Farm Feature | Cotton

Tennessee Farmer Seeing Improved Weed Control

Cotton with XtendFlex® technology is making this crop king again in the South

Will Espey got out of college and rejoined the family farming operation around the time resistant pigweed became a costly problem in West Tennessee. He and his father watched as weed control costs soared and managing weeds became more difficult until 2017, when they turned to Bollgard II® XtendFlex® cotton.

Espey is a third-generation farmer in McLemoresville, Tennessee, where, along with his father, he oversees some 3,000 acres of cotton and 1,500 acres of corn in Carroll County. Their fields are mainly rolling hills, with a few smaller creek bottom fields that are tilled for drainage. The family also runs a cotton gin. Cotton is an important crop for their operation, and the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System is credited with keeping it viable for the farm.

"Being able to use dicamba in our cotton has improved weed control in our fields," he says. "Before, we were in a Liberty® herbicide system, using it and Roundup PowerMAX® herbicide, plus lots of residuals and other products, and were not getting adequate control."

When chemical measures failed, they turned to manual labor, chopping fields twice a month. Time is money, and that was time not well spent for the farm's employees. There were many other important things to do on the large farm instead of walking rows of cotton chopping out pigweed.

Battling a Prolific Weed

Since adopting Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton, the number of different herbicide products they've had to use to achieve control has decreased. This has resulted in fewer incidents of crop injury in young cotton. The reduction in the number of products being sprayed plus the elimination of the need to manually chop pigweed out of the cotton fields has decreased overall weed management costs for the operation.

Will Espey, McLemoresville, Tennessee

"We've reduced the amount of herbicide we've had to spray, and we've reduced weed pressure in our fields dramatically," Espey says. "And, we've seen a huge difference in time spent on weed management across the farm. We went from chopping cotton twice a month to not having to chop a single field with Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton."

He's also seen yield and fiber quality performance improve since planting Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton. Both DP 1518 B2XF and DP 1725 B2XF performed well in 2018 despite a rough harvest period of rainfall on open cotton. Both varieties have been planted again on the farm in 2019.

This season, the dicamba cutoff date in Tennessee is 60 days after cotton is planted. Espey's herbicide program is based on overlapping chemistries to get the crop to layby stage. The burndown application consists of Roundup PowerMAX herbicide and dicamba. He'll run Gramoxone® herbicide behind the planter. About 20 – 25 days later,

he'll make an application of XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology, a restricted use pesticide, plus Roundup PowerMAX herbicide with a residual product, such as Warrant® Herbicide (plus an approved DRA).

With any luck, that can hold the crop until layby, when the crop is canopying and shading out weeds. Espey has the ability to make another in-crop application of XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology if fields need more attention. Immediately after planting, he is watching fields for weed emergence.

"Pigweed is a prolific weed. If it were 85 degrees with some moisture in the ground today, you'd see them emerged tomorrow," Espey says with a laugh. "We try to hit them when they are small and easier to kill. Walking the fields is a must.

"Before cotton with XtendFlex technology, we could have a 100-acre field, and 50 acres would be nothing but pigweed," Espey says. "We've reduced our costs associated with weed control, our cotton crop is in better health and we're getting good yield and fiber quality. We would not want to farm cotton today without having the technology."

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