The word “quality” is regularly spoken by Allen Pierucci when the third-generation California cotton grower talks about fiber production on the family’s operation in Buttonwillow.

Pierucci is among a lengthy list of cotton producers in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) who practice what they preach — producing the highest quality cotton possible. This is why SJV producers grow some of the finest fiber in the world.

“We are sticklers on cotton quality on our farm,” said Pierucci, 56, who with his wife Lori own and operate Julian Pierucci and Son Farms in Buttonwillow, Calif.  “I evaluate what it will take each year to grow the highest quality cotton and then put into practice the necessary steps.”

With quality in mind, Pierucci’s management practices include weed management inside and around fields, plus maintaining equipment in prime running condition.
“Maintaining the equipment in tip-top condition is what makes money for the grower,” Pierucci said.

During the harvest, pickers are generally cleaned twice a day especially in “dirty fields” with many leaves. Cotton is never picked wet. The green leaf aphid and whitefly pests are closely managed to eliminate the chance of sticky cotton.

Cotton merchants tell Pierucci that his cotton rates as some of the best quality cotton grown in the region. Pierucci doles out kudos to the Farmers Cooperative Gin in Buttonwillow for its expertise in cotton ginning.

Pierucci’s crop is marketed through Jess Smith and Sons, and White Gold; both based in Bakersfield.

Pierucci, 56, took a work break in early September to discuss his 2012 cotton crop, production practices, plus a shift on the operation to permanent crops on non-cotton ground.

This year, the Pierucci farm includes 1,140 acres of cotton; 614 acres of Acala and 526 acres of Pima. All the seed is Phytogen varieties.

Other crops include 210 acres of alfalfa, 72 acres of six-year-old pomegranate trees, and 35 acres of spring wheat.

“This is probably the best cotton crop that we’ve had in three years,” Pierucci said with a smile. “I think the yield will be average to slightly above; 3 bales per acre for Acala (Upland) and 2.75 bales for Pima.”

Pima cotton is generally picked twice and Acala once. Harvest is likely to begin in early October. “My Dad (Julian) taught me no matter how the cotton looks don’t count it until it’s in the bale,” Pierucci said. “I live by those words.”
The Pierucci family has grown cotton since the late 1920s. Allen grew his first crop after high school and became a farm partner in 1980.