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Wheat-Cotton Makes Money
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Wheat-Cotton Makes Money

By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer
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When the price of cotton hit the mid-90 cent range, producers immediately realized a profit opportunity in growing the white gold crop. As the market price and the premium for seed at the gin continued to be attractive, some farmers envisioned yet another scenario: Harvest winter wheat, plant DP 0912 B2RF behind it and make more money.

In 2011, Brian Fyfe, farm manager for Heaton Farms near Lyon, Miss., did just that on 200 irrigated acres, planting DP 0912 B2RF on June 3. As a comparison, he double cropped 200 acres of irrigated beans behind wheat.

As far as management practices, the Mississippi farmer applied 10 ounces of Pix a week before bloom, which is a little earlier than normal, to keep the “wheat-cotton” plants short. That application was followed by another 16 ounces of Pix at bloom.

“On the cotton following wheat, I was more aggressive with plant bug control to protect the squares and fruit,” Fyfe says. “Retaining more fruit keeps the plants shorter and earlier. The last insecticide application was made Aug. 25, which was no later than my other cotton.”

In the end, Fyfe’s wheat-cotton yielded 880 pounds per acre, and his wheat-beans yielded 30 bushels per acre, about 10 bushels lower than normal, which he attributes to aggressive pigweed control that may have stunted the beans a bit.

“After subtracting my expenses, I made about $250 net income per acre more with wheat-cotton than I did with wheat-beans,” he notes.

When asked what he considers to be a benefit of double cropping wheat and cotton, Fyfe was quick to reply.

“With the price of cotton and the price we receive for cotton seed at the gin, wheat-cotton just makes us more money,” he says. This year, Fyfe has 250 acres under the pivot that he plans to plant to cotton after he harvests his wheat crop.

Tools And Information

Jay Mahaffey, the Monsanto Learning Center farm manager in Scott, Miss., says from what he observed in 2011, management tools are available to favorably manipulate current genetics if a producer decides to plant cotton behind wheat, high water or whatever type of event that leads to planting the crop later than normal.

These tools can include such risk management decisions as plant population, irrigation and plant growth regulator applications.

“It’s up to me as a cotton manager to give people the right tools and information to use those inputs once they buy them to optimize the crop for any given producer in any given situation,” Mahaffey says.

Favorable Economic Results

A 2011 study conducted by Memphis-based CrescoAg at 38 testing sites across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana involving 0912 planted behind wheat or planted after June 1, due to flooding, showed positive results for both the economics of double-crop cotton and the variety itself.

Overall, the study showed that cotton yields were excellent and were an economically better choice than soybeans, with cotton being factored at $1 per pound and soybeans at $12.50 per bushel.

CrescoAg’s research and development leader Chism Craig says, “With wheat-cotton, I was surprised at how consistent the yields were, regardless of where the cotton was planted or the system that was used. We gathered and examined the data to the best of our ability to help farmers make better, more profitable decisions, not on small test plots, but on 40-, 80- and 100-acre fields.”

After considering historical yields coupled with today’s prices, Dave Rhylander, Deltapine marketing manager for Monsanto, says the economics point to cotton being a better choice than soybeans on certain fields.

“Also,” Rhylander adds, “DP 0912 B2RF is the farmer’s best choice for double-crop situations.”

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

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