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.
Seeding rates differ between the two row cotton spacings. “We increase the seeding rate to get 62,000 plants per acre with 30-inch rows and 40,000 to 45,000 with the single row 60,” he explained. 30-inch cotton closes two to three weeks earlier than narrow-row cotton.
Worth Farms has been a 100 percent Pima grower. Pima, said Worth, can develop a large plant loaded with bolls. Pima bolls are roughly half the size of an Acala cotton boll.
“We have had some lodging issues with the Pima, but we can pick it up without any problems,” Worth said.
The 60-inch cotton is picked three rows at a time.
Their Pima variety is Phytogen 805RR.
With a more open plant, Munk said the cotton plant tends to fill in more positions down below because the high light environment allows additional fruit to be produced on vegetative branches and fruiting branches shed less late season fruit. In this way the cotton plant compensates by expanding it’s vegetative canopy and producing more fruit per plant. There was a difference in height between the two row spacings, but there was no yield difference. With more room, there are more vegetative branches on the 60-inch cotton and more positions coming off those branches.
The large plants on the 60-inch rows were robust with large, deep roots. “Roots were huge and deep,” Worth noted. He was concerned about turning around beds in time for transplanting tomatoes in the early spring.
Worth called in silage choppers to shred the standing stalks. At first they put the stalks into silage trucks to haul away, but it was a hassle finding a place to dump the shredded stalks. Then Worth asked the custom choppers to simply blow the shredded residue across the field.
“It worked great. They absolutely shredded it — better than mowers and stalk cutters.
“We came in behind the silage choppers with a flail mower and root cutter to get the rest of the plant out of the ground. Then we worked the beds with regular tillage equipment. The fields were ready in time for planting. The tomatoes after cotton look great — better than tomatoes after tomatoes. Rotation with different crops is a good thing when you can do it,” he said.
Pima cotton priced at more than $2 per pound makes it easier to put cotton back in the rotation.
Worth and Herrin said several cotton growers have talked with them about the 60-inch cotton. One neighbor converted all his cotton to the wide rows on tomato beds.
“The results we have thus far in comparing the two row configurations are encouraging,” said Munk. “However, I’m not rushing to make a 60-inch bed recommendation yet, as a larger number of tests and additional years will be needed to understand the range of crop and yield conditions. This is still very experimental, but I agree there are potential advantages with what I have seen that Rick and Chuck are doing at Worth Farms.”