Cotton, Corn and Soil discussed at 54th Annual Stiles Farm Field Day
More than 100 producers from the Blackland region of Texas gathered at the Stiles Farm in Thrall, Texas, in mid-June for the 54th annual field day. Each year the field day highlights research being done at Stiles Farm as well as innovations in crop and livestock management.
Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension State Cotton Specialist, discussed cotton production and new technologies for weed and nutrient management in cotton.
“New herbicide technologies are not a silver bullet for weed control,” Morgan stated. “In order to get good control, producers must treat the weeds when they are four to six inches tall or smaller. Application time is critically important.”
Morgan also reminded producers to be vigilant in their application of herbicides to avoid drift to unintended areas. He stressed that Dicamba-based products have two year registration terms - after which time the products will be evaluated by the EPA and can possibly be removed from the market if too many problems have been reported.
“Keeping technologies on target will help keep those tools available to you,” Morgan said. “It also makes for better relationships with your neighbors!”
Morgan reported that, at the time of this field day, about 85% of the cotton production statewide was in fairly good condition. Dry land cotton in the high plains has taken a hit from the weather and is struggling from drught and hail events.
Dr. Jake Mowrer, AgriLife Extension Specialist in soil nutrient and water resource management, discussed fertilization rates and nitrogen stabilizer management.
“For best results with your fertilizer you want to be driving out of the field as the rains starts,” Mowrer stated, recognizing that more often than not the weather fails to cooperate.
Mowrer told producers that Urea, a common form of nitrogen, becomes ammonium when it comes in contact with water in the soil, then undergoes another change to become nitrate. Too much water will negatively affect how much of that nitrate becomes available to the plant. Excessive rain will wash the nitrates away, or cause them to pass through the soil too quickly to be available for the plants. Ponded (standing) water prevents necessary oxygen from penetrating the soil where it will be accessible to the plants' roots.
“If you want to manage your soil nutrients, you must first measure what is present,” Mowrer stated. “It is very important that you get a soil test.”
Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension Specialist for cropping systems, explained a corn performance test he is
conducting in which fixed ear and flex ear corn is planted at different seeding rates. Fixed ear corn varieties produce a consistent ear size regardless of plant numbers. With a flex variety, the ears will vary in size based on plant populations.
In his trial, Schnell noted that at seeding rates of 32,000 seeds per acre there was a fourteen percent drop in the number of kernels per ear in the flex varieties and a 6% drop in the fixed hybrid corn. However, there will be a balance between ear size and number of ears per acre that results in better yields.
“Try different planting rates,” Schnell suggested, “and use the planting rate which gives you the best yield for the cost of seed put into the field.”
In the sorghum trials, Schnell told producers that good yields have been realized in fields using more intensive management.
“We are only looking at a difference of $30 per acre between the high- and low-input trials,” Schnell explained. “We will see what yield differences are at harvest.”
Stiles Farm Foundation is a 2,800 acre operation in Thrall, Texas which was given to Texas A&M in memory of James E. Stiles. The farm includes 1,800 acres of crop land and a full scale commercial cattle operation.