For some strange reason, by living in Memphis, Tenn., some of us simply don’t give enough respect to the cotton production that occurs about 100 miles to the north on Interstate 55. Memphians pass through the Missouri Bootheel area all the time when they’re headed to St. Louis to watch a Cardinals baseball game, or maybe when going on vacation to points north of us like Chicago or anywhere in the Midwest.
But we simply can’t appreciate one of the best kept secrets across the Cotton Belt. This region, consisting of about 350,000 acres in five counties, delivers some of the best cotton quality in the country. And the farmers there have been doing it for a long time. This isn’t an overnight blip on the radar screen. Two and a half to three bale yields as well as 36 staple are the rule...and not the exception.
I have known veteran producer Charles Parker of Senath for nearly 25 years, and I was always aware of his farm’s ability to deliver high quality. In fact, we featured Charles on the cover of Cotton Farming in the spring of 2009. But what about the entire Missouri Bootheel? Is there something uniquely different about this area?
After spending some time with Missouri Extension research associate Andrea Jones and producer Jeff Hux of Sikeston, I can now see that the rumors are definitely true. This area is totally committed to cotton. You’ll find out more about this success story on pages 10 and 11. And you can then easily understand that the Bootheel has it all – diverse soils, abundant water supply and some of the most innovative producers you’ll find anywhere. Cotton breeders also have delivered varieties perfectly suited for a shorter growing season, and now it’s starting to pay off.
I walked some of the fields on Hux’s farm on July 1-2, and the cotton was ahead of schedule and already blooming. And, in case anybody is wondering, I didn’t see evidence of any resistant pigweed. Granted, the area deals with plant bug resistance, but otherwise it’s a region where cotton can flourish. Producers, such as Hux, also are unafraid to embrace any technology that improves yield and quality.
You’ll also find a very positive and productive relationship between the Delta Center at Portageville and producers in the five-county region where the cotton is produced. For example, cutting-edge research is being conducted on fertilizer application and irrigation timing. Again, it’s having an immediate impact on how cotton is produced there.
So, if you’re ever driving north on Interstate 55 toward St. Louis, drop in for a visit in Portageville or Sikeston. Missouri is known as the “Show Me” state, and when it comes to cotton production, these folks have plenty to show a first-time visitor.
If you have comments, send them to: Editor, Cotton Farming Magazine, 5118 Park Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tenn., 38117. Or send e-mail to: email@example.com.