Grower Spotlight

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.”

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