Grower Perspective

Finding the perfect peanut partner in cotton country

Riley Davis and other cotton producers say they’ve found an easier, less time-consuming way to manage weeds in a cotton-peanut rotation while increasing yields and profitability.

Cotton and peanuts are the perfect rotation on many farms from the state of Georgia to Gaines County, Texas.

Yet the relationship between cotton and peanuts is necessarily tenuous, as 2,4-Db from peanuts can be devastating to cotton. Farmers face additional challenges with the advent of dicamba-tolerant cotton varieties since peanuts, like soybeans, are extremely sensitive to dicamba.

Now cotton farmers in peanut country say they’ve found a solution that’s the perfect peanut partner. Riley Davis, a fourth-generation Georgia farmer in Terrell County, switched to PhytoGen® W3FE varieties in 2021 because the Enlist® weed control system is a better fit with his peanut acres. 

“We have a lot of fields where cotton and peanuts border each other, and we were having drift issues with 2,4-Db from peanuts over into cotton. That’s a big problem,” said Davis, who farms cotton, peanut, corn, soybean and wheat with his father, Glenn. “But the Enlist trait in the PhytoGen W3FE varieties has eliminated that problem. We didn’t have any drift issues this year. You can spray Enlist One on your PhytoGen varieties when peanuts are downwind, because peanuts aren’t a sensitive crop.”

Davis also said the spray tank cleanout is easier with Enlist herbicides, and the Enlist system eliminates the issue of dicamba residue damaging peanuts. That saves time and money.

“I am the spray man on our farm, so I see this firsthand. It takes hours to clean out a tank, and that’s time when you need to be spraying your crop,” Davis said. “The sprayer cleanout alone saves us a lot of time. It’s easier when both crops have resistance to a similar chemistry.”   

Innovations to leave a legacy

A diverse portfolio of PhytoGen brand varieties allows Davis to better manage his farm and try innovative techniques to increase yields. For example, he plants some cotton fields on 72-inch rows. And he chooses PhytoGen brand PHY 400 W3FE for those fields because of lower PGR requirements and high yield potential.

“PHY 400 W3FE doesn’t have heavy PGR requirements, so that saves us time and allows us to really push the fruit load on these plants,” Davis said. “We’ve been amazed what a cotton plant will do if you lower plant populations and give it more air and space. But you’ve got to have good emergence and vigor. That’s another reason we moved to the PhytoGen varieties.”

Davis has an eye to the future, as he hopes to pass along the opportunity to farm to his children. He focuses on excellent soil health and tries to reduce inputs, still aiming for maximum yields. Davis accomplishes both with varieties resistant to root-knot and reniform nematodes.

“These newer nematode-resistant varieties from PhytoGen help us fight nematodes and actually lower the nematode populations without using nematicides,” Davis said. “We’re focused on building up our soils, creating healthier soils with better soil structure. When we manage nematodes without nematicides, it saves us money and improves our soils, which helps us with fertility. We want to let the land do what it was intended to do.”

Simpler management, easier cotton

Like Davis, Alabama producer Tommy Mathews was interested in a better herbicide system for his cotton-peanut rotation. Managing weeds keeps him busy in the summer, so it pays to keep things streamlined by eliminating potential headaches.

“What I really like about these PhytoGen W3FE varieties is that you can use the same sprayer for your cotton and peanuts because you never have to put dicamba in your tank,” Mathews said. “It’s very difficult to get dicamba out of your sprayer, especially when you’re moving quickly from one field to the next. Eliminating dicamba applications is a big deal when you’re in a cotton-peanut rotation.”

Mathews also was interested in the built-in resistance to pests, such as reniform nematodes that were threatening his profitability. In 2020, Mathews worked with PhytoGen Cotton Development Specialist Russell Nuti, Ph.D., to plant a PhytoGen experimental variety with resistance to reniform nematodes. The experimental variety yielded 1,300 pounds per acre on dryland, whereas the top competitive variety on his farm yielded only 750 pounds.

That was enough to move Mathews to 100% PhytoGen brand varieties, with most fields in 2021 going to reniform-nematode-resistant PhytoGen brand PHY 443 W3FE. The yield increase, combined with lower input cost, gave him an immediate advantage.

“The PhytoGen varieties are producing better yields with fewer upfront costs,” Mathews said. “I’m 100% dryland and I have really bad reniform nematodes. Before these newer varieties, I had to use starter fertilizer and other inputs to get the crop up. That’s an extra $70 to $80 in the crop before I even know what the weather is going to do. If I can eliminate those costs and get a higher yield, that really helps my bottom line.”