Alabama cotton grower Gerald Brannon has been looking for new ways to thrive since he started planting cotton in the early 1990s, during a time when peanuts were more popular in his area. He continues to try new seed and technologies, such as PhytoGen® W3FE varieties and the Enlist™ weed control system.
Prior to the menacing pest’s eradication, massive cotton crop losses attributed to the boll weevil reshaped the agricultural landscape of the Southeast.
In South Alabama, many of those acres successfully shifted to peanut production. The move away from cotton production was so successful, in fact, that Enterprise, Alabama, boasts what is reportedly the nation’s only towering monument to the boll weevil. And while the boll weevil eradication effort began in some parts of Alabama in 1987, peanut production was still favored over cotton by many in the state’s southern corridor throughout much of the next decade.
About 20 miles south of the bronzed boll weevil statue, two southern Alabama peanut producers saw the potential in cotton production. When brothers Gerald and Steve Brannon began planting cotton in 1991 in Geneva County, Alabama, more than a few folks questioned their sanity.
Many of those debating this forward-thinking crop production plan, however, would soon follow their lead. The following year, “everybody tried to plant cotton, and after another year, the gins began operating,” Gerald Brannon says. “I’ve had PhytoGen since Day 1 of its availability. I don’t plant anything else on my farm now.”
Today, Gerald Brannon continues his trendsetting ways, planting a mix of proven yielders and new entries to the cotton market. His varieties of choice in 2017 were PhytoGen® brand PHY 333 WRF, PHY 444 WRF, PHY 490 W3FE, PHY 499 WRF and PHY 575 WRF.
The bulk of his acreage is planted to proven yielders PHY 333 WRF and PHY 444 WRF. “Both are hard-to-beat, all-around performers with good vigor, providing us with a steady stand of cotton from one end of the row to the other,” Brannon says.
“We’ve always liked PHY 444 WRF because of its high-quality fiber. It’s also clean picking and comes out of the ground growing strong,” he says. “Similarly, PHY 333 WRF has also yielded well for us and has exhibited strong seedling vigor.”
He also reports his full-season PHY 499 WRF and PHY 575 WRF yielded well this year and garnered an average 2-cent premium for strength and staple length.
Brannon added one of the newest varieties offering the Enlist™ weed control system, PHY 490 W3FE, to his production system in 2017. “I was excited to try it,” he says. “We have a substantial problem with pigweed. With the Enlist weed control system, we’ve achieved better weed control, especially with pigweed. There certainly were a lot fewer out there to pull in 2017.”
While pigweed is Brannon’s primary weed challenge, he’s also seeing a re-emergence of coffeeweed and beggarweed, as well as sporadic morningglory pressure. “I haven’t seen any of these species in our Enlist cotton, though,” he says.
Brannon, who farms with his son, Todd, his brother, Steve, and Steve’s son, Jared, is pleased with the early gin reports for their 2017 dryland cotton crop. “We are seeing a 2- to 3-cent premium this year, and the grades look good,” he says. “Our PhytoGen stands have been consistent all year, and consistency in a dryland system is critical to making production and input decisions.”