.

“It is a big operation,” Beegle says, “but it’s one of the best run operations that you will come across.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.

Pugh’s Family Farm Profile

• Fourth generation farmers.
• Located near Halls, Tenn.
• 4,000 acres of cotton.
• 4,000 acres of beans.
• 850 acres of corn.
• 400 acres of milo.
• 150 brood cows.
• Farmer cooperators.
• Embrace new technology for productivity, profitability and efficiency.


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