Grower Perspective

Southeast producers solve mysterious low cotton yields

Southeast cotton producers improved plant health and yields with something as simple as a variety change. Plus, better weed control. Read how the mystery was solved.

When yields took a mysterious nosedive on several of his best cotton fields, Drew Wendland didn’t waste time looking for answers — but answers didn’t come easy.

“It was one of our best cotton fields, and then everything suddenly changed from one season to the next,” said Wendland, who is based in Autaugaville, Alabama. “We had three years when we couldn’t get any vigor out of the plants. We couldn’t get the crops to shade the row middles. We were getting hammered, and we couldn’t figure out what was holding the field back.”

Wendland solved the mystery with a soil sample: reniform nematode populations had skyrocketed on their farm. As often is the case in agriculture, one answer leads to another question: How would they contend with the reniform nematodes?

“We tried planting fast-growing varieties, and we tried sidedressing nitrogen twice to give it a boost to push it through,” Wendland said. “We rotated to non-hosts and then came back to cotton, and it didn’t do much better. We just couldn’t get any results.”

That’s when Wendland heard about new PhytoGen® brand varieties with resistance to reniform nematodes. Working with Cotton Development Specialist Russell Nuti, Ph.D., Wendland planted PhytoGen brand PHY 443 W3FE with resistance to both reniform and root-knot nematodes. It’s a variety that performs well under various conditions and soil types, and it’s a game-changer against reniform and root-knot nematodes.

“The vigor was great — it looked so good from the time the cotyledons came out. It had perfect, beautiful leaves,” Wendland said. “It did a good job shading the middles early, and that helps me save an extra pass with herbicides.”

At the end of the season, Wendland said PHY 443 W3FE doubled his yield on the fields heavily infested with nematodes, bringing those fields back to a profitable level for cotton production.

“I need a variety that consistently returns yield, and PhytoGen helps us reach our yield goals by giving us an advantage over the reniform nematodes,” Wendland said. “I’m really satisfied with how it went. We were able to meet the goals we set with something as simple as a variety change. That’s the real proof.”

Better crop management across the board

Todd Brannon in Hartford, Alabama, also has seen the benefits of nematode resistance with PhytoGen W3FE varieties. Root-knot nematodes are prevalent in his soils, and PhytoGen brand varieties have allowed him to get better stands to set his crop up for success.

“We like to grow cotton, but we need varieties that will produce on these sandier fields — we need good yields to gather at the end of the season,” Brannon said. “That’s why we went with PhytoGen W3FE varieties. They come up, the vigor is great, and we get strong yields. It’s all about the yield."

Brannon said early season vigor and plants with better root systems allow the crop to make the most out of inputs, such as fertilizer. That’s a major economic factor when fertilizer prices remain high.

“Before these PhytoGen varieties, we’d have yellow plants and yellow spots in the field — you wouldn’t make any cotton,” Brannon said. “With these PhytoGen varieties, we’re using all the fertilizer we put out and getting the most from every acre. We saw a boost in yields from a bale up.”

Brannon also plants PhytoGen W3FE varieties because of the Enlist® weed control system. Enlist herbicides are a better fit for weed control on his farm because he’s in a cotton-peanut rotation.

“I love the Enlist system. We couldn’t grow cotton without it — we’d have solid pigweeds across the farm,” Brannon said. “Plus, the Enlist system is the best fit around peanuts. Even a little dicamba will kill peanuts, so the Enlist system is a good fit for us."