“What I’ve seen for the past four or five years since we’ve done that is a big difference. You used to stand on a cotton-corn border and the cotton would look very thin, but now the visible difference is gone — attributable to the sprays. And logically, the sprays knock down the numbers of plant bugs that make it out into the center of your cotton fields too.”

Just five years back, the cotton-corn borders were noticeably thin and meager, but that contrast is gone — a testament to targeted insecticide sprays. A producer can do everything correct, but if plant bug control is off, the yields can be severely affected. “That’s where Rob Lewis comes in; he watches and scouts our fields for insects and does a great job. Insects can be your biggest enemy because you can miss two or three sprays and lose a bale per acre easily.”

 

For photos of Mattson's crew, see Mattson Farms hits banner cotton yields

 

The light insect year, right up until harvest, kept Scott on edge. There were no switches above the cotton; no evidence of bug damage and no portent of yield loss. He hoped a good crop was coming — but how good? “I was telling Scott, ‘I can’t find any bugs out there,’ and he was so nervous and got out there with a sweep net himself. I was trying to convince him and convince myself at the same time,” says Lewis.

And it wasn’t just cotton. Lewis couldn’t find insects in any of the Mattson crops, but the lack of damage was most significant for the cotton acreage. “If you never sprayed beans or corn the bugs can hurt you, but you can still make a good crop. However, with cotton, if you don’t spray and fight plant bugs, you will not be making a good crop — period.”

 

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Mattson’s 2,700 acres of cotton were split between five varieties: Deltapine 0912 and 1321; Phytogen 499; and Stoneville 4946 and 5288. “Every single one of those varieties has yield way up there,” says Scott. “You couldn’t pick a ‘best’ variety this year; all have gotten close to 4 bales at some location on our farm.” Depending on price and rotation, Mattson will probably plant between 2,700 and 3,500 acres of cotton when the 2014 planting season rolls around.