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Eye on inputs

Steve Alsabrook keeps a sharp eye on inputs at Alsabrook Farms at Haskell, Texas. He writes his own spreadsheets from cotton to cattle gains, or any other commodity in the diverse farming operation, and plugs in his input costs to figure his breakeven prices.

Key Points

• Steve Alsabrook is well-known for keeping a close eye on input costs.

• Alsabrook Farms uses both high-tech and conventional tools.

• Alsabrook can control weeds and insects without transgenic cotton.

Steve may be on his computers in his high-tech office doing everything from detailed spreadsheets to hedging crops, or finding the best deal on various production items, while wife Laura, who keeps the books, is somewhere in their farm home on her laptop computer.

Steve is a third-generation Texas farmer, and son Wesley, who farms on his own along with his father, represents the fourth generation. The crops include cotton, sorghum, sesame and wheat. In past ventures, Alsabrook Farms has tried diversifying with soybeans and seedless watermelon.

But make no mistake, cotton is king. “Cotton is our cash crop,” Steve assures.

Big machinery, precision help

He and Wesley use big machinery with state-of-the-art technology to farm a large acreage of cotton. This includes using real-time kinematic guidance for field operations. RTK is the highest precision of GPS correction available today. But Steve doesn’t use high-tech items just to be trendy if they don’t pencil out.

This unconventional guy actually has gone back to almost 100% conventional cotton varieties. Of the collective cotton acreage Steve and Wesley grew for the 2010 crop year, about 80% is conventional cotton and only 20% is Roundup Ready cotton.

“We actually started moving out of transgenic cottons three years ago,” Steve notes.

He says he began to see glyphosate was no longer controlling Palmer amaranth or careless weed (aka pigweed) and suspected herbicide resistance. At that same time, he notes, transgenic cottonseed had become extremely expensive.

With the Rolling Plains Central Zone also functionally eradicated of boll weevils, Steve says he only deals with occasional thrips, fleahoppers or aphids now — all of which he can easily control. So he doesn’t feel a need for transgenic cotton for insect control either.

Steve knows that not being “transgenic” sounds like blasphemy in today’s cotton world.

But it’s the high-tech equipment and some traditional herbicides that let him control weeds for clean fields. Curiously, he’s able to do this without preplant incorporated, or so-called “yellow herbicides.”

“We’ve found generic chemicals that work well for us in controlling both grass and broadleaf weeds,” Steve says.


CONVENTIONAL COTTON: Steve and Laura Alsabrook use a wide variety of high-tech tools at Alsabrook Farms at Haskell, Texas, but most of their cotton for 2010 was conventional varieties, like this Bronco cotton.

This article published in the November, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.