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.
Setbacks and Challenges but Still Farming Strong
Mother Nature has not been kind the past few seasons to Brian McClam’s farming operation in Kingstree, South Carolina. Hurricanes, heat waves and droughts have made it a challenge to get crops to reach their full yield potential. Cotton has been especially hard-hit.
McClam lost practically all of his cotton in 2018, and the 2019 season is shaping up to be another tough go for his crop. The season began wet, then turned to record heat wave and drought conditions in May. Corn burned up, and cotton was set back two to three weeks in development. Eventually a rain fell and cotton began to fruit. Another heat wave and drought caused boll shedding in August.
Then, Hurricane Dorian swept by with 60-mph winds that flattened cotton plants. Through it all, McClam keeps a positive attitude. Although the stress is always there, he knows how to take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. Farming is in his blood, and he is proud to work the land.
It’s a challenging farming environment, but McClam makes it work with precision agriculture technologies and workhorse cotton varieties.
“Precision ag has really played an important role in moving us forward because we can apply variable rates of fertility across one field, and it has made a huge difference in yields. And consistent-yielding cotton varieties are what we plant.”
When it comes to seed selection, McClam, a Deltapine® New Product Evaluator (NPE), looks for cotton varieties that can handle drought stress, hold lint in the bur during stormy weather and provide consistent performance. Deltapine cotton has proven to provide these benefits for his farm.
“There are other brands of cotton we can plant, but they have not been as consistent as Deltapine [cotton] has been on my acres,” McClam says. “Consistency is important to a grower, and Deltapine [cotton] has always been the most consistent performer on my farm. When we choose a cotton variety, we want a workhorse, not a racehorse.”
His current go-to variety is DP 1646 B2XF, a variety that has demonstrated the ability to make outstanding yields during good growing seasons and hold onto to decent yield in the tough seasons like he’s experienced the past two years. While DP 1646 B2XF has been a solid performer on this farm, McClam is experiencing more bollworm pressure, and he is looking to move into Bollgard® 3 Technology.
“We need a Bollgard 3 XtendFlex® variety to take the place of DP 1646 B2XF, one that provides the type of consistent performance DP 1646 B2XF provides us,” he says. “We are closely watching the Class of ’20 variety candidates in our NPE plot, hoping one rises to the surface.”
Weed management on M3 Farms has been much more effective and cost-efficient since the adoption of the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System. McClam says he would not want to farm cotton without it.
“We can clean up fields with that program,” McClam says. “We are killing invasive weeds that we could not kill if we could not use XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology [Restricted Use Pesticide]. Without this technology, it would make farming cotton more expensive and fields less attractive.”
As one of 200 Deltapine NPE growers, McClam plants large plots of pre-commercial variety candidates for evaluation on his farm. He manages each variety candidate under his own farming system and unique challenges. Results are pooled with other NPE farm results for the Deltapine cotton development team to use in determining which candidates to advance to commercial planting status. The NPE Program is the final phase of Deltapine cotton variety testing.
Growers are confident in new Deltapine varieties because they know that NPE growers have evaluated and approved them. Deltapine NPE growers are the key to the program’s success and share a dedication to doing large-scale plot work correctly and a willingness to provide data and information for the benefit of their own farms and the entire U.S. cotton industry.