Larry McClendon grew his 41st cotton crop in 2014. A third generation grower, McClendon also grows corn, soy beans, milo, wheat and rice. Sustainability is important on the McClendon farm where the goal is to leave the land in better condition than when he received it. McClendon includes soil, water, trees, wildlife and all the surrounding land under that definition.
“Growing cotton is about stewardship and economics but with me there was always a deep satisfaction in cotton that I cannot explain. Although I grow other crops, my appreciation for them never compared to cotton. It is like experiencing 1,000 acres of roses in bloom.”
To be more responsible, over the years, McClendon has incorporated several technologies related to water, fertility and soil health into his cotton farming operations.
- Phaucet furrow irrigation is a computer-driven program to maximize water efficiency across the farm with the least amount of evaporation or run-off. Drop nozzles are also installed on all pivots which release water closer to the soil surface to prevent evaporation. In effect, about 95% of the water pumped hits the soil surface and absorbs into the ground, compared to about 70% efficiency with sprinkler methods.
- McClendon has been using precision sampling for over 15 years to tailor nutrient applications and only apply fertilizers when and where absolutely necessary. Veris® sensors allow McClendon to map the fields and identify each soil type by location. In addition, precision soil sampling using GPS location is completed every two or three years to manage field variability and precisely manage nutrient inputs. The Veris® mapping combined with precision soil sampling enables McClendon to make adjustments in fertility that traditional soil testing alone may not show. The use of these technologies has enabled McClendon to apply variable rate fertilizer and significantly reduce fertilizer inputs by about one-third.
- McClendon maintains and improves soil health and conservation by employing less tillage and using cereal rye as a cover crop. Cereal rye generates significant biomass which builds organic matter in the soil, suppresses weeds, as well as protecting the soil from erosion and improving water infiltration. The rye also creates a wind break in the field to protect young plants until they are strong enough to withstand wind.
Growing cotton, like other crops, is a business driven by stewardship and economics. Using responsible technologies, McClendon is able to produce more cotton with fewer and fewer inputs. Not only does this significantly reduce the cotton’s impact on the environment, it is good for business too.