Grower Perspective

Doubling down for success: cover crops plus PhytoGen improve cotton potential

Alabama cotton growers Ricky Wiggins and son Russell use cover crops and PhytoGen® cottonseed to produce high yields and excellent fiber quality on their cotton acres.

Alabama cotton growers Ricky Wiggins and son Russell, left, use cover crops and PhytoGen® cottonseed to produce high yields and excellent fiber quality on their cotton acres.

Healthy soils combined with PhytoGen® cottonseed produce high-yielding, high-quality cotton crops that pay premiums to grower Ricky Wiggins of Andalusia, Alabama.

In addition to using conservation tillage practices in-season, Wiggins further improves soil health with a winter cover crop. Immediately following harvest, he plants a crop of rye grass and tillage radishes. His winter crop reaches heights of 5 to 6 feet, eliminating the sunlight shining on the soil during the off-season and ensuring an ample bed of organic matter come spring. “You just don’t lose moisture like you do with bare ground,” he says.

“We also see weed suppression with the rye and rye grass cover,” he says. “You’ve got to get the cover crop planted early to get the height and cover that you need for weed control. We need that time to get sufficient growth. When we don’t get that, we have more issues with pigweed the following crop year.” 

With clean seedbeds, thanks to the weed suppression resulting from cover crops, Wiggins chooses high-yielding PhytoGen brand PHY 444 WRF for the yield potential and quality premiums. “We’ve planted PHY 444 WRF for three years, and we like it,” he says. “We plant it mainly because it grades well and yields.”

In 2017, his PHY 444 WRF produced staple length between 37 and 40. “It’s been yielding premium grades for us. And, micronaire has not been an issue with our PhytoGen varieties,” he says. “Where we’ve had high micronaire on other cotton, we haven’t had a problem with PhytoGen. We haven’t had any low micronaire problems, either.”

In 2018, Wiggins’ terraced, dryland cotton acreage will receive an in-furrow fungicide, insecticide and root stimulant with the seed at planting. He’ll then spray an over-the-top application of glyphosate behind the planter with a boom. “We still fight pigweed, but we just don’t get the weed pressure others do because of our cover crop system,” he says.

Wiggins also is considering using the Enlist weed control system with his cotton variety selection to help control problem pigweeds. “Our pigweed populations never got big enough to get above the cotton, but it produced seed this year that is concerning for 2018,” he says.

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