Farm Tours | Meet the Experts

Attending our Cotton Farm Tours in Memphis, Tennessee? Get to know a few of the U.S. cotton producers and extension agents that you will meet during the tour.

U.S. Cotton Producers

The Felton Family

U.S. Cotton Producers

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 majority of diesel wells to electric to reduce irrigation pumping costs and to reduce the carbon footprint.

Larry McClendon

U.S. Cotton Producer

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 the cotton’s impact on the environment, it is good for business too.

Ramey Stiles

U.S. Cotton Producer

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

U.S. Cotton Producer

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.

Extension Agents

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.

Dr. Bill Robertson

Professor & Cotton Extension Agronomist

University of Arkansas


Dr. Bill Robertson provides educational programs in cotton production and agronomic systems that improve yield and profitability. His educational programs focus on new technologies, cotton variety selection, in-season crop management, irrigation, and defoliation. Dr. Robertson was previously an extension cotton specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. He now serves on the National Cotton Council.

Dr. Fred Bourland

Professor & Agronomist

University of Arkansas


Dr. Fred Bourland’s career has focused on cotton breeding. Dr. Bourland’s work has been in developing selection techniques and conducting cotton variety trials. He has released 86 cotton germplasm lines and four cotton cultivars. Dr. Bourland was one of four primary developers of a cotton management program (COTMAN). He also serves as Center Director of the Northeast Research and Extension Center.

Dr. Andy Jordan

Agricultural Engineering Consultant

Specializing in Sustainable Agriculture Systems


Dr. Andy Jordan is involved in developing sustainability metrics for commodity crops. Dr. Jordan serves as the Executive Director of the Cotton Growers Warehouse Association. He is a principal owner and science director for Secure Food Solutions, a start-up company developing aflatoxin detection instrumentation. He is also an advisor to the Ag Innovation Development Corporation and director of the Delta Bio-Renewables company. In addition, Dr. Jordan is the board director of Agricenter International, the 1000-acre agricultural research, conservation, and education and demonstration center. Dr. Jordan has served with the National Cotton Council for over 30 years.

Dr. Tyson Raper

Cotton & Small Grains Specialist

University of Tennessee


Dr. Tyson Raper works with the West Tennessee AgResearch 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.

USDA Classing Office Staff

Darryl Earnest

Deputy Administrator, Cotton & Tobacco Program – Agricultural Marketing Service

United States Department of Agriculture


Darryl Earnest has served as the Deputy Administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Cotton and Tobacco Program (C&T) since 2005. As national director for both divisions, Earnest is responsible for all operations including grading, standards, market news, IT, research and promotion, quality assurance, international initiatives, legislative policy, and administration. He is currently leading the C&T initiative toward a fully automated and vertically integrated methodology for cotton grading as well as the full integration of business analytics into all facets of program operations.

In this video, Darryl Earnest discusses how cotton is evaluated and classified in the United States as well as his division’s role in supporting U.S. cotton producers.

Byron Cole

Area Director, Memphis Classing Office

United States Department of Agriculture


Byron Cole serves as the area director for the Memphis Classing Office – the largest classing office in the program. Cole has an 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

United States Department of Agriculture


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.

Steve Grantham

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

United States Department of Agriculture


Steve Grantham is the Head of Engineering and the Deputy Director for the Cotton & Tobacco (C&T) Program’s Standardization & Engineering Division. Grantham has been with the C&T program for over 25 years, serving as an engineering in the Abilene, TX and Lubbock, TX classing offices.

Jimmy Knowlton

Director, Cotton & Tobacco Program – Standardization & Engineering Division

United States Department of Agriculture


Jimmy Knowlton has been a part of the C&T program for over 25 years. Knowlton directs development and production of cotton classification standards and oversees engineering activities for the C&T program.