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Learn how producers in the Oklahoma Panhandle and southern Kansas are seeing improved profits on their irrigated acres with newer cotton varieties.

Producers in the Oklahoma Panhandle and southern Kansas say they’re penciling better profits on their irrigated acres with newer cotton varieties, compared with some traditional crops for the High Plains.

Until about six years ago, Russell Isaacs primarily planted his irrigated acres to a corn-wheat rotation like many farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Then he began looking at cotton as a way to better utilize the water available in his area.

“The economics for irrigated wheat are not good, and we don’t have enough water to plant corn on all of our acres,” Isaacs said. “Now our primary irrigated rotation is cotton and corn, so we’re able to split the summer irrigation and not run the pivots year-round. That has helped our water situation quite a bit.”

Isaacs initially tried to add cotton to his mix in 2011. But the traditional 2,4-D sprayed on harvested wheat acres often drifted on cotton fields, causing herbicide damage. Cotton did not seem like a viable option until PhytoGen® cottonseed launched varieties with the Enlist® cotton trait in 2017. That changed everything, because the varieties have inherent tolerance to 2,4-D choline.

“When PhytoGen W3FE varieties came out, it opened up the cotton world to us,” Isaacs said. “Ever since that first season, we’ve planted 100% of our cotton acres to PhytoGen cottonseed.”

Isaacs shoots for 4 bales/A on irrigated acres, and PhytoGen® brand PHY 400 W3FE is an all-around good performer that often hits that goal. He even topped 5 bales/A on a circle a few years ago with PhytoGen® brand PHY 350 W3FE. In 2023, Russell will add newer PhytoGen® brand PHY 411 W3FE to his mix.   

“I love raising cotton, and it has opened up a lot of rotational benefits for us,” Isaacs said. “PhytoGen has really stepped up to be a trusted partner for our farm and brought us varieties that work well this far north.”

Due east in Mulvane, Kansas, Ian Parker includes cotton in his operation with corn, soybeans and wheat. He started planting cotton about five years ago, when he saw the return on investment beat some of the best corn and soybean yields.

Parker has increased cotton acres every year since then, and he planted PhytoGen W3FE varieties for the first time in 2022. Like Isaacs, Parker wanted to protect his cotton acres from traditional 2,4-D applied to harvested wheat fields.

“In our area, traditional 2,4-D is sprayed all around us on wheat stubble,” Parker said. “We had previously planted different varieties, but we went with PhytoGen W3FE varieties because they are protected from traditional 2,4-D applied on wheat. They are a good fit for us.”

Because he’s located on the northern edge of the Cotton Belt, Parker emphasized the importance of early season vigor to get a stand growing quickly. 

“In this part of the world, we have a very small planting window, and we need something that has a good cool germ and good seedling vigor so we can get a stand established,” Parker said. “I was very happy with the seedling vigor of PhytoGen cottonseed.”

In 2022, Parker planted cotton on irrigated, limited water and dryland acres. PhytoGen® brand PHY 400 W3FE yielded 2,200 lb./A on full irrigation, and PhytoGen® brand PHY 332 W3FE produced 1,800 lb./A on limited water. Those yields have Parker considering a new rotation strategy in 2023.

"I was very pleased with our irrigated cotton," Parker said. "We've primarily had a corn-soybean rotation on our irrigated acres, but we're thinkning about going with more of a corn-cotton rotation next season."