Crop rotation fits like glove
Mike Adkins grows five crops at Rochester, Texas, with irrigation available for all.
But wheat, cotton and peanuts are the heart and soul of his rotation.
Adkins has flexibility to go all out for grain, or graze wheat during winter and then remove cattle in time for grain production, or simply graze out wheat if grain prices are lackluster and the beef market is strong.
Whatever he chooses to do with his wheat, he will come behind it with cotton.
“Here, I plant cotton into wheat stubble for erosion control,” he notes. “We plant cotton right behind the grain combine; we don’t plow the ground. Then we come in with Roundup for the weeds.”
With his center-pivot irrigation rigs, he has made up to 3.7 bales of cotton per acre with the cotton following wheat.
Adkins opts for Deltapine, FiberMax and Stoneville cotton varieties — all stacked gene with the Bollgard protection for worms and Roundup Ready trait for weeds.
He gets his cottonseed in the ground with a 10-row planter in 36-inch row widths.
“My 10 36-inch rows aren’t far from eight 40s,” Adkins notes. “But I don’t like to stretch beyond that.”
Overall, he typically makes about 2½ bales of cotton per acre in an average year.
The Boll Weevil Eradication Program has put weevils out of the picture, and Adkins has no insect problems.
He plants fast-maturing cottons, follows with harvest aids and has his crop out well before Thanksgiving, transporting the cotton to the Rhineland Co-op Gin.
• Wheat, cotton and peanuts are the heart of Mike Adkins’ rotation.
• Center-pivot irrigation and GPS technology make rotation work.
• Both cattle and horses can graze wheat or bermudagrass together.
Adkins has gone to more wheat in recent years; it has reduced his expenses, and the higher wheat prices two years ago moved him in that direction. And beyond rotating well with cotton, wheat fits with peanuts, too. His typical rotation goes wheat, cotton and then peanuts.
Center-pivot irrigation helps make the rotation work.
Adkins plants a complete circle of wheat to start the rotation. Then he comes immediately behind wheat with cotton in half of that irrigation circle. He fallows the other half of the circle and moldboard plows it, and comes back with peanuts the next season on that fallowed ground.
Beyond its success, the rotation also stretches water.
Top wheat varieties
Adkins likes Texas A&M wheat varieties. “We can make 80- or 100-bushel [per acre] wheat here,” he notes. “Two years ago, one circle of wheat made 120 bushels following corn.”
Besides occasional corn, Adkins also grows sorghum.
TAM 111 wheat has excelled for him in Haskell County. Two years ago, the Adkins operation averaged 85 bushels per acre overall in wheat with TAM 111. He has tried TAM 112, but TAM 111 beat it in his particular irrigated farming operation. He has stayed with it, and it looks strong this year.
Equipment technology helps his crop rotation, too. He has GPS satellite technology on all farm tractors.
“GPS lets us plant cotton right behind wheat and not worry about where rows are or having to set row markers,” he notes.
Cattle and horses together
Adkins prefers to buy 400-pound or lighter stocker heifers.
He can put both stocker cattle and quarter horses on wheat pasture — together — with no problems during winter.
In late spring, summer and into fall, Adkins can also run both cattle and horses together on coastal bermudagrass pastures.
When the heifers are big, he will place them with bulls.
Adkins then has the flexibility to sell them as bred heifers, let them calve and sell, or keep them as pairs.
“It gives me lots of flexibility,” he reflects.
Being able to run horses and cattle together adds flexibility, too.
This past season, Adkins put down anhydrous ammonia before planting wheat, and was able to run 100 brood mares and 150 heifers together on 215 acres of wheat for most of the winter.
The key is fertilizer.
“We can’t do anything on wheat in this country without anhydrous,” he concludes.
This article published in the April, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.