The awards program, supported by a grant to The Cotton Foundation from Farm Press Publications, recognizes cotton producers in each of the four Farm Press coverage areas who produce good cotton yields while taking good care of the land and water on their farms.
This year's recipients have done that despite a less than favorable price outlook, excessive moisture in some areas/drought conditions in others and rising input costs. For their efforts, they and their families were honored at the National Cotton Council's Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, January 7-10.
"The 2013 High Cotton Award winners are some of the most efficient cotton producers in the nation," said Greg Frey, vice president at Penton Media and publisher of the Delta, Southeast, Southwest and Western Farm Presses. "But they also do their utmost to protect the land, air and water. They represent the very best in environmental stewardship."
Conservation sometimes gets a bad rap in agriculture because it seems to divert dollars away from other tasks. But that criticism is not always deserved, according to this year's recipients.
Conservation practices helped Linwood Vick's family get back into growing cotton profitably after he returned to the farm following his graduation from the North Carolina State Agriculture Institute in 1997.
"We had a big problem with soil erosion," Vick said. "Early in the growing season especially, our conventional cotton was literally sandblasted by our fine, sandy soils. When Roundup Ready cotton came along, we switched to no-till cotton, soybeans, double-crop soybeans, and wheat. Our tobacco and sweet potatoes are grown with conventional tillage, so going no-till on cotton and soybeans helped improve the tilth of our soil and helped with those erosion problems."
Being "willing to try new things and think outside the box to address problems" helped Mid-South High Cotton winner Johnny Little be successful. Stewardship is synonymous with efficiency on the Little farm, and there's no better example of this relationship than his commitment to no-till. Little first adopted the practice 10 years ago, and it has proven to reduce labor requirements significantly while enriching the soil's tilth.
Like many Texas and Oklahoma growers, John Wilde still is battling the lingering effects of the Drought of 2011. Wilde produced more than four bales per acre on a field of drip-irrigated cotton near Miles, Texas, in 2012. He is committed to producing the best yields possible. He's also devoted to conserving soil and water so the land that has been in the family – some for as long as 100 years – will pass on to his heirs in better condition than when he took it over.
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