Being “willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems” has helped Johnny Little, this year’s High Cotton winner from the Mid-South, be successful.

Little farms 1,175 acres of cotton and 350 acres of corn near Holcomb in north central Mississippi. For many years, he farmed with his father, John Morgan “Buddy” Little, who passed away at the age of 89 last springJohnny Little

Declining cotton prices have had an impact throughout the Delta states, forcing growers to make adjustments to their production and marketing strategies. For Little that includes cutting back on cotton acres for more corn and putting in three grain bins, as grain prices continue to show strength.

But that doesn’t mean completely giving up on cotton. “I’ll always have cotton in the mix because cotton has always paid our bills.”

His operation is based on maximizing efficiency by keeping equipment in tip-top shape, making variable-rate applications, using no-till, following label instructions and recommendations from his consultant to the letter, and of course, hard work.

Cotton did surprisingly well for Little in 2012, despite a very dry summer. Irrigation and appropriate variety choices for dryland and irrigated fields are critical to making consistently good yields, he says.

Stewardship is synonymous with efficiency on the Little farm, and there’s no better example of this relationship than his commitment to no-till. Little first adopted the practice 10 years ago, and it has proven to reduce labor requirements significantly while enriching the soil’s tilth.

Little credits employee Josh Coffman for helping with the transition to precision agriculture systems. With Coffman’s help, Little has added GPS guidance on all tractors and yield monitors on his combine and cotton picker, and they’ve seen the benefits. They’ve also adopted variable-rate fertilizer applications.

He believes the best benefit of variable rate versus blanket applications is the ability to increase productivity on his best soil types, rather than pushing yield on tougher ground.