Expert Insight

Finding common ground with Cotton Belt crops

Cotton may be king across the southern U.S., but there’s a good chance another crop isn’t too far away. Consider these benefits when making variety decisions so you can streamline management.

An aspirin can help a headache, but prevention is a better cure.

Cotton producers are familiar with potential headaches that arise from managing different crops in adjacent fields. Cotton may be king across the southern United States, but there’s a good chance another crop isn’t too far away — often across the road or turnrow.

When producing cotton near other crops, PhytoGen® brand varieties and the Enlist® weed control system offer unique advantages that reduce the potential for herbicide contamination from one crop to another.

Jonathan Siebert, Ph.D., is the PhytoGen cotton development specialist in Louisiana and Mississippi where cotton is planted in diverse cropping systems. Siebert said cotton producers should consider these benefits when making variety decisions so they can streamline management during the season. 

“When choosing cotton varieties, yield and fiber quality are paramount, and we’ve proven our yield potential on farms and in OVTs across the Cotton Belt,” Siebert said. “The next thing growers want to consider is in-season management, especially in their weed control system. When it comes to compatibility with other crops, the Enlist weed control system offers several benefits that don’t come with dicamba-tolerant varieties.”

Siebert explained that many common Cotton Belt crops, including soybeans, corn, peanuts, grain sorghum and rice, are considered compatible with the Enlist system. Compatible crops in adjacent downwind fields do not have a buffer when applying Enlist herbicides to PhytoGen W3FE varieties.

“As long as the wind speed is within the label range of 3 to 10 miles per hour, you can make applications of Enlist herbicides with the wind blowing toward compatible crops,” Siebert said. “There is no buffer requirement when these compatible crops are in an adjacent field, potentially surrounding your PhytoGen W3FE varieties.”

This provides more flexibility to spray and enables growers to make more timely applications for better weed control. Timely application means getting more done and keeping fields clean for higher yield potential. 

The Best Peanut Partner

Siebert said some crops have even greater synergies with PhytoGen W3FE varieties. Peanuts are a popular rotational crop throughout the Southeast and in parts of Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas. Peanuts have an inherent tolerance to 2,4-Db, which is a common herbicide in peanut production.

Producers always had concerns about physical drift with 2,4-Db from peanuts into nearby cotton fields. When dicamba-tolerant cotton varieties came to the market, concerns increased with the possibility of dicamba drifting from cotton into peanuts. Siebert said planting PhytoGen W3FE varieties near peanuts eliminates both issues.

“If you have peanuts adjacent to PhytoGen W3FE varieties, you can spray Enlist herbicides in your cotton and you don’t have to worry about an impact on peanuts due to their inherent tolerance to 2,4-D,” Siebert said. “On the flip side, when you apply 2,4-Db on peanuts, PhytoGen W3FE varieties are protected from drift because they can metabolize 2,4-Db without damage to the plants.”

This PhytoGen® W3FE variety was planted row to row with peanuts at the Enlist Experience Center in Leland, Mississippi, to illustrate the synergies producers gain when using the Enlist® weed control system in a cotton-peanut rotation.

Siebert explained that 2,4-Db is not labeled for use with Enlist crops, but the Enlist cotton trait provides crop safety against 2,4-Db drift.

It’s also a great advantage when it comes to tank cleanout, because it gives growers peace of mind. You always want to follow tank cleanout procedures. But with the Enlist system, you don’t have to worry about tank contamination between Enlist herbicides in cotton and 2-4Db in peanuts compared with what you may see when spraying dicamba on cotton near peanut acres.

In fact, many cotton-and-peanut producers have found they can use one sprayer for both crops, eliminating the investment and maintenance of a second spray rig. That alone has been an eye-opener for many producers.

“Last season, I was visiting with a group of growers who plant cotton and peanuts and said, ‘With this system, you can eliminate your second sprayer and save $400,000,’” Siebert said. “At first, they couldn’t believe it. When they realized they could manage cotton and peanuts with one sprayer, the switch to PhytoGen W3FE varieties became an easy answer for them.”

PhytoGen® brand PHY 411 W3FE is one of the newest PhytoGen varieties that provides OVT-winning yields, resistance to reniform and root-knot nematodes, and the benefits of the Enlist® weed control system.

Benefits with other crops

PhytoGen W3FE varieties also pair well with many small grains in the Cotton Belt. Grain sorghum is a popular crop in West Texas. Rice is often planted near cotton in the Midsouth, especially in Louisiana and Arkansas. Wheat is a common crop alongside cotton in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as in Kansas.

2,4-D amine is a widely used herbicide in those three crops, and like with 2,4-Db used in peanuts, PhytoGen W3FE varieties can metabolize the 2,4-D amine molecule without damage to cotton plants. Other popular auxin herbicides, such as fluroxypyr in grain sorghum and triclopyr in rice, also are metabolized by Enlist crops.

“2,4-D amine, fluroxypyr, and triclopyr are not labeled for use with Enlist crops, but if you have a little bit of off target movement from these herbicides into PhytoGen W3FE varieties, you're not going to have any issues in your cotton,” Siebert said.

“For growers who plant cotton near other crops — and that means most of the Cotton Belt — PhytoGen W3FE varieties and the Enlist system are a better fit compared with dicamba cotton,” Siebert said. “You’re going to save yourself from many of the typical challenges growers face when producing cotton alongside common rotational crops.”