He usually starts the year’s work the first week of April  with a burndown application of Roundup, with Valor included as a residual.

“I do my burndown a little later than some,” Randy says, “but by waiting I’ll still have clean ground at planting and don’t have to put out Roundup behind the planter. I’ll put down fertilizer about a week before planting, and I like to plant around the first week in May.

"After planting, I’ll come in over the top with Roundup. Later, I’ll make a second shot of Roundup and apply Warrant or Dual as a residual for grasses and pigweeds. My lay-by application is usually diuron.

“I like to include residual chemistries to try and ward off glyphosate resistance. Thus far, I have two weeds — marestail and giant ragweed — that straight glyphosate won’t kill. Banvel and Valor with Roundup at burndown will take care most of the marestail. Envoke also works well.

“With the Phytogen Widestrike cotton, I can use some Ignite over the top for the ragweed. It will ding it up a bit, but the cotton grows right out of it. So far, I’ve had no resistant pigweed, and I feel the use of residuals has been a factor.”

His consultant, Brian Hayes, scouts weekly for insects, which, into mid-August, had been pretty light, Randy says. “We’ve had only scattered plant bugs and, in the last two or three weeks, some stink bugs.

“I’ve sprayed a few times, but nothing major to this point. We don’t seem to have as much of a plant bug problem here in the hills as they do over in the Delta.The Bt technology has greatly reduced spraying for bollworms. I’ll spray occasionally, but not often. Now and then I’ll have to spray for armyworms, but usually it’s just a few fields.”

He soil tests every third year and adds lime as necessary. “For many years, when fertilizer was cheaper, we’d apply more than probably was necessary, so we’ve benefitted from some residual fertility. Now, based on soil tests, I’ll usually apply 20 units of nitrogen, 45 units of phosphate, and 90 units of potash, followed by 80 units of nitrogen side-dressed.”

He usually begins defoliation in September, making applications in stages. “I’ll use generic Dropp to stop regrowth and a boll opening rate of ethephon . I like to have everything defoliated before I start picking — usually the last of September or first of October — so I don’t have to stop.

“If at all possible, I try not to do any scrapping; there usually isn’t enough cotton left to make it pay, and I like to run the Bush Hog right behind the planter to cut stalks.”

His cotton is ginned at Taylor/Lafayette Gin, just south of Oxford, and he markets it through Jess Smith and Sons. He usually starts picking the last of September or first of October.

Randy says they do about half of their equipment repairs and maintenance.“I’m a pretty good welder,” he says, “but I know my limitations, and I’m just a mediocre mechanic. There are some things I won’t try to do. I’d rather pay someone to do it right the first time than to try it myself three or four times and mess it up.

“I do like to keep my equipment in good condition, so I stay on top of things like oil changes, lubrication, and other maintenance in order to head off big problems. When I hire help, I make sure they know how to operate equipment properly and that they’re careful with it and don’t abuse it. My motto is: the better you take care of your equipment and tools, the longer they will last.”

Randy says he’d be interested in expanding his cotton acreage, “but all the available cropland in the area is being worked and not much changes hands. Lafayette County is one of the smaller counties in terms of total cropland, with timber and pastures being the predominant acreages.

“There are only four or five full-time farmers in this area, and it’s not unusual for land to be worked by the same people for 40 years or more.”