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- On a warm, cloudless, day last October, Coley Bailey Sr. opened the door of the tractor driven by his son, Coley Jr. and over the radio chatter and whine of machinery, announced, “We’re processing 1,100 pounds of seed cotton a minute.”
- Efficiency is such an overused word in agriculture these days, one hesitates to use it to describe Coffeeville, Miss., farmer Coley Bailey Jr.
The cotton field behind Coley Bailey, Sr., and Coley Bailey, Jr., was once farmed by James K. Polk, the country's 11th president.
Since then, Coley Jr., has found there are other benefits from the wheat that’s now planted as a cover crop on all his cotton ground.
“We have a lot more water-holding capacity. Earthworms leave tunnels in the ground, and when the wheat roots decay after we spray Roundup, all those channels seem to hold water. A lot of times, after a two-inch rain, hardly any water will run off the field. Organic matter, with no-till and a wheat cover crop, has gone from .445 percent to over 3 percent.”
The Baileys usually do about five EQIP projects a year using the farm’s excavator and bulldozer.
“We farm up and down creeks, and slowing water going into creeks is what we’re trying to do,” Coley Jr. says. “If we don’t do that, before long it will wash out, and the ditch will be as deep as the creek.
“A lot of what we’re doing now is maintaining or replacing existing structures that were originally put in with shovels. We get the soil and water guys to come in and design it, and hopefully we’ll get an EQIP project. Our landlords really appreciate that we keep their land looking good.”
Another big benefit, he says, is that wheat shades out a lot of weeds. “We have a lot less marestail, and we’ve been fortunate not to see pigweed yet.”
Still, the Baileys aren’t taking any chances with resistant weeds.
“We try to change up chemistries,” Coley Jr. says. “In February, we apply 2,4-D, then in early April, Roundup and dicamba. When we plant, we apply Ignite and get everything cleaned up. So, there are three different chemistries before cotton emerges.
“With the first shot of Roundup over-the-top of cotton, we will add Staple to get a little more residual. With the second shot, we’ll use metolachlor. That carried us through the whole season this year, although we did some chopping this year for some marestail that came through.”
The Baileys plant with two 12-row John Deere no-till planters; 2011 was the first year they used an RTK guidance system for planting.
“The RTK puts us right where we’re supposed to be,” Coley Jr. says. “My planter drivers like it a whole lot better.”
They plant all Deltapine cottons, including DP 1050B2RF and DP 1137B2RF on most of their dryland, and DP 0912B2RF on 300 acres of irrigated ground.
“We’ve always had good luck with Deltapine varieties and good service,” Coley Jr., says. “We grow 10 varieties for them in a variety trial, which lets me get a firsthand look at what’s coming along.”