Water Conservation and Profitability Award - Jamey Duesterhaus
Apr 08, 2016
Jamey Duesterhaus Exceeds SDI ‘Rule Of Thumb’
Texas cotton farmer Jamey Duesterhaus farms 1,900 acres of cotton, of which 260 acres are watered using a subsurface drip irrigation system.
In the world of subsurface drip irrigation, the “rule of thumb,” on average, is that a cotton farmer can make 4 bales of lint per acre with 4 GPM per acre irrigation capacity. In 2015 — a year where it seemed impossible to achieve high yields — Jamey Duesterhaus exceeded this general principle by producing 2,340 pounds per acre, almost 5 bales, on a 60-acre field planted to FiberMax FM 1830GLT in Lamb County, Texas.
“Irrigated yields were below average in 2015 and being able to achieve the rule of thumb was hard to do,” says Craig Hoelscher, Eco-Drip vice president of operations. “For Jamey to exceed it is a testament to the overall systems approach that he takes to SDI and shows that he used his water wisely.”
In recognition of this achievement, Duesterhaus is the first recipient of the Water Conservation and Profitability Award sponsored by Eco-Drip and Cotton Farming magazine. “This award was established to highlight cotton producers who believe that conservation is the key to profitability and take a systems approach using SDI as a conservation tool as well as an irrigation system.”
Duesterhaus’s family has grown cotton for generations. Filled with the pioneering spirit, both sets of grandparents — Alois and Emma Duesterhaus and Fred and Rose Albus — migrated to the Southern High Plains from Knox County, Texas, in the early 1920s and 1940s. They were drawn to the area where farmland — once a part of the massive XIT Ranch — was more plentiful. Duesterhaus’ parents — Al and Jane — continued the family cotton-growing tradition, and today, Duesterhaus and his brother, Corey, still grow cotton in Lamb and Hockley counties.
SDI System Promotes Conservation
“I farm 1,900 acres of mostly minimum-till cotton in a rainfall-dependent environment,” Duesterhaus says. “About 500 acres are irrigated, including 260 acres of subsurface drip irrigation. Before 2000, we row-watered or used pivots. The first year with the Eco-Drip SDI system was an eye-opener for us. It was phenomenal how much water we could save and how efficiently we could give the plants what they need by spoon-feeding nitrogen and zinc through the SDI system. We apply nutrients incrementally beginning at pinhead square and try to have them all out by the time the plants start to flower. The nutrients are placed directly into the root zone so the plants are never ‘starving.’
“The SDI system allows us to have minimum-till fields, which simplifies our farming practices and promotes conservation. We don’t have to broadcast fertilizer and constantly disturb the soil by running moldboard plows or deep chiseling. The soil doesn’t get dry, and the subsurface water is adequate for the roots to grow and develop. With other irrigation systems, much of the water evaporates, whereas with an SDI system, the vast majority of the water is being used by the plant.
“Eco-Drip has everything we need from parts to filters to keep this system running smoothly. They installed it, will stand behind their product and will send technicians out to the farm if we need any help during the season.”
In a year more typical than 2015, the Texas farmer turns the wells on at the end of March and pre-waters for a few weeks to build up the soil moisture profile if he hasn’t received adequate precipitation during the winter months.
“We shut the wells off the first of May to give them a chance to recuperate,” he explains. “We start the wells up again on June 1 if we haven’t received beneficial rainfall.”
In 2015, Duesterhaus began planting later than usual because of abundant rainfall. The 60-acre field that yielded 2,340 pounds per acre was planted on May 18. “Rain provided the proper amount of pre-plant moisture and carried the crop until mid-July,” he says. “I started my irrigation at this time to apply fertilizer through the system and ran 240 gallons per minute over that 60 acres until the middle of September to finish out the crop.”
Excellent Yields And Quality
Last year, Duesterhaus planted mostly FiberMax FM 1830GLT, along with some FiberMax FM 1900GLT and Stoneville ST 4747GLB2.
“The SDI yields were excellent, and the quality was very good,” he says. “We were blessed with pre-season moisture and had beneficial rainfall the first half of the season. The nights seemed warmer, which, I believe, helped us catch up on heat units following a cool May.
“Another thing that we like about the SDI system is that the soil surface tends to stay dry, so weeds are not germinating, the fields stay cleaner, the cotton has less competition for nutrients and we tend to have less disease pressure,” Duesterhaus says. “The most troublesome weed for us is herbicide-resistant pigweed.
“To combat this pest, we apply overlapping residual herbicides and change up the herbicide modes of action.”
As far as insects, Duesterhaus says that thrips and aphids show up early, and sometimes armyworms are a problem later in the season.
As a cotton farmer, Duesterhaus admits that he works hard, but gives credit for his success to the gifts of God, his family and good landlords. “We rely on Him more than we think we do, and my landlords support me and want me to succeed as well,” he says. “And I couldn’t be here without my dad and brother. The lessons learned from family stick with you and help you become a better farmer.”
It is with much pleasure that we congratulate Jamey Duesterhaus as the recipient of the 2015 Water Conservation and Profitability Award.