By the time a bag of NexGen seed reaches you, it represents a long and complicated process, starting years earlier in the various research, breeding, and testing phases. Then eventually the seed reaches the final production steps, when it’s actually planted, harvested, ginned, cleaned, and bagged for sale.
Americot contracts with a select network of exceptional growers around the country to produce our seed, and one of the best is Ware Farms in the Dome Valley area of Arizona, near Yuma. A fifth-generation family farm, the operation is led by William Ware and his adult children, daughter Megan and son Jake.
“My dad and my grandfather started planting cotton years ago,” William explained, “and now we rotate it with produce. We also have alfalfa and Bermudagrass. We generally plant about 800 – 1200 acres, and it changes from year-to-year.”
Among those many acres over the past years have been 10 – 12 NexGen varieties, which the Wares grow for both lint and seed, as well as for our annual ACE Trials. They’ve been producing seed for Americot for several years.
After a cotton crop has been ginned, the separated seed is tested in a lab for quality, consistency, and integrity of traits. Naturally, Americot wants all NexGen products we sell to be of the highest possible quality, so the seed has to meet strict requirements.
“We always get good seed from the Wares,” said Max McGuire, Field Production Supervisor at West Gaines Seed in Eloy, Arizona. West Gaines Seed is the processing facility that evaluates the crop and then bags the approved seed for Americot commercial sales.
“The Wares really know how to care for their cotton crops,” added Max. “They make sure that everything gets done right.”
“They’re some of our best growers,” agreed Karen Geldmacher, the Americot germplasm specialist in Arizona who has worked with the Wares for more than four years. “They’ve dedicated themselves to advancing our brand.” The Ware family is clearly committed to producing superior seed for Americot, and because the area around Yuma is ideal for growing cotton, they can choose to plant a wide range of varieties with different maturities.
“We start with the early-to-mid-maturity varieties in February or March, so we can follow that crop with produce,” William said, “but planting that early means we’re dealing with borderline temperatures.”
“We aim for mid-February,” added Jake, “but our rule is that we don’t plant if we have to wear gloves.”
By planting several different varieties, the Wares can stagger their harvesting schedule, with the first crops normally being picked in August or early September.
In addition to managing their own cotton, the Wares operate a custom-harvesting business for other farms in the area, using four big John Deere harvesters.
“There are about 12,000 acres of cotton in Yuma County,” Jake said, “and we pick about 6,000 of them.” “It’s two straight months of brutal work,” added William.
Between the harvesting business and the year-round crop production on their own farms, the Wares maintain a full-time staff of 13 employees.
“We like being able to keep people going all year, especially since most of them are friends or family,” said William with a bit of a laugh. “We’re fortunate to have so many good people around us, and we love working with Karen.”
Yet regardless of the many staffing needs, it’s still a family farm in every sense. William’s daughter Megan has been actively involved in daily operations for the past year, following the sad passing of her mother, Heather. Mrs. Ware had been a vital part of the business, and Megan has now seamlessly picked up those responsibilities.
“Megan really stepped up for us after I lost my wife last year,” said William. “And we’re lucky that she and Jake and I think alike.”
“It’s brought us closer as a family,” Megan said. “We make decisions together, and we’ve learned a lot about each other.” Megan now has two young children of her own, so the sixth generation of the Ware family is already underway.
“It’s a bonus for the Wares to produce high-quality seed for NexGen, so they want value-added varieties that perform well,” said Karen. “Some of their favorites are NG 3406 B2XF for the shorter maturity, and NG 4936 B3XF and NG 5711 B3XF for longer seasons.”
“When choosing varieties, we look for seed size and vigor,” said William. “We want that push power for strong germination. We also really like the traits and technology in NexGen seed.”
Out of all the NexGen varieties the Wares have planted, perhaps the biggest success they’ve had has been with NG 5711 B3XF. “We typically get five bales out of the 5711,” said William. “We made 5.4 bales in 2019, 5.5 in 2020, and 5.4 again last year.” “He’s a rock star with that one!” said Karen enthusiastically.
“NG 5150 B3XF was another big hit for us,” agreed Jake, who makes most of the decisions about what to plant. “It blew the doors off on yield. We also had really good luck with 4936 B3XF, on a lot of different soil types and elevations. We’re beyond happy with NexGen. They’ve got seed for every situation.”
Americot is grateful and honored to be partners with the Wares for their outstanding seed production, and every grower who buys NexGen varieties is a beneficiary of the extra effort and commitment that our production operations deliver.
“It’s a lot to do,” said William in conclusion, “but I still look forward to going to work every day.”
by Jim Steadman, Cotton Grower Magazine; Used by permission
Joe D. White has been farming in the Davidson, OK, area for roughly 45 years. Cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat, cattle – all are part of the family farm operation he manages with his son Austin. The land – and the way they manage it – is multi-generational. He’ll tell you that good years and bad years are just part of farming in that area along the Red River. But even the good years didn’t quite prepare him for a whopping 5.4 bale per acre cotton yield in 2021.
Ask him how it happened, and he’ll tell you it was a bit of luck and a lot of blessing.
“We were blessed,” says White. “We don’t do much different than we do every year, but I guess we happened to be in the right spot at the right time. All I can tell you for sure is we planted it and took care of it, and the water just happened to be right.
“We made 2,558 pounds per acre in that field,” he adds. “We had quite a bit of 3-bale and 4-bale cotton on our irrigated acres, while our dryland cotton was between ¾ and 2 bales per acre. In all, it’s probably as good a crop as we’ve ever had on average.”
The variety of choice for that record field was NexGen 4936 B3XF.
White describes their farming operation as not too big and not too little – just a good sized farm by Oklahoma standards.
The Whites farm together, but each manages his own acres and crops – much like White did when he started farming with his father in the late 1970s. Together, they share equipment, labor, and expertise. Between the two of them, they have eight irrigation circles. Roughly ¾ of their total cotton acres are dryland. Two full-time farm hands and a full-time cowboy to help tend the cattle make up the rest of the farm team, with everyone pitching in to do a little bit of everything when and where needed.
“I’ve been growing cotton for as long as I could drive a tractor,” recalls White. “Oklahoma is growing more cotton now because the profitability of wheat hasn’t been that good over the past few years. Dryland acres have picked up.”
That’s not to say that cotton farming in southwest Oklahoma is easy.
“Around here, yields are so inconsistent that you can’t depend on anything,” says White. “You may harvest a bumper crop one year and not harvest anything the next. You really have to play the averages.”
Weed control is another factor influencing cotton acres, and it’s getting tough enough to make White consider backing off cotton acres a bit this year.
“We’ve always had pigweed, but now we’re getting grasses that we can’t control,” he says. “Grasses used to not be a problem, but they’re beginning to be. We’re probably going to add a little more corn to our mix this year. We need to get to where we’re rotating crops a little bit better, and corn will help us get back to that.
“My dad always said we just farm by the seat of our pants,” he laughs. “And that’s probably true. There’s no set pattern of what we do from year to year. The markets kind of determine what we do. You have to be able to adjust and change your plan.”
“For example, right now we’re just super dry,” he adds. “We have to plan that way too. We can’t do the same thing every year because every year’s a little bit different.”
Shane Osborne, Southwest Sales/Agronomist for Americot who works closely with the Whites, thinks they’re probably being a bit too modest.
“Their success is a function of taking an educated approach to everything they do,” says Osborne. “While a lot of farmers just do what their fathers and grandfathers taught them, the Whites are always focused on finding helpful information and education. I would say their talent is putting words into action. If they learn a new principle that helps them be more efficient or effective, it is instantly adopted and executed with great timing.”
The Whites have discovered the advantages that new farming technologies can provide for their operation. Austin, an Oklahoma State graduate who has been back on the farm full time for about five years, has driven some of that technology growth.
“The biggest thing I really enjoy is the ability to control your irrigation from your phone,” says White. “It’s not 100%, but what we have sure is nice. So is the GPS and RTK on the tractors. I used to figure I’d never use something like that, but now I can say I can’t live without it.”
Like many farm operations, the Whites struggle with labor concerns, knowing that they’re fortunate to have a good team in place. When it comes to harvest, they do reach out for additional help.
“We have a round bale stripper and run it as hard as we can on dryland acres and do as much as we can with it,” White says. “On irrigated acres, we have a picker crew come up from south Texas. They’ve been helping us for years. We even picked some of the dryland acres this year just to get through with harvest in a timely manner.”
Now, back to that 5.4 bales per acre yield. White will tell you he likes to support people and companies that are U.S. owned and operated. Doing so, he believes, is helpful for everyone. It’s one of the reasons he leans heavily on NexGen varieties.
“They are 100% American owned,” he says. “They have good varieties, and they work well. Like all other seed companies, they do have varieties that don’t particularly fit what we do, but they also have a lot of varieties I do like.”
In other words, the varieties, and the Whites both work hard.
“It seems like we work all the time, and that’s pretty much by choice,” notes White. “We like what we’re doing. I do look forward to slowing down, but I don’t look forward to quitting. We’re still growing and doing new things. Really and truly, if you’re not growing at least a little bit, you’re kind of backing up.”
And what about expectations for that prized cotton field in 2022?
“I told someone that yield may have been the worst thing that happened to us,” he laughs. “We can’t think that’s normal. But it does put a smile on your face. And in this business, you need a good time every now and then. It helps.”
Whether you’re talking about a football game, a military battle or a cotton crop, the likelihood of achieving successful results can depend on the strategy you lay out beforehand. Of course, even the best plans and goals have to be adaptable when you get hit with surprises.
When it comes to cotton varieties, Dane Mullins knows just how that works. He and his family operate 5M Farms, which features about 5000 acres of cotton, wheat, and sorghum on land near Silverton that Dane’s wife’s family has worked “forever,” as he described it.
Given their many years of experience, the team at 5M has gotten really good at being able to adjust when Nature shifts things around on them – and NexGen has been part of that. A number of our varieties were planted at 5M in 2019, including NG 3930 B3XF, a new Bollgard 3 variety which was a late addition to Dane’s program as a result of a change in plans.
“We usually go for longer-season varieties on our dryland acres, but last year we ended up having to replant late,” he explained. “So then we tried the NG 3930 with its shorter maturity, and it really worked for us.”
One of the newest offerings from NexGen, NG 3930 B3XF is a widely adapted, earlyto-medium maturity variety that features both the latest Bollgard® 3 genetics and XtendFlex® Technology. Developed to excel on dryland and limited-water scenarios, especially on Verticillium wilt acres, 3930 has excellent seedling vigor and outstanding fiber quality.
“With our light water situation, we can’t really grow for yield, so grade and quality are more important to us,” Dane added. “And stress tolerance is key.”
Other NexGen varieties that 5M used successfully last year include NG 4545 B2XF, NG 4777 B2XF and NG 4689 B2XF, all with proven Bollgard II® Technology for worm protection. Like the NG 3930 variety, those popular medium-maturity varieties also offer superior Verticillium wilt tolerance and an excellent fiber package.
“They gave us the quality we wanted,” Dane said. “The NG 4545 was better than anything.”
The NexGen varieties he planted are also known for having exceptional seedling vigor, which is a feature that has impressed Dane.
“That seed is really good at coming up out of the ground,” he added, “and it doesn’t quit.”
Dane says he’s been a loyal customer of Americot and has planted our varieties or grown NexGen cotton for about 15 years, but his life has gone through many other changes during that same time span. He and his wife Lori are the parents of four young boys, aged 12, 8, 4 and 2. Maybe that helps explain why he’s so good at being adaptable.
You’ve probably heard the old expression “Tried and true,” which usually refers to a product or a process that has worked well in the past, and therefore continues to be trusted. For some growers, that same attitude can apply to cotton seed varieties.
Trey Ziegler of Silverton, Texas, is a good example. He and his father, Brad, are partners on their Circle Z Farms, a sprawling operation that produces both dryland cotton and irrigated cotton.
As for the tried-and-true aspect of their cotton growing, the Zieglers are big fans of established NexGen® XtendFlex® varieties. Those include Americot’s popular seed choices which have proven to perform without containing the well-known Bollgard® trait in them.
Cotton with disease tolerance is an important factor in Trey’s decision-making, along with the XtendFlex Technology to help them deal with glyphosate resistant weeds. But otherwise, he’s not that concerned about including additional insect-protection traits.
“We didn’t have to spray for worms this year,” Trey said, when discussing Bollgard technologies, “but I know worms can be real bad for some people. We have a consultant who comes out and checks our fields for eggs, but it wasn’t a problem for us.”
The Zieglers are getting very good yields and fiber quality from the NexGen varieties they planted, so for the time being, Trey said he doesn’t feel the need to include other traits. “The NG 3500 variety was awesome,” he said, “and the NG 4792 was just as good. It’s a longer maturity and gave us good staple.”
NG 3500 XF is an early-medium maturity variety with an excellent fiber package, and NG 4792 XF is known for its exceptional disease tolerance, especially on wilt and blight pathogens. Both varieties are ideally suited for the high plains of Texas and southwestern Oklahoma, with reliable performance on either dryland or irrigated acres.
The Zieglers have been farming their land for at least five generations, and the next one is already in place — Trey and his wife Brandi have a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. The future has a lot of exciting potential for them.
As for future cotton plans, Trey admitted that he’ll probably be willing to try the new Bollgard varieties at some point. For now, though, he’s happy with his current choices, and the proof is there at harvest time.
“Trey and Dane have a great work ethic,” added Derrel, their Americot sales representative. “They’re good young farmers, and we need more of them.”
When it comes to making good choices about growing cotton, West Tennessee grower Drew Bailey is a perfect example.
Actually, the positive results of Drew’s effective decision-making go back even further in his life.
“I’m the fourth generation of my family here on the farm, so I grew up around agriculture,” he said, “but I wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted to do with my life.” After graduating from high school, Drew left home to attend Middle Tennessee State University, where he majored in History and Geography. “My Mom really wanted me to get a college degree,” he added.
But eventually, Drew realized he wanted to get back to farming: good decision. While at MTSU, he also met his future wife, Misty, but she was a “city girl” from Nashville, and Drew wasn’t sure how she’d adjust to farm life. (“We’ve only got 14,000 people in our whole county,” he said with a laugh.)
Lucky for him, Misty adapted to country living. She and Drew were married in 2008, and they’re now the proud parents of three children, Lola, Evan and Ty.
Drew’s smart decisions about his farming have been extremely rewarding for him, too.
“We stopped planting cotton back in 2007, and went without it for ten years,” he said, “but we wanted the benefits of having it in our rotational mix. We like planting cotton behind corn.”
Drew explained that their operation prefers a three-way rotation of corn, cotton and soybeans to take advantage of organic matter in the soil and as a strategy against worms. The Baileys’ farm encompasses about 3800 acres, with roughly a third of it – 1200 acres – in cotton last year.
“In 2017, we were ready to plant cotton again, then in 2019, we heard about NexGen®, which was a new name to us,” Drew said. “We planted a little of it that year, and we were pleasantly surprised.”
Drew chose NG 4936 B3XF – another good decision – on the advice of his Americot sales representative Andy Rowsey. The NG 4936 has really impressed the Baileys with its performance and its versatility.
“Andy is a great resource for us, and he gave us confidence about planting NexGen,” Drew said. “We’ve had two years with it now, and we couldn’t be happier.”
After their outstanding results with NG 4936 that first season, the Baileys have continually increased the number of acres planted with it since.
“We’ve got wild variations in our soil types here,” Drew said, “and the NexGen 4936 works anywhere – from hills to creek bottoms, on clay or sandier soils – we can just put it in the planter and go. Even with our four or five different soil types, we’ve had great success with it.”
“We’re extremely pleased with NexGen,” Drew concluded. “We’ve had yields that we thought we’d never reach.”
Isn’t it great when good decisions really pay off?
One of the most rewarding aspects of having a growing company is getting to watch your customers succeed along with you. Americot is pleased to be able to highlight cotton growers who have benefitted from our products. For this Grower Spotlight, we introduce you to Justin Hawkins from Leachville, Arkansas, in the northeastern part of the state.
Justin represents the fifth-generation members of the Hawkins family to farm their land, dating back to his greatgreat-grandfather who settled there in the early 1900s. Today the operation is jointly owned and managed by Justin and his brothers, Heath and Mark, along with their father, Cole. Collectively, the Hawkins Farm includes almost 5500 acres of various parcels of land, with about 3500 acres of it planted in cotton. The Hawkins family also grows peanuts, corn, watermelons and other crops.
“Our property is kind of scattered and stretched out from Black Oak to Monette to Manila,” explained Justin. “From end to end, it’s about 10 to 15 miles.” “It’s a very diverse operation, and they do a fantastic job with everything they grow,” said Chris Booker, North Delta Americot sales representative. “They get great yields every year, so it’s obvious they’re doing things right.”
To efficiently manage the widespread land and their company employees, the Hawkins family members have designated specific responsibilities to share and handle.
“My brother Mark and I take care of the row crops, and Heath is in charge of the watermelons,” Justin said, “and my dad oversees all of us.” In addition to the many other things that require his attention, Justin is the family member who’s generally given the job of making cotton seed decisions, and he’s a loyal customer to the NexGen® brand.
“We’ve been with Americot since the early 2000s. They supply good seed,” said Justin. “NexGen cotton seed gives us good yields, and they have the best fiber package we’ve found. We also like it because the seed works in our soil. It’s sandy loam and some gumbo.”
“They’ve had good results with the NG 3522 B2XF variety,” agreed Booker. “It works across all soil types, and it fits in great with their peanut-corn rotation.”
“I’ve known Chris a long time. He’s a good seed rep,” Justin added. “We get excellent service from Americot.”
“Justin and his family have bought NexGen cotton seed from Americot for a long time,” Booker said. “They’re good friends to the company… and to me.”
The Hawkins family has proven that they’ve been exceptional growers and good stewards of the land for well over a hundred years, but what does the future look like? Is there another generation awaiting their turn to run the farm? “Our kids are barely involved yet,” Justin said. “My son is only eleven, but when the time comes, he can do whatever he wants.”
For many reasons, Steele Byrum could be called a trendsetter. Steele and his father Cecil farm 2,300 acres in southeastern Virginia, with about 1,000 – 1,300 acres planted in cotton every year. That number is particularly impressive when you consider that in 1990, the entire state of Virginia had only 5,300 acres of cotton, because the crop had declined in popularity among regional growers over the years.
“We were some of the first to bring cotton back to Virginia,” said Steele. “Then when Americot amped up their programs, we started working with them.”
Steele admits they have challenges to overcome to produce a great cotton crop, such as the uncertainty of their weather and the variabilities of their land, which is mostly a coastal type of sandy loam.
“We weren’t sure how the cotton would work on our tough-tomanage soil,” he said, “but we looked at the Americot seed, and I figured if it could grow in Texas, we can grow it here.”
To further assure a good crop, Steele said they plant several different varieties to hedge their risks, adding that one of their top-performing varieties over the years has been NG 3522 B2XF. The Byrums also proved they were innovators with their early choice of NexGen® varieties.
“Cecil and Steele were among the first cotton growers in Virginia to plant NexGen,” said Jim Pope, NexGen Sales Representative, Southeast Region. “They were willing to try new varieties back then, and they appreciated the advancements in our technology. They like how easy the NexGen varieties are to manage, and they like the consistent performance.”
“Consistency is a primary factor for us,” agreed Steele. “For yield and quality, NexGen has been a real ‘Steady Eddie’ performer.”
The Byrums’ farm was originally worked by Steele’s grandfather; now Cecil and Steele are carrying on the family traditions. The Byrums also grow corn, wheat, and conventional soybeans for export to specialty Japanese markets, but cotton is obviously a key to the ongoing success of their operation.
“We’ve had record crop after record crop for the last four years,” Steele said. “There are a lot of positives with the NexGen varieties. They have great upside potential with low downside risk.”
“The Byrums are very well-respected in the community, and they’re like family to me,” said Pope. “It’s much more than a business relationship. Cecil is actually my daughter’s godfather.”
“Jim is a close friend and Americot is a great company to work with,” Steele added. “We like the fact that cotton is all they do. I just can’t say enough good things about them.”