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Make cotton, wheat work together

Cotton and wheat are a good combination for young Stamford, Texas, farmer Justin Corzine.

After wheat harvest, he puts cotton on that ground the following year in May or June. That gives the land some rest between crops. When a cotton crop is harvested, he sows wheat, aiming to get the seed in the ground before Dec. 15. That’s the basic rotation that works for Corzine.

The extreme Texas drought has stretched many months, but Corzine, being in the central Rolling Plains, had until the June 20 deadline for his area to plant this year’s cotton crop. He prefers to plant cotton within a window of May 25 to June 10 in years where rainfall is sufficient. He plants rows on 40-inch centers, in a two-in-and-one-out skip-row pattern.

Key Points

Cotton and wheat rotation work for Stamford, Texas, farmer.

Keeping a handle on common weed and insect pests is a must.

Young farmers must deal with big-expense items to survive.


Being all dryland, the wide skip conserves moisture, he believes. Corzine uses a John Deere MaxEmerge eight-row cotton planter, but to get the wide skip, he just puts six row units on it.

This year, he opted for five varieties from both FiberMax and Deltapine stacked-gene cottons with the Bollgard II trait to control worms and Roundup Ready Flex for weed control.

Weed problems depend on the farm location. At Old Glory, ragweed actually is the biggest weed headache. But closer to Stamford, Palmer amaranth (aka pigweed or careless weed) and marestail (aka horseweed) are a real pain.

More recently, morningglory has become a bigger problem each year. “We are seeing it in more places,” Corzine says.

For now, glyphosate, or Roundup, is still doing a good job on weed control, and that works with his cotton varieties.

Volunteer cotton, especially when it appears in wheat fields, is treated as a weed. Corzine doesn’t want volunteer cotton messing up his wheat rotation, or giving a boll weevil any chance to re-emerge and hide.

Insects to watch

The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program has done an outstanding job of controlling the boll weevil, Corzine notes, removing a huge headache for cotton growers like him. With the boll weevil out of the picture, he will concentrate this year in scouting for fleahoppers in cotton during the early growing season. He will later watch for aphids.

“It’s not every year that we have worms in cotton, but in a year that we do, then we definitely have worms,” Corzine says. “When they’re here, they’re really here. So Bollgard II cotton lets us not have that concern. It’s well worth it — money well spent.”

Without the boll weevil, everything else can fall into place, he says. Down the stretch, Corzine will use growth regulators, if needed, followed by harvest aids to get cotton gathered. In the wetter years, he will use Pix growth regulator.

The last couple of years, he has used more harvest aids to get the cotton defoliated and ready to harvest in a timely manner. For one, he doesn’t want to leave cotton in the field for weeks waiting on a killing freeze to drop the leaves eventually. That can vary greatly on the Rolling Plains. In addition, he feels today’s transgenic cottons, which he plants, seem to respond better with harvest aids.

When the cotton is ready, Corzine has a John Deere 7450 cotton stripper to harvest the crop.

His father, Keith, also has a cotton stripper, and when they harvest cotton together, the duo can get over a lot of ground.

Corzine takes his cotton to the Farmers Cooperative Society Gin of Stamford for ginning. He markets cotton from all but one of his farms through the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association pool.

Big expenses

Cottonseed has become one of the big expenses for Corzine, but he thinks stacked-gene cotton is worth it.

Equipment is a big-ticket item, too, but pooling some equipment with his father has helped them both. Sometimes, when his father upgrades machinery, Corzine is able to buy some of his old equipment.

The price of diesel is sky-high this season. Corzine keeps field trips to a minimum, and just driving around the farm, he often uses his Jeep Wrangler, which he says saves on fuel.

Corzine plans on getting an air seeder for planting wheat, instead of the 30-foot grain drill he has, or the 35-foot drill his father has. It should mean greater efficiency.

He also believes in being careful about what type of equipment he buys and when, and how much he pays.

Corzine does his bookkeeping on his computer, pays some bills on the computer and orders parts online. He uses Quicken software.

The exception is seed and chemicals. With that, he wants a face-to-face meeting with the sales representative. He stays up on agricultural news primarily on the Internet.

If commodity portions of the next farm bill are greatly cut, he says the loss of direct payments — while bad — wouldn’t be as devastating as losing either a loan price support or the subsidy for crop insurance.

Loss of the last two would have a huge impact. For now, Corzine says he will keep his cotton and wheat rotation.

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HE LIKES RESIDUE: Justin Corzine checks the soil on one farm for any moisture and residue before planting cotton. He spent 8½ years with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service before turning to full-time farming.

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DADDY’S GIRLS: Stamford, Texas, farmer Justin Corzine gets solid support from his wife, Amber, and their daughters Ariel, 4, and Jacy, 2.

This article published in the July, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.