Cash Crops are King

Gary Strickland and Randy Boman analyze cotton bolls in southwestern Oklahoma. (Photo by Everett Brazil, III)

The SREC researches the best cropping systems for producers
By Everett Brazil, III

Cotton has long been the dominant crop in Southwest Oklahoma. Many area communities, such as Hollis, Altus and Carnegie, were built through the crop, and it remains the biggest cash crop in the region today. Many other cash crops grow well in the region, however, including wheat, canola and grain sorghum, offering producers a chance to diversify their operations in the face of declining markets.

Oklahoma State University researched into cropping systems across the state to find what works best. In Southwest Oklahoma, that research is being performed at the Southwest Research and Extension Center (SREC) in Altus, Okla. The work they are performing there may help area producers find the best systems for their operations.

The SREC works in conjunction with the Tipton Valley Research Center, Tipton, Okla., and the Caddo Research Station, Ft. Cobb, Okla.

The SREC focuses primarily on cotton. Many research plots relate to the study of the crop in the region, which not only includes new varieties to see how well they produce in the area, but basic studies like fertilization.

Randy Boman is the SREC Director. Boman wades his way into a heavily-bolled cotton plot south of Altus, which includes experimental varieties, coupled with current varieties available on the market through the Dow AgroSciences Enlist System, marketed under the Phytogen cottonseed label. The Enlist system was developed with tolerance to the herbicide, 2,4-D. Boman was impressed with the boll load in the 2017 crop.

Phytogen is not the only cottonseed variety under research at the SREC. Bayer CropSciences has their own cottonseed brands, FiberMax and Stoneville, and these varieties have also been studied, although with mixed results, Boman said, as some varieties may not be the best suited to Southwest Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

They have also held small plot trials, which include 21 varieties of Deltapine cottonseed, the flagship brand of Monsanto. Boman indicated that Deltapine varieties looked good for Southwest Oklahoma.

Cotton research at the SREC goes beyond testing new varieties, however, and seeks to study a variety of concepts, all related to cotton.

One unique project is an irrigation termination project, which attempts to find the best time to stop irrigation at the end of the season. The project is being performed with Saleh Taghvaeian, a researcher in the OSU Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department.

“The project is to evaluate the different termination dates for irrigation,” Boman said. “When do you water for the last time, and shut it off?”

One way to do that is through soil profile sensors, which can help determine the overall amount of moisture found within the soil profile. Those sensors can help save water, as it is found that there may be enough moisture for the crop within the soil profile. The sensors were set at depths of 10 in., 20 in. and 30 in.

“Irrigation sensors tell us what the profile moisture looks like,” Boman said.

Modern cotton cropping systems, including Monsanto Roundup Ready XtendFlex varieties, use Boll Gard II traits to protect against insect parasites. Further research is looking at Bollgard 3 varieties from All Tex and NexGen.

Pick up the December issue to learn more!