The NPE Program is the industry’s premier testing and commercialization program. The nearly 200 growers who make up the NPEs play a key role in making Deltapine® cotton varieties the industry's strongest.
Farming in His Blood, Deltapine Varieties in His Fields
Farming in the Southern Rolling Plains of Texas is all Ralph Kellermeier has ever known, and there is no other profession in which he’d rather be involved.
“I love it,” said Kellermeier. “Farming gives me the freedom to do what I want to do every day. The amazing thing is that we put a little seed into the ground in the spring and grow and manage it to harvest in the fall. I’m not sure most people understand what that work entails, or how rewarding it is for growers to see the finished product in their fields. It’s exciting.”
Kellermeier’s grandfather got into cattle farming in 1909, near the Concho River. His dad eventually joined his grandfather and together they grew the farm to include 1,500 acres for cultivation east of San Angelo in Mereta. Today, Kellermeier and his brother, Glen, run a 5,000-acre farm, with both of their sons working into the business. They plant about 3,000 acres of cotton, mostly on irrigated ground in a community called Veribest, with water supplied from a reservoir fed by a series of canals developed for the region in the 1950s.
The 2019 growing season began wet, but winter and spring rainfall had the reservoir full, providing growers ample water for irrigation. That was a good thing because the summer turned hot and dry, significantly impacting dryland cotton performance in the region.
“We had the most water available to us for irrigation in 25 years,” Kellermeier said. “While the dryland cotton burned up, almost everything irrigated ran 4 bales to the acre for us, and 4 to 4.5 bales per acre on really good fields.”
Take the Odds
A Deltapine® New Product Evaluator (NPE), Kellermeier has been at the forefront of helping bring better-performing varieties to the market. He has planted Deltapine varieties for 31 years, he estimates, and it comes down to consistent yield and fiber quality performance.
“The main reason I plant Deltapine is that it seems like their varieties are better suited for our climate,” he said. “Yield performance is another reason. Deltapine varieties just seem more consistent than other brands. In our experience, when we’ve tested a Deltapine product against other brands over 10 years, while Deltapine might not win all 10 years, it will win 8 or 9 of them. I’ll take the odds of planting Deltapine year in and year out.”
The primary cotton variety planted on Kellermeier Farms lately has been DP 1646 B2XF, a solid performer in terms of yield and fiber quality for his operation. For production seed in 2019, they planted a 38-acre field and a 30-acre field to DP 1840 B3XF. The Class of ’18 variety is going to average about 4 bales per acre, according to Kellermeier, likening its performance to DP 1646 B2XF.
“DP 1840 B3XF was one of those cotton [varieties] that jumped out of the ground with no issues and never slowed down,” he said. “It grew perfectly the entire season, start to finish. Folks wanted to stop to take photos in the fields. I really enjoyed the way it grew and performed.”
Kellermeier believes DP 1840 B3XF can be as important or perhaps even more important than DP 1646 B2XF on his farm going forward. “DP 1646 B2XF is a great variety, but I also think DP 1840 B3XF is a good option, especially when I think about the possibility of heavy bollworm pressure in the future. A season with adequate rainfall could bring them in.”
Better Varieties for Growers
As Deltapine NPE growers, the Kellermeiers plant and evaluate pre-commercial variety candidates in large-acre plots under their own crop-management systems. Their feedback at the end of season, along with feedback from a couple hundred other NPE growers, helps determine new Deltapine varieties to launch into the market each season. It’s a program his farm has gotten much value from, but Kellermeier also sees benefits for others outside of the NPE Program.
“Many growers ask me what’s in the plot and what the pipeline of new varieties looks like,” he said. “And, while I do get a lot of good information from being in the NPE Program, the program is doing a lot of good for everyone. With the NPE Program, we have discovered varieties that fit our region. We are proving that they will perform for growers here.”
In November, Kellermeier was in a local coffee shop with other growers talking shop. As usual at that time of year, the conversation turned to the NPE plots on Kellermeier Farms. His neighbors wanted to know what he saw in the Deltapine Class of ’20 variety candidates this season. He had lots to tell them about.
“I am really excited about some of the candidates for the Class of ’20,” he told them.
It’s yet another reason why he loves to farm.