Conservation tillage could well be the watchword for the recipients of the 2005 High Cotton Awards, the program that honors cotton growers for their contributions to environmental stewardship. This year's winners were: Shep Morris, Shorter, AL, Southeast states; Bruce Bond, Portland, AR, Midsouth states; Mike Tyler, Lamesa, TX, Southwest states; and Mike Cox, Brawley, CA, Far West states. The recipients were honored at the 2005 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.

Three of this year's winners plant their crops minimum-till. The program is in its 11th year of recognizing farmers for their stewardship.

“We try to disturb the soil as little as possible,” says Bond, the Midsouth region recipient who uses some form of minimum tillage on 100% of his operation.

Tyler, the Southwest recipient, believes in eliminating as much tillage as possible, using a cover crop to protect soil from wind and water erosion, applying irrigation water as efficiently as possible and making the highest yield of the best quality cotton he can grow.

“Minimum tillage is my preferred way to plant,” Tyler says. “Old crop stubble stays in place most of the year, so I don't see soil washing out of my fields with hard rains. I preserve a lot of soil with reduced tillage.”