Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide for Reeves County, Trans-Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas
Living Off The Land
March 24, 1998
Turnbough sows to community, reaps Award
By GREG HARMAN
See Photo (8KB)
Larry Turnbough is a farmer on the go. From serving as
president of Trans-Pecos Cotton Association to his recently
elected post of president of the Texas Pest Management
board, he is one grower that doesn't allow his job to end
when he walks off of the field.
Even when the Reeves County Chamber of Commerce decided - in
response to community nominations - to award Turnbough on
January 30 with the county Agriculture Service Award, he was
unable to attend because he was busy representing area
farmers at the National Cotton Council meeting in San
The award had to be presented to Turnbough later by Ray
Owen, Vice President of Security State Bank in Pecos.
According to Owen, the award is presented to individuals who
have distinguished themselves while serving the agricultural
community of the area. "Larry is a tremendous asset to this
area," said Owen. "He's a very good farmer."
According to Turnbough's philosophy, to be a good farmer the
first requirement is simple, but few meet its call. You must
enjoy farming. There are long hours involved and these, he
confided, are sometimes in extreme weather conditions. If
you don't enjoy your work you're liable to make critical
mistakes for the very reason that you won't care enough be
watching the finer details that are crucial to any farming
Beyond that, the business side of farming has grown much
more difficult for growers through the years. From input
costs to shifting market prices, things can get tricky if
you don't have the business savvy all so necessary to
succeed in the modern-day world of agriculture.
"The phrase I always heard was, `Don't necessarily be the
first to try something new, but don't be the last to adopt
something when it is working," said Turnbough.
The new tools of the trade branch from the modern-day trunk
of technology. Genetically-engineered seed varieties are at
the forefront of agri-technology, and whether it's Bt
cotton, or Round-up-Ready, Turnbough is involved in that
process. These new varieties are what are being touted as
"pest resistant," and as a testament to Turnbough heeding
the advice regarding all things new, the father-and-son team
grew Round-Up-Ready seed for distribution to growers the
year before it came to market.
But there is also a downside to new technologies, said
Turnbough. Along with all of their potential benefits, they
come with a heavy price-tag. This makes it hard for those
with smaller farming operations to afford them.
R.V. "Rip" Turnbough, 77, moved into the Balmorhea area
after serving on B-17 bombers in World War II. He worked
briefly at the Agricultural Research Center after receiving
his college diploma before deciding to go into farming
full-time in 1950.
"When I first moved here there were a lot of small (-scale)
farmers," said Rip Turnbough, "but it got to where the cost
of making a crop became greater than the return." The elder
Turnbough has seen a lot of these smaller operations roll-up
under the pressure of falling prices and move on to other
less risky endeavors. But the Turnboughs were able to meet
the challenge of a changing economic climate, only to find
themselves again faced this year with cotton prices that
don't cover the cost of production.
The pair, by all accounts partners with a healthy rapport,
now own about 5,000 acres. Land stretching from as far as
Toyahvale to Saragosa comes under the Turnboughs' tractor
plow. But, depending on the year's water districting
regulation's, the acres farmed per year fall closer to 2,500.
But, with the larger operations that modern-day agriculture
demands, comes some trepidation. As Turnbough's father
explained, "You have to keep your nose to the grindstone.
You can't spend much time in the coffee shops. The hazard
(with a larger organization) is if you trip your feet and
have a bad year - you're out of business." Or, as Larry
Turnbough says, "It's not so much an issue of working hard,
as it is of working smart. And you hope you make more right
decisions than wrong."
Cotton is the main crop for the Turnboughs. Wheat, oats and
grain sorghum make up the rest. This year Larry Turnbough
expects to grow up to 600 acres of wheat, which will be
harvested in late May to early June - about the same time
that the first sprigs of cotton will be poking through the
ground. Grain sorghum will have to sit this season out, as
Turnbough explained, because although it requires a little
less water than cotton, it requires it at the same time as
the cotton does. This often creates a bottleneck on water
demand. These latter days of March will be spent irrigating
and fertilizing the wheat fields.
The father-and-son team do fairly well. They are able to
employ five full-time workers and another six for part-time
seasonal help during the peak growing season. One comes to
suspect, when speaking with the two Turnboughs, that the
same attributes that are applied by the younger Turnbough to
the elder operate in reverse as well. This is especially the
case when Larry says of his father, "He's not really the
type to retire and do nothing. He'll keep on working."
In an expression of gratitude toward his father, Turnbough
said, "I've farmed with him all my life and I have benefited
from his wisdom, thinking and common sense. He has given me
my base of understanding in agriculture."
The other powerful influence on Turnbough's life has been
Trans-Pecos Cotton Association Executive Director Bob
Bickley. "He was the one who encouraged me to join all these
organizations," said Turnbough. "He convinced me that you
have to take part and get known and become an officer to
have an input. Especially being from such a small area."
The Trans-Pecos Cotton Association is the smallest (in terms
of production) of the nine Texas cotton associations that
comprise the Texas Cotton Producers, which Bickley for a
time served as president. "What he's doing is helping the
whole state," said Turnbough of Bickley.
For growers like the Turnboughs there are no "average" days.
While they are fertilizing wheat this week, other times are
spent spreading herbicide on the ground to prepare the
fields for cotton, and soon it will be cotton planting time.
Before you know it, it will be time to harvest. As Turnbough
testified, "It's hard keeping it all calibrated."
In keeping with his reputation, Turnbough will again be
traveling to represent Trans-Pecos Cotton interests later in
the month. This time it will be to Austin to represent the
growers of the Trans-Pecos at a Texas State Supply Committee
meeting. There he will help to whittle away at the $2
million dollars worth of proposals that various
organizations are seeking funding for in the field of
But the pride of being recognized by the county has not yet
faded. "I felt honored to receive the chamber award," said
Turnbough, "It meant a lot to me."
4-H, FFA Stock Show results
Reeves County 4-H and FFA members did well at the major
livestock shows held throughout the state this winter. The
show season started out in January at the Fort Worth
Livestock Show. There, Courtney Clark placed tenth with her
heavy weight Polled Hereford Steer.
The next show was in El Paso. Jake Fowler won the Steer
Showmanship award and placed ninth with his middle weight
Maine steer. Salem Mitchell placed seventh with her heavy
weight Maine steer. Taryn McNeil placed sixth in the lamb
In Houston, Courtney Clark placed first in the heavy weight
Simmental Class and Jake Fowler placed fifteenth in the
heavy weight Maine class. H.D. Laurence caught in the calf
In San Antonio, Shawn Fowlkes placed 17th in the lamb
The final show of the season was held in San Angelo. Jack
Bradley placed third in the light weight Duroc class.
Candace Roach placed sixth with her Chester Hog and John
Marvin Clark placed tenth with his Shorthorn steer. Jennie
Canon placed sixth with a Duroc pig, Amanda Stickels placed
seventh with a York pig and David Bradley placed tenth with
a cross pig.
By C.W. ROBERTS
As the days get warmer, people start wanting to work on
their lawns, and tree planting is one of the main spring
lawn projects. If you are planning to plant trees this
spring, doing it correctly can help insure a long life for
There are many reasons to plant a tree. Trees can lower your
roof and wall temperatures by 20 degrees in the summer.
Trees can add 13-21 percent to the value of your home. Trees
also provide food, nesting sites and protection for wildlife.
Before planting, carefully plan where you will plant. Make
sure to give your tree adequate room to grow. Envision the
tree in five, ten or twenty years. Consider the height,
crown spread and root zone at maturity. Don't plant where
the tree will rub against walls or roofs. Other things to
avoid are: circling the root zone in concrete, planting
under power lines, blocking windows or scenic views and
encrouching on your neighbor.
There are many types of trees available to plant. Be sure to
select a tree suited to our soil and climate. Buy the
highest quality tree that you can afford. If the tree has no
leaves, scratch the bark to make sure it is green and moist
When planting your tree, dig the hole with sloping sides.
The hole should only be a little deeper than the depth of
the soil in the container. Remove or cut away the container
just before the tree is put into the hole. Try to move the
tree by the root ball and minimize the time the roots are
exposed to the air. Set the root ball in the hole and adjust
it so that the best side of the tree faces the direction you
want and the root ball is level with the natural soil grade.
A stick or shovel handle laid across the hole will tell if
the root ball is too high or low.
Use the dirt removed from the hole to fill in and around the
root ball. Sand or peat moss is not recommended for this.
Remove any large rocks and breakup any chunks before adding
the dirt to the hole. Pack the soil firmly around the tree.
When the hole is half to two-thirds full, fill it with water
and stir the mud with a shovel to remove any air pockets.
Finish filling until the top of the root ball is covered
with about an inch of soil.
Mound what dirt is left into a berm or dike around the
planting hole and finish watering-in the tree. Put a three
to four inch layer of mulch around the tree. Mulch helps
keep grass and weeds out, keeps the soil cooler and slows
water loss around the tree. After planting, take the time to
monitor the tree regularly. Water the tree once or twice a
week for the first two years after planting. Be careful not
to drown the roots, they need air as well as water.
Periodic fertilization can help keep your tree in good
health. Sprinkle an ounce or so of 21-0-0 on the mulch after
planting and then again two or three times during the
growing season. In the spring, wait until the leaves are
fully open before fertilizing.
Normally it is not necessary to prune a tree at planting.
Some exceptions are dead branches, crossed or rubbing
branches, narrow crotches or multiple main stems.
With proper planning and care, you can enjoy your tree for
years to come.
Horned toads, an endangered encounter?
Special from the Chihuahuan Research Institute
Everybody loves Horned Toads, or more properly - Horned
Lizards. Many call them Horny Toads. If you're an alumnus of
TCU, they're Horned Frogs. Whatever they're called, everyone
wants to know what's happening to them. Why are they
In Texas, there are three species of Horned Lizard. All are
protected by the laws of the State of Texas. The most
wide-spread species and the one we are most familiar with is
the Texas Horned Lizard. The other two reside in the western
third of the state and are seldom seen. Of these, the
Round-tailed Horned Lizard in the most common. It is smaller
than the other two, inhabits desert basins and slopes, and
can be found in a wide range of colors (usually matching the
soil color where they are foraging). The Short-horned Horned
Lizard inhabits only the higher forests of the Davis and
Guadalupe Mountains in Texas.
There seems to be little doubt that through much of Texas,
the Texas Horned Lizard is not as common as it once was. If
you talk to the herpetologists (those among us with a
passion for reptiles and amphibians), you are likely to get
a variety of educated guesses and opinions. A common thread
through these theories is human influence.
The perceived scarcity of Horned Lizards seems to be most
prevalent in the eastern two thirds of the State - which by
coincidence is the current range of the Fire Ant. Biologists
have known for many years that wherever Fire Ants establish
themselves, ground-dwelling animals are in big trouble. Even
more vulnerable to Fire Ant attack are the poor critters
that lay eggs on or in the ground where these
undiscriminating social insects can help themselves.
The western third of Texas is probably too hot, dry, and
cold for Fire Ants to establish colonies. Horned Lizards can
still be found here in local abundance. While the common
Texas Horned Lizard is rarely seen in the countryside, their
preference is for vacant lots and backyards in the small
towns that dot the West Texas map. Here, they happily spend
their lives seeking out Harvester Ants, the primary food of
these tiny dinosaurs.
Some biologists suspect that the specialized diet of the
Horned Lizard is their downfall. Imagine, an innocent little
horned toad, minding his own business and doing what horned
toads do, as he suddenly comes across a colony of what he
thinks is his favorite food - Harvester Ants. Instead, he
gets a face full of Fire Ants, and it just ruins his day;
Don't you just hate it when that happens! In Central and
East Texas, this may be a daily occurrence for our heroes.
In addition to the obvious, pesticides aimed at controlling
ants are growing in use. Walk into any store that handles
home and garden pesticides, scan the shelves, and you will
realize that they sell a heck of a lot of poison aimed at
ants. This is true even in West Texas were residents are
constantly battling the Harvester Ant colonies that often
invade their yards. Remember Rachel Carson's "Silent
Spring"? To date, there is little data pertaining to the
pesticide levels present in the tissues of Horned Lizards
accumulated through their specialized diet or the effect of
those pesticides on lizard populations.
Predators of Horned Lizards may also be contributing to the
reduction of local populations. Research conducted in Great
Britain on the prey of house cats, clearly demonstrates that
cats can have a devastating effect on local lizard, bird,
and rodent populations. In the U. S., house cat numbers are
triple what they were thirty years ago. Therefore, we must
ask ourselves if our love of feline pets is contributing to
the demise of the Horned Lizard.
Habitat destruction is almost certainly a factor. No lizard
can live in a parking lot or building site. As our towns and
cities expand, small animals lose habitat. It's as sure as
My daughter has been catching Horned Lizards in our yard for
years. When she proudly presents us with an awesome
specimen, we draw a number on its belly with a felt tip pen
and turn it loose where she found it. The theory is that she
will recognize it when she next sees it. "There's old number
5!" Over the course of a summer, a dozen or more lizards are
marked in this manner. These are always special occasions in
her life and she has learned a respect for the lives of the
creatures that share her world. No matter that the lizards
shed their skin and the numbers soon disappear - she's known
that for years. Horned Lizard summers are a part of her
So is the culprit Fire Ants, pesticides, house cats, habitat
loss? Or maybe it is something we haven't considered. Should
we be looking for a susceptibility to UV rays from the sun
or maybe some not-so-obvious environmental factor? The big
picture probably relates to all of these things. In any
case, while we struggle for understanding, we should rejoice
and celebrate the presence of this wonderful little animal
in our lives. What is more "Texas" than the Horned Lizard?
Or is it horned toad? Or horny toad? Or horned frog?
Growers talk strategy with pests on the march
By GREG HARMAN
When it comes to cotton, there are plenty of pests that
farmers would rather not see show up for dinner. Pink
bollworms, boll weevils and beet armyworms to name a few.
The meeting of March 17 at Texas A&M Agricultural Research
Center was an effort to educate growers of the risks the
pests pose and offer practical advice on how to best combat
Dr. Rex Friesen, county entomologist, presented exhaustive
findings associated with pest management and cotton to
members of the Trans-Pecos Cotton Association on Tuesday,
March 17. The afternoon's discussion ranged from topics
including the performance and profitability of Bt cotton
(including how it may affect pesticide use and pink bollworm
populations), pink bollworm diapause patterns and on-plant
distribution, boll weevil distribution and migration
patterns, and more.
The main point of the series of studies into cotton and its
varieties of pests, according to Friesen, was "to find out
what makes money and what doesn't." The first study
discussed involved several farmers who planted both Bt and
non-Bt cotton varieties. But, 1997 was not nearly the same
as 1996 when it came to pink bollworm infestation. A
"low-pest-pressure year" did not give the Bt cotton a chance
to really show off its ability, Friesen said.
According to the study's findings, "The profitability of Bt
cotton in the Trans-Pecos depends heavily on seasonal pest
pressure, which varies from year to year and locale to
locale." But the over-all results showed that non-Bt cotton
out performed Bt in yield and profitability, even though
non-Bt required more by way of the high costs of insecticide
and insect control.
Cotton board member Sam Miller said that in his opinion luck
played a large part in cotton farming and the results of the
Bt test may not have been as directly related to the
differing crop varieties.
Friesen agreed that cotton farming was an extremely
"plastic" system that may depend upon luck. "Who knows what
will happen from year to year?" he asked. "But I expect that
had '97 been a bad bollworm year the results of this study
would have shown Bt cotton in a better light."
Apparently reflecting Bt cotton's pest resistant qualities,
Friesen's second set of findings showed that along with
expanding Bt cotton acreage, which increased from about 10
percent of total acres in 1996 to about 45 percent in 1997
in the Trans-Pecos region, there was a 33 percent decrease
in the local sale of pesticides. "The drop," the study
states, "was due primarily to an 85 percent reduction in
sales of pyrethroids and a 71 reduction in chemicals for
secondary pests associated with the use of pyrethroids."
Talking about the reduction of hard chemicals put into the
environment, Friesen said, "Environmentalists would love to
Reminding growers where they had come from, Friesen said,
"Remember in '96 we were about carried away with pink boll
moths in the late season" during spring emergence. Because
all of Saragosa and northern Reeves were planted with Bt
cotton, Friesen anticipated that "next to nothing" would be
coming out of diapause in the spring of 1998.
At this point, one grower said, "You could write a book if
you get (these pests)."
On that note, Friesen was able to boast that growers in
Saragosa and northern Reeves had really "hammered" the pink
bollworm population in 1997 by planting almost entirely Bt
cotton. But, as Friesen warns in his report, "Until pink
bollworms or bollworms are effectively reduced to non-pest
status, costs for their control will remain high in the
Interesting work has also been performed by A&M scientists
concerning the pink bollworms' diapause patterns.
Plant mapping helped to determine exactly where diapausing
worm larvae were settling on cotton plants. Significant
numbers of larvae were recovered on every node and fruit
position on the plants, including the first fruiting
position of the season.
A total of 30 plants were mapped, and, as Friesen noted, the
large number of exit holes on the plants indicated that the
majority of the pests are reproducing and not going into
diapause. The results of the test concluded that an average
of 5.5 diapausing larvae were on each plant in a plant
density of 114,000 plants. And the most popular position on
the cotton plants for the pink bollworms? Right smack in the
first position - in the middle of the white, fluffy cotton
The research suggests that they may even be passing the
winters in the seed coats, said Friesen. "We found a lot of
fat larvae in January," he said, "in stalks which had been
harvested in December."
These results stress the need for early crop termination "to
reduce the buildup of diapausing larvae" and for thorough
cleaning of fields after harvest time.
Low-intensity grazing did not cut back pink bollworm
populations nearly as well as shredding and plow-down
practices. But, the question remains as to what effect
high-intensity grazing may bring.
This recent year also found boll weevils on the march. "They
were migrating real well by late September," said Friesen,
"and headed west." But, the pests have not been recorded as
travelling from west to east, yet.
Trans-Pecos Cotton President Larry Turnbough said that he
suspected the weevils were arriving from the direction of
Friesen said that Mexia was covered in only three seasons.
"They went from zero to thousands," he said.
The boll weevil trapping program continued into its second
year in the Trans-Pecos region. The "hottest" spot (the area
with the most weevils captured) turned out to be the
Saragosa/Verhalen area. In Saragosa, Friesen noted 42
weevils were trapped in 1996. That number rocketed to 10,000
in 1997. "They moved in big-time," said Friesen. People have
been proposing lots of reasons for this extreme activity,
but Friesen said he did not know why the numbers have jumped
the way they have.
Most of the growers in Reeves County did not record any
weevils in 1996. But, in 1997, the story changed. These
suddenly high numbers had been enough to convince growers to
voluntarily participate in early crop termination in 1997.
Many applied one to three diapause insecticide applications
in the fall to cut down on over-wintering populations.
Reeves County Agricultural Extension Agent C.W. Roberts
offered that he may be announcing area weevil trap counts on
his 9:30 a.m., Tuesday morning weekly radio address on KIUN.
"Sometimes I'm just looking for something to talk about,"
said Roberts. But, with a quick look back over the numbers,
Friesen noted ominously, "You might have a lot to talk
While many growers have moved forward with suppression
efforts, the termination of boll weevils, according to
Friesen's report, lay in the education of growers in the
"importance of management."
The next Result Demonstration Review will be held at the
Coyanosa Co-Op Gin at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.
In other cotton news:
The Trans-Pecos Cotton Association directorship held their
Larry Turnbough was re-elected as association president,
Dennis Braden was elected as vice president and Donald Hess
was elected to the post of secretary.
There was some speculation at the meeting as to how many
acres of cotton would be planted in the area (Reeves, Ward
and Pecos counties) in 1998. Bob Bickley, executive director
of Trans-Pecos Cotton, speculated that the figure may be
somewhat smaller than in 1997.
"We discussed crop insurance and integrated pest
management," said Bickley, "and the questions involved in
the new water matters . . . Our position is of observing
those active locally and offering any help we can."
Trey Miller will be joining a larger group of cotton growers
from around the state (all members of the Texas Cotton
Producers) to represent local cotton interests on Capital
Hill. "(He) will talk to Congressmen and Senators or anybody
that may do us any good," said Bickley. Miller will leave
for Washington D.C. on Monday, March 30, and return on
Wednesday, April 1.
The immediate concern of cotton growers is with the price of
cotton, said Bickley, which has fallen below the cost of
production. "For the foreseeable future there doesn't appear
to be any change approaching. I don't mean to be this
pessimistic, but, frankly, we are not pleased with the
prospects for pricing this year's crop."
There will also be a steering committee meeting of
nation-wide cotton producers in Little Rock, Ark. from May
6-7, to discuss the new farm bill and its impact on the
The Trans-Pecos Cotton directorship is comprised of two
types of directors: designates directly appointed by local
cotton gins and those who are elected. Designates include
Dennis Braden, Elmer Braden, Kenneth Lindemann, Dale Toone.
Those elected to serve include Ted Godfrey, David Hess, Sam
Miller, Ysidro Renteria, Jesus Ruiz and Larry Turnbough.
Jaroy Moore, of El Paso, serves in an advisory capacity.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise