Southwest cotton producers are resilient, and they need cotton varieties that help them overcome their toughest battles and drive success on the farm for seasons to come. West Texas grower Steve Newsom found a new solution that solved two of his biggest production hurdles: root-knot nematodes and growing cotton near grapes.
Newsom’s 3,500 acres of cotton are planted into sandy soils with heavy root-knot-nematode populations. His neighbor introduced him to nematode-resistant PhytoGen® brand varieties while planting in 2022. After watching his neighbor’s crop, Newsom started doing research of his own.
“2022 was a difficult year,” Newsom said. “We were below average rainfall and in an intense drought for the better part of the year. My neighbor planted PhytoGen, and that piqued my interest. Despite the difficulties we experienced, his crop outshined everything else around it. After seeing that, I started looking into the nematode-resistant varieties PhytoGen has to offer.”
Newsom, who farms with his son, Keegan, planted his first field of PhytoGen® cottonseed in 2023. He said the results from his PhytoGen brand varieties were some of the best they’ve seen in well over 10 years. He also noticed a big difference in the acres they planted to PhytoGen cottonseed compared with acres planted to competitive varieties.
“The nematode resistance is legit,” Newsom said. “I really believe in it. We are seeing better stands, better growth and better yields than we would have without it — even in our fields with the worst nematode issues.”
The proof is in the grapes
Newsom’s interest in PhytoGen brand varieties went beyond nematode resistance. Along with his cotton, Newsom grows wine grapes, peaches and apples. Wine grapes are the second-largest crop on his farm and something he watched closely when his neighbor began planting PhytoGen® W3FE varieties and using Enlist® herbicides.
Because grapes are a sensitive crop, Newsom said, his vines have experienced damage from dicamba volatilization in the past. The leaves develop veins and cup into themselves when exposed. But he didn’t notice any damage on his grapes when his neighbor sprayed Enlist herbicides, which have near-zero volatility thanks to a special 2,4-D formulation called 2,4-D choline.
“My neighbor was right up against my grapes in two or three places, and I did not see any evidence of volatilization or herbicide damage whatsoever. Then, I saw the results from the PhytoGen Southwest Experience Center in Lubbock last summer. After that, my mind was open to spraying Enlist herbicides.”
Newsom put the Enlist® weed control system to the test on his own farm during the 2023 season. Again, he saw no evidence of volatilization or herbicide damage in his grapes. Newsom said the weed control he got from Enlist herbicides kept fields clean. Additionally, Newsom noted the effectiveness from the Enlist herbicides and his tank mixes were as good as anything he’s ever used. The results gave him peace of mind, and he will continue the new approach into next season.
“For my operation, the decision is really easy,” Newsom said. “There is no doubt we will plant PhytoGen again in 2024. We’re up against a lot of challenges right now, but with these new solutions, I’m optimistic about the future.”