What is in this article?:
- Clyde Sharp, Roll, Ariz., is the winner of the 2014 Western Farm Press High Cotton Award.
- Sharp is a highly successful cotton grower, environmental steward, and national cotton industry leader.
- The Sharp family grows Upland cotton, alfalfa, wheat, onions, and Sudangrass in the Arizona low desert.
In addition to service to the agricultural industry, the Sharp brothers embrace environmental stewardship practices on the farm. They were the first growers in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley to plant Bt cotton, thus reducing insecticide and herbicide usage. They viewed Bt as the potential future of cotton — and they were right.
They use 100 percent GPS guidance systems on their farm equipment, reducing fuel use and dust by making fewer passes over the fields. The switch from laser-based land leveling to GPS leveling has also improved efficiency.
Fields are developed into blocks, based on soil type, to help conserve water.
“We apply the minimum amount of water on a field and have no tailwater,” Sharp says.
Water for irrigation is canal-delivered surface water from the Colorado River, with an average cost of about $22 per acre foot. Their cotton is grown with about 4 acre feet of water. Cotton rows are 42-inches wide to match the width of lettuce beds.
The Sharps are experimenting with adding commercial bacteria to the soil, with the goal of using the microorganisms to improve bacterial balance.
“The theory is that we’ll use less fertilizer and less water,” Sharp says. “We haven’t used the bacteria long enough to determine if that is the case. But, it has improved stand longevity and the soil profile, which reduces the tractor horsepower needed to till the soil, in turn saving fuel.”
Their main cotton pests are lygus, whitefly, spider mite, and occasional stink bug outbreaks, which usually require one or two insecticidal sprays per season.