Dale Allen and his wife, Julie, raise cotton and corn on their farm near Lolita, Texas, which is between Houston and Corpus Christi. Allen also is an independent crop consultant, and he has extensive contacts with other farmers in his area. This allows him to see up close the weed management systems of other cotton farmers. Allen planted Enlist™ cotton the past two years, using Enlist Duo® herbicide in 2017 and Enlist One® herbicide in 2018.
Conventional tillage with some conservation tillage
Weeds wake up early along the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas. It takes an early bird to get ahead of them. Dale Allen of Lolita, Texas, may start tillage in January and apply a burndown treatment in mid- to late-February to stomp out the small-seeded pigweeds that rise by mid-March.
This spring has been wet and cold, so Allen — like so many other farmers around the country — was anxious to get into the fields. He’s planting PhytoGen® cottonseed with the Enlist™ trait for the third year. The reasons: yield and weed control.
“You have to have yield: That’s No. 1,” Allen says. “PhytoGen varieties produce well on our farm. They also offer good seed quality and emergence. The seed vigor is strong.”
And then there’s the matter of weed management.
“I chose Enlist cotton because I think 2,4-D offers superior weed control,” Allen adds. “That’s the main factor in choosing Enlist.”
Very low volatility, limited drift
Allen is keenly aware of the concerns his neighbors have about herbicide movement. So, he appreciates the low volatility that’s inherent in the 2,4-D choline used in Enlist One® and Enlist Duo® herbicides.
“Enlist herbicides don’t move because of volatility,” Allen says. “But there are a lot of fears about herbicide movement. Volatility is hard to quantify. It’s hard to see.”
Allen realizes the real potential issue to be aware of during application is drift.
“Physical drift can happen with any herbicide,” Allen says. “But that’s not volatility. And 2,4-D choline doesn’t drift like the 2,4-D amine forms drift.”
He says attention to detail and following best management practices significantly decrease the occurrence of drift.
“It’s Sprayer 101: You’ve got to check wind speed, sprayer speed, boom height and so on,” he points out. “Sometimes here, we feel the need to run the sprayer as fast as practical. We’ve got a lot of acres to cover and sometimes not many days suited for spraying. We should run the sprayer at 8 to 10 miles an hour, but it’s hard to do that.”
He tries to keep the boom height at 24 inches or less above the crop, but running 120-foot booms is a challenge. It increases the possibility those booms will move up and down.
“We try to maintain a level course through the field,” Allen says. “We just have to be careful when we’re spraying.”
He also says it’s important to know the surrounding crops, wind direction and label requirements as well as understand optimal sprayer operation.
Talk to your neighbors
The last thing Allen wants to do is impact a neighbor because of herbicide drifting onto their crop.
“I realize the value of relationships,” he says. “One little thing can break it. That’s why we try to do the right thing. We communicate with producers around us. We all talk.”
He says his neighbors understand the value of new weed control technologies and they want them to succeed. They work together to ensure they’ll have access to new weed control technologies.
Adopt multiple modes of action
Allen appreciates the value of multiple modes of action to suppress weeds all season long.
“The old saying, ‘Start clean, Stay clean,’ is true,” he says. “Doing that will produce a lot of success. We need to use those preemergence herbicides.”
The South Texas farmer knows weed escapes invariably will occur. He layers residuals every 45 days if he can and never wants to go beyond 60 days between treatments.
“It’s harder to deal with a live weed than one that’s still in the ground,” he says. “Our base residual is metolachlor. We use it on both corn and cotton acres. Then, it depends on weed pressure. We may add diuron for extended residual activity.”
Later in the season, he may add acetochlor or a second application of metolachlor or Staple.
Allen is a fan of rotating chemistries, but he emphasizes the need to be aware of other crops growing nearby. He’s careful when applying any herbicide.
Allen likes the fact that Enlist cotton gives him postemergence options, including glufosinate.
“If we’re in a situation where the wind isn’t favorable and we can’t spray 2,4-D, we still have the option to use straight glufosinate,” he says. “It’s nice to have that flexibility. If we’re worried about affecting dicamba-tolerant cotton because of the potential to drift, we need to go with glufosinate.”
The value of good advice
Allen says education before spraying is critical.
“PhytoGen provided a lot of help,” he says. “I would ask, ‘Can we spray in this situation?’ They taught me how best to use this product. It’s helped me share knowledge with other farmers.”
Learning the system and using it correctly can make farmers more confident in their success.
“You don’t need to be scared of Enlist,” Allen says. “You just need to use it right.”