Petersburg farmer Ronnie Hopper and his son, R.N. Hopper, are among recipients of the 2015 Farm Press-Cotton Foundation High Cotton Awards. The Hoppers were honored at a breakfast last week at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in San Antonio, coordinated by the National Cotton Council.
Father Ronnie and son R.N. Hopper of Petersburg, Texas accepted the award from Southwest Farm Press. The Hoppers told the crowd that change is constant on the farm operation.
In 2006, their farm grew mostly continuous cotton and has since shifted to a rotation of cotton, wheat, and sunflower. The operation went 100 percent no till in 2008 to conserve water, soil, and other components.
One of the best moves a producer can implement to help farming success, says Ronnie, is to inspect and evaluate the farm on a regular basis. Ronnie told the crowd, “The best fertilizer in the field is the farmer’s foot – being in the field checking the crop.”
R.N. says weather is the biggest challenge on their farm located about 60 miles north of Lubbock with an annual rainfall of about 26 inches. In the worst of the Texas drought several years ago, the Hopper farm received just four inches of rain all year.
The Hopper family uses a no-till crop-production method it recommends to other farmers seeking more efficient water use.
The High Cotton Awards were initiated by Farm Press and the NCC 21 years ago to demonstrate that cotton growers and their families are concerned about the environment. The program is supported by a grant to The Cotton Foundation from Farm Press Publications.
“The High Cotton Award winners are some of the best cotton producers in the nation,” Greg Frey, Farm Press Publications’ publisher, said in a news release. “But they also do their utmost to protect the land, air and water. They represent the very best in environmental stewardship.”
Ronnie Hopper and his son, R.N., believe in no-till crop production, and predict it will gain acceptance across the Texas High Plains as farmers deal with the increasingly serious problem of a declining water resource. Reasons for no-till cotton production include soil and water conservation, energy and labor savings, and replacing organic matter in the soil. The thing that makes it work, they say, is crop rotation.
“The success of no-till cotton relies on rotation,” Ronnie says. R.N. notes, “We started converting to no-till production in the summer of 2006, and we became fully no-till about 2008. There have been only a few exceptions when we had to work new farms to level fields or take out beds.”
Technology, including herbicide-resistant crops, improvements in planting and spray equipment, and better varieties “allowed us to plant no-till cotton,” he says.
The result has been significant water conservation and improved soil, both contributing to better yields. Their success in improving efficiency and their commitment to creating a more sustainable production system were among the factors leading to the Hoppers being selected for the 2015 Cotton Foundations/Farm Press High Cotton Award for the Southwest region. Hopper knows the issues of water well. He also serves as an elected member of the board of directors of the High Plains Water District board and his jurisdiction includes Floyd County.
The Hoppers represented the Southwest in the High Cotton selection. Other High Cotton recipients were Rick Morgan, Corapeake, North Carolina, representing the Southeast; George LaCour, Morganza, Louisiana, representing the Mid-South and Mark Watte, Tulare, California, representing the Far-West.