The cotton crop that was

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Guy "Junior" and Susan Robinson are both fourth generation farmers. In their 35 years of farming they have experienced drought, hail, flooding, and other problems that go along with raising a crop. The Robinsons said they have never seen anything like what has happened to 40 acres of their 880 acres of cotton.

"We had a clean, healthy growing crop until July 15 and now we have 40 acres of cotton with no fruit," Mrs. Robinson said.

The Robinsons have a routine during the farming season. They usually make three trips a day looking over their fields.

"Raising a crop is like when you are raising your children. You can look at it and immediately tell if something is not right. On July 15 we were driving our fields and we knew immediately that that field did not look right. It did not look like the others. The color was a different shade. When we got out to take a closer look the terminals (top of the cotton) were deformed looking," Mrs. Robinson said. "We called our cotton consultant, Scott Gifford, and he came out the next morning to look at it."

At that point Robinson said they were hoping it would come out of it. She said that Gifford called them about two weeks ago and informed them that they were losing everything on the 40 acres.

Robinson said this particular 40 acres was the high yielding field for dry land cotton during last year's harvest. This field, the home place, is on one of the highest points of the farm. It has never flooded. Robinson's grandparents told them that they never had to leave their home, even during the worst flooding years. This farm has been in the family since 1890.

"We had a cotton specialist from Little Rock come and look with representatives from the Extension service.

Mrs. Robinson pointed out that the cotton is normal along tree line.

"If we had sprayed something to do the damage with our ground sprayer, the cotton would have been the same from end to end," she said. "When we first discovered it we immediately went back over our records to see what we had sprayed. The fields we sprayed on the same day with the same chemicals do not have damage.

"We notified the Arkansas State Plant Board and the Boll Weevil Eradication people. Everyone has brought their experts in. Everyone agrees that something is wrong.

The Robinsons say they don't want to accuse or blame anyone. They are just trying to find out what could have caused the problem.

"If a farmer has experienced anything like this before, we would like to know the circumstances. We welcome anyone to look at the field for themselves.We have been in the boll weevil eradication program in Missouri for several years," Mrs. Robinson said. "Now we are paranoid every time a plane flies over one of our fields. In retrospect, I wish that every time the boll weevil eradication people told me they were going to treat our fields I had asked for and documented the names of the plane and pilots. Whether you are for or against the boll weevil eradication program, it is here and we as farmers are in a position that we have never been in before. We have always been responsible for who was in our fields and what is sprayed."

The Robinsons both agree they are still looking for answers.

"No one has given us any possibilities," Robinson said. "We have got a lot of attention from the boll weevil eradication representatives. The last thing we want to do is accuse anyone falsely. We just hope to find the reason for this."

(Several longtime area farmers were out looking at the Robinson's 40 acres and when asked for comments George Motley said he had never seen a crop do that in his 50 years of farming. Dewayne Haigwood, who has been farming for 60 years agreed that he had never seen anything like it happen to cotton. Steve Haigwood's comment was there is no use taking a picker in there. Elwood Decker, who is 83 years old and has been around farming all of his life, said there is nothing there to pick, might as well put the stalk cutter to it.)

Mrs. Robinson reported that she had talked to Danny Keiser, executive director with the eradication program, and he said the samples they ran came back with the Pix and Roundup in the normal limits.

"We applied that ourselves. We are human and anyone can make a mistake but those sample results lets us know at least we did treat the cotton correctly," Mrs. Robinson said. "We are ruling out causes and hopefully, we will find out exactly what caused the loss."

Mrs. Robinson said she has talked with Darrell Little with the Plant Board and he said they will keep looking to see if the cause can be found.

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