Kansas doesn’t typically come to mind when most people in the industry talk about cotton, but that has been changing over the past few years. In 1995, there was a mere 3,200 acres of cotton in the state. By 2019, the acreage had increased to 175,000 acres.
“I originally decided to grow cotton because of the potential for a greater return on investment,” says Brian Bretz, a grower in Moundridge, Kansas, approximately 40 miles north of Wichita.
Bretz has a diversified farming operation that includes corn, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat. Last season was his third year to grow cotton. His company — Blazefork Farms — now contributes 1,200-1,500 cotton acres to Kansas’ overall planted acreage.
As cotton growers across the Belt might imagine, variety selection on the north reaches of the Cotton Belt is critical.
“In 2020, we planted PhytoGen 210 W3FE and NexGen varieties,” Bretz says. “Basically, we choose varieties that have traits similar to what they plant in Lubbock, Texas. This far north, earliness is obviously an important consideration when it comes to cotton.
“Variety selection is not the only important factor we consider in our cotton program. We also look at factors such as pesticides and how we can get the crop off to a good start. Earliness means a lot when you have limited heat units in the growing season.”
Nematodes and thrips are two key pests Bretz faces in cotton. “Most of our pest issues are early season problems,” he says. “Thrips are definitely a problem, especially when the wheat dries up. They start migrating to greener options.”
The neighbor who suggested Bretz give cotton a try three years earlier also recommended he use AgLogic aldicarb for early season pest control. “I think because we used aldicarb, we didn’t have a significant problem with thrips. The only regret I have is that I didn’t have a test strip to evaluate exactly how it helped us with early season pests.”
Bretz applied AgLogic aldicarb at 6 pounds per acre on 30-inch rows. A variable often difficult to determine outside a replicated trial setting is the effect of yield-robbing nematodes.
“I know my fields have nematodes,” Bretz says. “Even though we rotate with other crops, I believe that’s another advantage that AgLogic aldicarb provides.”
Seed treatments versus after-planting in-furrow applications are always a consideration, Bretz says. “In 2020, I purchased seed with the extra treatments. For the coming season, I plan to purchase seed with only the basic seed treatment at about $3-$5 (per acre). That will save me about $20 (per acre) to go toward aldicarb. I think it gives me a better range of pest protection and the earliness factor that is so critical in this area.”