Lacour farms outside Morganza, Louisiana, on two rivers in Point Coupee Parish: the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya. “It’s about eight miles between them and that’s the region we farm.”

Pinched between the two rivers, Lacour says he’s still trying to figure out where newer cotton varieties fit best on his land. “Our soils are mostly alluvial although we farm some heavy clay ground. For years, we planted 555, which was excellent in our clay dirt. It didn’t do as well on our lighter soils on the riverfronts – it would grow too tall. … 1133 and 1137 look like they will do well on heavier dirt. We like 5288 in sandier soils.”

Every Delta farmer has to go through the same discovery process. “That’s a challenge for the cotton industry. When you get a new variety, what will it do? And where will it do it best?  What does well in Marianna, Arkansas, is not necessarily the best choice for Morganza. I’m a big proponent of test plots scattered all over the Mid-South because cotton is a unique creature.”

To help make decisions, “we’ve done university and company trials over the last 16 years. The companies have become more reluctant to release their varieties – corn, beans or cotton -- to the universities. … I’m not sure of all the reasons but I’m glad to be able to offer land for them to try varieties here. It helps me figure out the best options.”

In Louisiana, “we spend money promoting 15 to 20 on-farm variety trials scattered around the state. We only have 290,000 cotton acres here. That’s a lot of plots and we used to not back those. But we’re out seeking the new variety leaders. Now, moving into 2012, we have a much better handle on it. Coming into 2010, though, we had much less understanding.

“What hurts is … a variety that proves to be a disaster. You can’t stand that in this day and age. You can’t come back from that. With all the financial pressures now, it isn’t about trying to make the top yield in the state; it’s about not being caught planting the dog.”