What is in this article?:
- Cannon Michael shoulders the responsibility of overseeing an 11,000-acre farm operation during California’s water crisis.
CANNON MICHAEL is the new president of Bowles Farming Company, a diversified 11,000 acre family-farm operation located in Los Banos, Calif.
Stewardship of the land
Cotton farming continues to be a high priority, albeit a decision to drill down their high of 5,000 cotton acres four years ago to gain higher returns on processing tomatoes. This year, the family will plant 2,000-3,000 acres of Hazera, Acala, or Pima varieties - depending on market and weather conditions at planting.
“We would like to plant more cotton this year,” Michael said. “Cotton prices are actually high right now (early April) and our yields and quality have been excellent. The lack of water is holding us back.”
The desire to plant more cotton is partly due to a decision made several years ago to purchase three of the newest generation GPS-guided John Deere harvesters which roll and store cotton at the back of the picker and drop it at the end of the row.
This reduces field passes, fuel costs, and the number of workers and concerns for their safety. These savings, Michael says, are slightly offset by the higher cost of the wrapping material.
The farm has also incorporated reduced tillage practices. At one time, Michael says it took up to seven passes to prepare fields to plant cotton and other crops. Today it requires two trips through the fields.
The company’s commitment to its employees and the stewardship of the land is evident. They recognize their team’s hard work by providing health care, a defined benefits pension plan, and profit sharing.
Environmentally, the family continues to evaluate and incorporate the latest equipment, technology, monitoring, and research innovations to protect and preserve the farm’s investment.
Buried drip was incorporated on 60-inch tomato beds which can be split when rotating to cotton. The collaboration with researchers to screen new products and ideas is important to the farming operation.
New regulations limiting chemistries to protect crops from insect and weed pressures are a concern, Michael says. Besides spider mites, there is low lygus pressure and no whitefly. Some Race 4 fusarium has been found but is not widespread.
“We use integrated pest management to determine spray thresholds and we try to use good levels of beneficial insects and softer chemistries,” he said.