Norton says he planted conventional cotton varieties in 2009, “thinking to save some money on tech fees. But I had to make five consecutive applications for bollworms, and that pretty much changed my outlook. If I wanted to take advantage of higher cotton prices, I needed to try and make as much yield as I could, so I went back to the stacked gene varieties. That proved a good decision when cotton topped $1 per pound.”

His cotton is ginned at Scruggs Gin, Belden, Miss., about 60 miles away, and is marketed through Staplcotn.

In years past, Norton has used poultry litter for fertilizer, “But the price has been continually going up and availability shrinking. To truck it long distances is just too expensive, so I’ve gone back to commercial fertilizer this year.

“I really like the litter, both from a fertility standpoint and adding organic matter to the soil. After just one year of using it, a zinc deficiency had been corrected and other micronutrient levels were improved. I bought a new spreader for the litter, but won’t get to use it this year. I was soil testing every year until I got fertility levels up, and now I test every three years on a rotational basis.”

Although he has grown soybeans in the past, Norton says he doesn’t foresee going back to the crop.

“Deer and drought are main reasons I’m no longer growing soybeans. The last year I had beans, 2008, I had to practically babysit them at night to keep deer from eating them up. And it was a drought year — I don’t have irrigation, and I was afraid I wouldn’t even get the yield I’d contracted. I had some bad memories of drought years and 11-bushel beans. Thankfully, some late rains turned the crop around and I had a 45-bushel average.

“Also, since soybeans are a legume crop, they don’t work well with peanuts. As long as cotton and peanuts are my main crops, I likely won’t grow any beans. I would like to add some corn into the rotation, though.”

He says he also wants to look into the possibility of drip irrigation on some of his land.

In addition to deer, Norton says wild hogs are also getting to be a problem in his area. “They’re extremely destructive, and can really mess up a peanut field.”