U.S. High Cotton Winners Recognized for Environmental Stewardship
April 6, 2017

The 2017 Farm Press-Cotton Foundation High Cotton Awards recipients (by Cotton Belt region) are: Southeast – Ronnie Burleson/Andrew Burleson, Richfield, N.C. Mid-South – Byron Seward, Louise, Miss.; Southwest – Brent Hendon, Welch, Texas; and Far West – Mark McKean, Riverdale, California. They and their families were honored here today at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in Memphis.

The High Cotton Awards were begun by Farm Press and the National Cotton Council in 1994 as a way to demonstrate that cotton growers and their families are concerned about the environment and are the true stewards of their land, air, and water. The program, which now has recognized nearly 100 U.S. cotton producers, is supported by a Farm Press grant to The Cotton Foundation.

“It’s easy to be discouraged when prices are lower than they were just a couple of years ago, but these growers have stuck with cotton and are doing their best to keep it as a vital part of their operations,” says Greg Frey, vice president for the Penton Ag Group, which publishes Farm Press. “Cotton prices actually have improved somewhat in recent weeks, and we hope that’s a harbinger of better days to come. Meanwhile, these growers continue to grow cotton while being, like most farmers, good stewards of the environment.”

Southeast winners Ronnie Burleson, and his son, Andrew, are known for their commitment to soil conservation, adapting the latest technology and going the extra mile to produce a high yielding, high quality cotton crop. Burleson and his family were the first farmers to bring cotton back to North Carolina’s Stanly County in 1991 after the boll weevil — and low prices — had driven growers out of the crop. They have grown cotton every year since then, though, and plan to stay with the crop.

Mid-South winner Byron Seward, whose family has been growing cotton in the Mississippi Delta since the 1930s, became one of the first farmers there to make variable rate applications of fertilizer, using a flagging system to show the applicators where to increase or decrease the rates. The practice helped him to better match the applications with the needs of plants, while preventing the excess from running off into area streams.

Someone in Brent Hendon’s family has been growing cotton in the Welch, Texas, area since the late 1920s. Hendon irrigates 75 percent of his 4,000 acres of cotton, watering with center pivots with low elevation spray application. He also employs soil conservation practices, rotation and resistant weed management.

Far West winner McKean, who has farmed for 29 years, places great emphasis on environmental stewardship, using inputs such as nitrogen, plant protection products and growth regulators sparingly – to protect the groundwater in California.

“Spraying a chemical is the last thing I want to do,” said McKean, who has sprayed his cotton just once or twice per season in recent years. “Anytime you start applying chemicals, you are in a cycle of doing it again and again,” McKean said. “The longer you can put it off, the better.”

More information on the recipients is at http://www.westernfarmpress.com/cotton/2017-high-cotton-winners-adapt-their-operations-achieve-success.

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