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- Shawn Holladay would just as soon not experience another cotton growing season like the summer of 2011 — record heat, record drought, high winds and enough frustration to last a lifetime.
DAWSON COUNTY, Texas, cotton farmer Shawn Holladay is the High Cotton winner for the Southwest region.
Holladay believes in a producer’s commitment to sustainability and conserving resources.
“But sustainability also means an ability to stay on the land and get a profit from it — and that’s all related to rainfall.”
Terracing is an important part of his soil conservation efforts, especially on sloping acreage. “With extreme slopes, we use terraces to prevent erosion; we have terraces on most of our land.”
The prolonged drought has limited terrace maintenance, Holladay says. “Drought affects everything we do. It has certainly slowed down terrace maintenance. We need moisture to do some of that maintenance work.”
He takes advantage of any moisture he gets to run sand fighters across his fields. When he got a light rain on part of his acreage in late September, he immediately got tractors rolling.
“We made the best of it and got the tractors running as soon as we could. Moisture doesn’t last long, and we may not have many opportunities to take care of these problems.”
Variety selection is a critical part of his production system. “In a year like 2011, variety is very important,” he says. “Typically, we do best with a variety that’s disease resistant and is as late maturing as we can get by with. We usually go through some period of drought stress every year and the less determinant varieties produce a little better quality.”
He says NexGen 4012 was the best variety he planted in 2011. “It’s a new one, and last year was the first time I had a lot of it.”
A drought year is a “tough time to evaluate variety performance,” he says. “The weather last year was so severe it was hard to judge performance. It’s also not a good idea, during a historical drought, to make any management decisions based on performance. I won’t make any changes based on what happened in 2011.”
Holladay says he’s committed to transgenic varieties — “I don’t plant an acre of cotton that’s not stacked gene.” And he considers global positioning system technology “one of the best pieces of technology” he’s seen.
The combination of transgenic cotton and the boll weevil eradication program has revolutionized cotton production, he says.
“I made no pesticide applications in 2011. We have a good story to tell from an environmental standpoint. The changes we’ve seen over the past 20 years are almost unbelievable.
“The boll weevil eradication program is an extraordinary accomplishment, and problems with secondary pests have been solved with transgenics.”
Other challenges pose serious threats, however. Glyphosate resistant pigweeds were recently identified near where Holladay farms.