What is in this article?:
- Producer grows 60-inch cotton on tomato beds to reduce costs without sacrificing yields.
- Drip irrigation key to successful transition.
However, the biggest reason Worth and Herrin wanted to get away from twin 30s is that tomato cultivation equipment must be modified on the tool bar to work the 30-inch cotton.
Worth and Herrin decided to try planting one row of cotton down the center of the 60-inch tomato bed. Surprisingly, it has worked.
University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Dan Munk confirmed it in a one-year trial last season, where yields were not significantly different between one-row 60-inch cotton and twin 30-inch rows on the same tomato beds.
This is the third year for Worth Farms to try the 60-inch cotton. About 250 of Worth Farms’ 1,500 acres of cotton are single row 60. They expect that number will grow as they become more comfortable with the configuration.
Drip irrigation is one of the keys to this. Row crop drip irrigation has exploded in the valley. Munk estimates 95 percent of processing tomatoes are grown on drip irrigation in his county. “Growers are putting in all kinds of drip from buried tape to above ground drip they put in and pull out of fields,” said Worth. Mobile filtration systems are on every field corner, it seems.
“We were forced into drip because of our reduced water supply,” said Worth. The farm is in Westlands Water District where its 100 percent federal water allocation is now only 2.6 acre feet. The possibility of receiving the full water allocation is tenuous at best as Worth stressed, “If we get 100 percent of that entitlement, and we never do.” Environmental laws have severely curtailed water deliveries to the sprawling water district over the past couple of decades.
Worth Farms is almost 100 percent drip irrigated on its 6,000 acres after just three years at a cost of roughly $1,000 per acre for a semi-permanent drip installation.
The majority of drip systems go in on high value crops like processing tomatoes. Lower value crops like cotton benefit from drip when growers rotate out of high-value crops.