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Conservation Results in High Cotton

by Blair White

Randall BankheadPCCA grower-owner Randall Bankhead of Roscoe, Texas, was recently named the 2022 Southwest High Cotton Award winner. According to Farm Progress, a High Cotton Award nominee must be a full-time grower located in the Cotton Belt who makes a profitable return from their operation. They also must use environmentally-sound production methods to consistently produce a high-quality, profitable crop.

Bankhead truly exemplifies all of these characteristics in his farming operation. He uses stewardship practices, including cover crops, crop rotation, and no-till on his half-irrigated, half-dryland farm. Bankhead is the fourth generation to manage his family’s more-than-100-year-old farm. His son-in-law, Chase Schuchard, is also a key part of the operation.

When Bankhead started farming in 1984, he thought sustainability and soil stewardship were mechanical issues, but it did not take him long to realize these were actually agronomy problems.

“In ‘84 all we had was a plow, contour farming and terraces,” Bankhead explained. “That is how we controlled erosion. We started doing cover crops just to keep the sand from blowing. I didn’t realize that was the tip of the iceberg of what really conservation farming was. There is so much more to it than that.”

Like an iceberg, more lay below the surface in the form of soil microbes. This discovery led to the creation of his specific blend of farming practices. Diversity is a crucial component of Bankhead’s operation, ranging from center pivot and drip irrigation systems to crop rotations, various types of cover crops and even specific fertilizer regimens. He also plants a variety of cottonseed each year.

Bankhead’s regenerative land preservation helps ensure the ground will continue to produce for many generations of farmers to come. His agronomy practices embody the mission of sustainable and responsible cotton farming. PCCA congratulates Randall and the Bankhead family on this well-deserved award.

*Interview excerpts are taken from Spring 2019 interview with the Bankhead family