2023 Farm Tour



October 2023

Memphis, TN


Ready to get your hands dirty? Review this collection of resources to prepare you for your time on the farm.





The Felton Family

The Felton family has been living and farming on the same land since 1882. It all began with John J. Felton in 1882 and continues today with Trent Felton and his son and son-in-law, Trent Jr. and Jason Felton—the sixth generation to be custodians of this land. Each generation has practiced stewardship and has acquired additional land that benefited the next generation. Cotton has been and will continue to play a huge role in the success of Felton farms.


Pictured from left: Jason Felton, Trent Felton, Trent Felton Jr.

The Feltons have experienced steady growth while adopting new technologies that provide economic benefit. The following are a part of the Feltons’ evolving farm management practices for various crops. These practices have significantly contributed to the profitability of the farm as they reduce the Feltons’ environmental footprint and enable them to be more responsible producers by increasing yields with fewer inputs.


  • Crop rotation—among cotton, corn, grain sorghum, peanuts, and soybeans—increases yields and helps to eliminate hard-to-control weed species and soil-borne pathogens and pests.
  • Precision-leveled fields provide drainage and the ability to furrow irrigate.
  • Prevention of soil and nutrient loss by maintaining abundant water drainage outlets.
  • Implemented Pipe Planner (advance Phaucet Program) to all fields and the use of surge valves to reduce/eliminate the runoff of irrigation water.
  • Placement of liquid phosphate in a band at planting. This has eliminated the use of granular phosphate.
  • Soil sampled by soil management zones results in fertilizer and lime being applied at different rates only in deficient zones by a spreader utilizing variable rate technology.
  • Maximize soil health: by applying biologicals and enzymes to stimulate bio-activity, which makes existing nutrients available to crops; with cover crops during winter to feed biologicals and control erosion; practice minimum tillage to sustain biological life and organic matter; broadcast gypsum in the fields after crop emergence to enhance water infiltration and eliminate aluminum toxicity in the soil root zone.
  • Use GPS and spray controllers to prevent overlap of pesticides or chemicals and to maintain consistent flow rates.
  • Converted the majority of diesel wells to electric to reduce irrigation pumping costs and to reduce the carbon footprint.



Larry McClendon

Larry McClendon grew his 41st cotton crop in 2014. A third generation grower, McClendon also grows corn, soybeans, milo, wheat, and rice.


Sustainability is important on the McClendon farm where the goal is to leave the land in better condition than when he received it.


McClendon includes soil, water, trees, wildlife and all the surrounding land under that definition.

To be more responsible, over the years, McClendon has incorporated several technologies related to water, fertility, and soil health into his cotton farming operations.


  • Phaucet furrow irrigation is a computer-driven program to maximize water efficiency across the farm with the least amount of evaporation or run-off. Drop nozzles are also installed on all pivots which release water closer to the soil surface to prevent evaporation. In effect, about 95% of the water pumped hits the soil surface and absorbs into the ground, compared to about 70% efficiency with sprinkler methods.
  • McClendon has been using precision sampling for over 15 years to tailor nutrient applications and only apply fertilizers when and where absolutely necessary. Veris® sensors allow McClendon to map the fields and identify each soil type by location. In addition, precision soil sampling using GPS location is completed every two or three years to manage field variability and precisely manage nutrient inputs. The Veris® mapping combined with precision soil sampling enables McClendon to make adjustments in fertility that traditional soil testing alone may not show. The use of these technologies has enabled McClendon to apply variable rate fertilizer and significantly reduce fertilizer inputs by about one-third.
  • McClendon maintains and improves soil health and conservation by employing less tillage and using cereal rye as a cover crop. Cereal rye generates significant biomass which builds organic matter in the soil, suppresses weeds, as well as protecting the soil from erosion and improving water infiltration. The rye also creates a wind break in the field to protect young plants until they are strong enough to withstand wind.


Growing cotton, like other crops, is a business-driven by stewardship and economics. Using responsible technologies, McClendon is able to produce more cotton with fewer and fewer inputs. Not only does this significantly reduce cotton’s impact on the environment, but it’s good for business too.



Ramey Stiles

Taking cotton farming to a new level with new technology, this fourth-generation cotton grower explains how new equipment and technology have helped him increase irrigation efficiency, reduce costs and improve traceability.




Nathan Reed

In this video, third-generation cotton grower Nathan Reed shares how he overcomes challenges and continues his family’s legacy with the help of more efficient, sustainable practices.



Dr. Tina Gray Teague

Professor of Entomology and Plant Science

Arkansas State University

University of Arkansas


Dr. Teague is a proud native of northeast Arkansas and is from a family of farmers. She graduated high school in St. Louis and went on to study cotton entomology at the University of Arkansas and then Texas A&M. She has been on faculty at ASU since 1988. She has worked with both agronomic and vegetable crops, but most of her research career has been focused on cotton. She is committed to cotton sustainability and the practical implementation of integrated pest management.



Tyson Raper

Dr. Tyson Raper

Cotton & Small Grains Specialist

University of Tennessee


Dr. Tyson Raper works with the West Tennessee Ag Research and Education Center. He serves clientele statewide through a joint research and extension appointment in the Department of Plant Sciences. Dr. Raper oversees the UT Cotton Variety Test Program. He also implements research programs covering pertinent issues in cotton production, coordinates educational events, and develops training materials and other publications.




Byron Cole

Area Director, Memphis Classing Office


Byron Cole serves as the area director for the Memphis Classing Office—the largest classing office in the program. Cole has extensive knowledge of manual grading and HVI classification of cotton. He is committed to providing excellent service to the U.S. cotton industry and protecting the USDA’s unbiased role in cotton classification.



Gretchen Deatherage

Deputy Director, Cotton & Tobacco Program—Standardization & Engineering Division


Gretchen Deatherage has been with Standardization & Engineering division for the Cotton & Tobacco (C&T) program for almost 30 years. She has served as a classer, a classing supervisor, and as a shift supervisor in the Grading Division. Deatherage oversees the division’s day-to-day standards operations, administration functions, order processing operations, and customer relations.




Dr. Ed Barnes

Senior Director, Agricultural & Environmental Research


For the last twenty years, Dr. Ed Barnes has managed agricultural engineering-related projects for Cotton Incorporated, including programs on precision farming, ginning, irrigation management, conservation tillage, and cotton harvest systems, as well as documenting cotton’s progress in reducing its environmental footprint while increasing productivity. Dr. Barnes currently serves on the Science Advisory Council of Field to Market, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. He is also a Fellow of the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers (ASABE) and serves on their Board of Trustees.



Dr. Gaylon Morgan

Dr. Gaylon Morgan

Director, Agricultural & Environmental Research


Dr. Gaylon Morgan oversees agricultural and environmental research for weed management, agronomy, and soil health. Dr. Gaylon came to Cotton Incorporated with 18 years of experience at the University of Tennessee and Texas A&M University.



Kaitlyn Bissonnette

Kaitlyn Bissonnette

Director, Agricultural Research 


Dr. Bissonnette is a third-generation plant pathologist with roots in Extension education, applied field research, and management of diseases and nematodes in multiple field crops. A Minnesota native, she received her B.S. in Plant Biology from the University of Minnesota before going on to start her M.S. work at University of Idaho in the Department of Plant Soil and Entomological Sciences. Her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in the Department of Crop Sciences focused on management of mycotoxins in wheat production using integrated disease management strategies. Since joining Cotton Incorporated in April of 2022, as the Director of Agricultural & Environmental Research for Plant Pathology and Nematology, she has fully embraced the integration of cross-disciplinary teams to solve current and future problems in plant pathology and nematology.



Sally Taylor

Sally Taylor

Director, Entomology 


Dr. Sally Taylor is the Entomology Director for Agriculture and Environmental Research. She recently worked as associate professor of row crop entomology research and Extension Specialist for Virginia Tech. Her research program addresses a variety of insect pest problems across a wide geographic area for cotton. Her research priority is to develop insect pest management strategies that reduce insecticide usage while maintaining crop quality, profitability, and environmental quality.



Steven Pires

Steven Pires

Manager, Sustainability


Steven Pires focuses on improvement strategies for both the agriculture and textile industries. Pires applies 10 years of experience in sustainability and environmental management, from dirt to shirt, through research and data-driven practices for cotton. He manages projects aimed at advancing the cotton industry to meet its 10-year sustainability goals, including helping amplify the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, and supports a program with Quail Forever to convert low-yielding cotton acreage to wildlife habitat.



Global Supply Chain



Mark Messura

Senior Vice President


Megan Peterson




Jaime Flores 

Senior Director, Latin America



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