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- “The three seed dealers in this area have said their seed sales indicate a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in cotton acres this year,” says Jay Hoover, Macon, Miss., who is growing the crop for the first time this year. And growers in the area say there are reasons to believe coming years will see more land coming out of soybeans and into cotton as irrigation capability increases and a new $6.5 million cotton gin begins operation this fall.
GROWING COTTON is a new experience for Jay Hoover, long-time grains and poultry producer at Macon, Miss. Area producers are diversifying into or expanding cotton acres as they increase irrigation capability.
Jay Hoover, first-time grower
He farms 1,150 acres of corn, soybeans, and now cotton, and has six poultry houses, producing 6 million pounds of broilers per year. He has been selected by shareholders to be manager of the new gin.
“We decided last summer to get into cotton as a step toward diversification and for the rotational benefits,” he says. “My sons-in-law have had an interest in our getting into cotton and we decided to give it a try this year. They’ve taken over the day-to-day farm duties to free me up to work with the gin, but I’m enjoying watching the progress of our first cotton crop.”
He has planted three varieties, Deltapine DP 0912, DP 1034, and DP 1048 in equal amounts. “We based our choices on yield trials in this area and on recommendations from our cotton scout.”
The cotton, planted on stale seedbeds and fertilized with chicken litter from their poultry houses, is all dryland this year, but last fall they cleared some timber and fencerows and this fall plan to build a reservoir to feed center pivots. It will hold 350 acre feet of water and can supply three center pivots covering 400 acres.
“I already have one 15 acre lake in place and have a permit to drill a well for irrigation,” Jay says. “With our farm layout, we could potentially irrigate a maximum 780 acres.
“Drilling the well would be a major step, because of the investment required. In this area, we’d have to go 1,400 to 1,600 feet to get adequate water flow. You’re talking $500 an acre just for water, not counting the pump, wiring, and other costs. In years like 2011, when irrigation would’ve made a huge difference in corn yield, at $7 a bushel, it could be justified. But, we can’t expect that kind of scenario every year, and right now, I’m just not sure I’m ready to take on that kind of debt, so we’ll proceed one step at a time.
“I would anticipate, however, that we will increase cotton acres in coming years. Even with irrigation, soybeans just don’t get the same boost that cotton does. As we expand cotton and irrigation capability, we’ll rotate cotton and corn.”