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Grower Perspective

Cotton producer relies on family traditions and PhytoGen

Virginia cotton producer Mike Griffin marries the past and present, continually keeping an eye to the future. He’s guided by values passed down from his family while relying on PhytoGen.

Cotton producer Mike Griffin often thinks back on his early years, working with his grandfather James Causey Griffin Sr. and father, James Causey Griffin Jr. He remembers picking peanuts when he was 10 years old and then managing a farm with his grandfather during high school. Those were formative years.

“I have vivid and fond memories sharing time with my grandfather,” Griffin says. “They were important days for building a foundation. I truly loved being on the farm. If there was anything he wanted to do, I was ready to go.”

Griffin learned a lot about crops and farm management, but the most important lessons had bigger implications for his life.

“My grandfather and father taught me to always do the right thing, even if no one is watching. That’s my definition of character,” Griffin says. “There is no doubt about it. They believed you always do it right.”

That perspective means a close attention to detail on Griffin’s Virginia farm, from planning through harvest. It also means he relies on good information to make the best decisions for his operation. Since 2004, he has conducted annual on-farm trials with several partners, including a retailer, Virginia Tech and PhytoGen.

“To be effective and efficient in agriculture today, information is paramount. You’ve got to stay in tune to what’s going on,” Griffin says. “I planted trials next to my house, and when I came home in the evening, I could see varieties side by side in the same field and study the subtle differences. If you are interested in the uptake of information, there is no better way.”

Those years of studying varieties led Griffin to the conclusion that PhytoGen® brand varieties are the best fit for his farm. For several years, all of his cotton acres have been planted to PhytoGen cottonseed, including a PhytoGen trial in 2018. When you ask him why PhytoGen, his answer comes without hesitation.

“Hands down, easy question: the consistency. Both yield and quality, especially yield,” Griffin says. “No matter how long you live or how much cottonseed you plant, you will never have two years the same. Whatever environmental conditions we get dealt, you can bank on a consistent variety with PhytoGen. Consistency is something we can hang our hat on.”

Griffin is quick to point out that PhytoGen cottonseed has excellent top-end yield potential. In 2014, he had nearly perfect weather and his PhytoGen brand varieties really shined, with several fields approaching 4-bale yields.

“2014 was one of those years you never forget because it gave us an opportunity to see what these PhytoGen varieties are capable of,” Griffin says. “PhytoGen is pushing its variety development and germplasm, and they are looking at even higher yielding potential. All we have to do is learn how to grow them, how to manage them properly and pray for the right amounts of rain and sunshine.”

In addition to pushing for newer and better genetics, Griffin says PhytoGen also leads the way in new technological advances, such as the Enlist weed control system, WideStrike® 3 Insect Protection and PhytoGen Breeding Traits. Griffin was one of a handful of cotton producers across the Cotton Belt who trialed the Enlist system before it was commercially available.

“With Enlist herbicides, the weed control is exceptional, and there is no volatility,” he says. “If you follow the label, bottom line: It stays where you put it.”

Griffin believes in PhytoGen brand varieties and technologies, but he says the company does much more than offer excellent products. He mentions PhytoGen cotton development specialists and territory managers by name and says they’re just a phone call away. As a member of the PhytoGen Horizon Network, he built those relationships through the years, by attending meetings and garnering more information. Those meetings also facilitated relationships with other cotton producers across the Belt whom he can exchange ideas with — always trying to get better and better.

“PhytoGen is providing us with opportunities to get real-life information, to share ideas and experiences,” Griffin says. “It’s all about getting better at what we love. My love is agriculture — there is no doubt about that. To plant seeds, watch them grow and then harvest what we have been given, that is the ultimate reward.”