Cotton Links


N.C. Producers Face Big Challenges,
Small Fields

By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor

As workers readied barns for more tobacco, North Carolina producers Gerald Tyner and his son, Gerald Tyner Jr., took a few minutes to talk about how their 2009 crop year was progressing. The Tyners produce cotton, soybeans and tobacco, with the latter as their primary focus because of their land’s soil type. The challenge is producing big yields, or even consistent ones, in small-sized fields.

The Tyners’ farm is located in Elm City, considered part of the coastal plain area of North Carolina.

“This part of North Carolina was one of the first areas settled in the country,” says Toni Wade Smith, the Tyners’ crop consultant since 1991. “Every bit of the land that is usable is used.”

The soil type, which is mostly sandy, is particularly conducive for tobacco because the nitrogen leaches out well, allowing the tobacco leaves to yellow.

However, the Tyners say it often makes for inconsistent yields in cotton.

Consistency Elusive

“Our cotton looks pretty good this year,” says Gerald Tyner, who has been producing the commodity since 1990. “We have grown everything from three bales to 300 pounds.”

Smith says Tyner produced about 2,000 acres of cotton two years ago.

“Last year, it was about 800 acres and, this year, it is about 700 acres,” she says. “Tobacco, the main crop, is rotated with cotton and soybeans.”

Gerald Tyner Jr., says, “The cotton is alright here, but with some of our land, there is not a consistent yield.”

Gerald’s father is optimistic about how this year’s crop is progressing.

“Usually, we have average to above average yields,” he says. “Right now everything looks good. I don’t know what it will end up like. We will need some real rain.”

One of the Tyners’ greatest challenges is the small size of their fields.

“Our fields aren’t all that big,” the younger Tyner says. “You try to spray a three-acre field, and you’ve sprayed it twice by the time you get through with it.”

Smith says the average size of fields in the area is seven to 10 acres.

The younger Tyner says, “On a small farm, you end up putting more gallons to the acre than for a farm with larger fields. When you plant, it’s the same way. We have a 12-row planter, and it creates a lot of waste.”

Changes Effective

The younger Tyner says one of the changes they have made is, instead of planting cotton on four-inch spacing, they plant it on five.

“We saved nearly $17 per acre or nearly $18,000 for the year,” he says. “When we moved it out, I gave a lot more priority to how I was planting.”

He says they also use Autosteer for spray applications, and they are now considering bringing in auto shut-off technology in order to eliminate the overlap of product.

Big or small, the Tyners have a challenge facing most producers: herbicide-resistant weeds.

“Marestail is a little bit of a problem, but there is nothing to take care of Palmer amaranth, except possibly a machete,” the younger Tyner says. “The chemicals you can spray on it, you can’t spray on cotton until the cotton gets up to a certain height. And you can control Palmer amaranth when it’s small, but it will get away from you in a week’s time.

“I think cotton is the hardest crop in which to try to control weeds,” he says.

Finding solutions, whether it is changes in conventional practices or implementing new technologies, the Tyners continue to search for consistent yields in their small fields.

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or ahuber@onegrower.com.

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