With the Western cotton harvest just around the corner, a veteran Buttonwillow, Calif., family eyeballs at least a 3.5 bale-per-acre crop with typical San Joaquin Valley Acala fiber quality thanks to another good growing season.

“Overall, our Acala Upland cotton looks like a good crop,” Jason Selvidge said in early September. “I don’t know if it’s a record breaker but it is above average.”

Selvidge, 40, is a partner with the Buttonwillow Land and Cattle Company in Kern County. Besides cotton, the family grows carrots, potatoes, wheat, alfalfa, corn (for silage), pistachios, and almonds. The operation is invested in a Texas cattle feeding operation. Selvidge’s father, Wes Selvidge, believes at least one field could generate 4 bales.

“I think this could be my best crop ever,” said the elder Selvidge, a 42-year cotton veteran. The farm has a 50-year history in cotton.

Wes and Jason are fourth- and fifth-generation Buttonwillow producers, respectively. The family hopes to send the first picker to the field by the second week of October.

The Buttonwillow Land and Cattle Company includes the Selvidge, Tracy, and Frey families — all descendents of William Tracy and Fannie Rowlee Tracy. The families held a 150th farm birthday party this year attended by “3,500 of their closest friends.”

As Jason drove his pick-up at a crawl through the cotton fields to survey the crop, he noted it was off to a good start.

“We waited for good soil temperatures in the spring and planted in mid April,” Selvidge explained. “It was a timely planting.”

Cool, moderate spring and early summer temperatures suggested the crop could be late, but warmer summer temperatures led to on-time maturity.

“The crop loaded up fairly well,” Selvidge said. “The heat wave from late July into August knocked off a little of the top crop. By then, most of the crop was set on the plants and seemed to hold on fairly well.” Pix was applied to keep plant growth under check.

The farm’s 800 acres of cotton is planted in the Acala NemX variety. NemX was developed by California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors (CPCSD) and first commercially sold in California in1995. Bayer CropScience later purchased CPSCD.

The Buttonwillow Land and Cattle Company grew NemX for seed increase for CPCSD for several years.

“We made a deal with CPCSD to grow the seed increase at no cost for one year and then buy all of the seed from the increase,” Selvidge said. “We aimed for a five-year supply and actually harvested an eight-year supply due to good growing conditions.”

The certified seed has remained in cold storage since. The seed was planted the last six years. A two-year supply remains.

Selvidge chuckled, “NemX is the most expensive seed in the world since we keep it in cold storage to maintain seed quality.”