The Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day’s schedule will be a bit different this year, but its main focus will not change. Attendees this year will get an informative, concentrated dose of its core mission: To be a premier educational facility for the South’s top moneymaking commodities and the one-stop, mid-summer place to see the best products and varieties in action.
Sunbelt Ag Field Day will be July 11. Breakfast will be served at 7:15 a.m. with short welcomes and comments. At 8 a.m. sharp, attendees will start boarding shuttles to tour the farm site grounds, where this year stops will be pared down a bit to 30 or so.
The tours will end by noon. Unlike field days in past years, there will be no lunch served or noon program this year. But attendees won’t be rushed out. Sponsors and many company representatives will be on hand and have booths set up where the shuttles unload passengers for attendees to mingle and talk with them as long as they like. Just as in the past, there will be door prizes awarded.
“We are aiming this year to really showcase our core research and what we do best here on the farm. That would be our irrigation and water management plots in addition to our research plots. We’re not taking anything out from previous field days, but we’re really focusing this field day on our core agronomic crops like corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts. For those interested, they will still get to see some experimental crops,” says Michael Chafin, now in his second year as Sunbelt Ag Expo farm site manager.
Variety trials and plots are top draws each year for the field day, and this year will be no different. Despite a cool, wet spring planting season, which slowed planting for everyone, 25 to 30 top corn varieties will be past tassling stage and setting kernels for attendees to judge for themselves.
Monsanto will feature its DeKalb corn varieties. Southern States will feature its top performing hybrids. Pioneer also will have popular corn varieties, often used by high-yield winners, on display at the field day. And, Syngenta will display its Norfolk King corn hybrids developed for the Southeast.
Fertilizer tests are being conducted on corn and most other crops being grown at the Expo. Maximizing plant nutrient use is always a top priority for growers, or at least it should be, Chafin says.
Cotton will feature the top performing varieties based on annual OVT (official variety tests) across the Southeast, and representatives from the various companies that provide cottonseed and cotton technology will be on hand during the field day.
Bayer, with FiberMax and Stoneville varieties, will show old and new Liberty technology.
The Expo Farm is a part of Monsanto/Deltapine’s New Product Evaluator program and the same varieties being grown by 200 or so farmers across the Cotton Belt will be shown during the field day. Deltapine uses on-farm production data from their NPE program to determine which cotton varieties will be released in future years.
Americot, a Lubbock, Texas-based cottonseed company that sells seed primarily in the Southwest and Western areas of the Belt, has developed new varieties that have performed well in OVT testing in the Southeast. The company is making a push to increase market-share in the Southeast. Several of its new varieties will be on display at the field day.
Dow’s Phytogen brand cottonseed has made a big push in the Southeast in recent years and last year, and several of the Phytogen varieties will be shown at the field day.
The Expo farm has several large plot soybean OVT variety trials each year. Chafin says Monsanto and its AsGrow brand soybean seeds will be planted, and company representatives will discuss production of soybeans in the Southeast.
Southern States will have some of the company’s top performing soybean varieties in tests at the field day. In OVT testing across the Southeast, several Southern States soybean varieties have produced some of the top yields, both in conventional and double-cropping situations.
Pioneer will have some of their top soybean varieties in the test program at the Expo Farm. The company’s Y series of soybean varieties have shown great promise in recent years for enhanced pest resistance and adaptability to a number of yield-limiting factors common in the Southeast.
Hornbeck Seeds, a DeWitt, Ark.-based company, was recently bought by Bayer and via the connection with Bayer will show its soybean varieties at this year’s Expo Field Day. The company has provided HK brand wheat, rice and soybean seed to farmers in the Mid-South for the past 30 years.
As always, the Expo farm site is a primary location for University of Georgia research trials for all major Southern agronomic crops. UGA Cooperative Extension specialists for corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts will share their on-site research in better fertility, variety trials, disease and pest management.
More and more Southern corn and cotton farmers are seeing the benefit of well-timed fungicide applications. With commodity prices staying relatively high in recent years, investing in protecting yields against fungal diseases is paying off, Chafin said.
UGA Extension Weed Scientist Stanley Culpepper will be on hand to discuss his research into herbicide-resistant weeds, particularly Palmer amaranth pigweed in cotton. But he is also conducting large plot research on herbicide drift in response to new herbicide technology coming down the pipeline for Southern growers in the next few years.
“I want everyone to come in with an attitude of learning and with a question to ask the experts and company representatives who will be here and expect to find the answers. Leave with what they came looking for, or something they can take back to their farms or to their communities and share and say, ‘This looks like a good approach or idea and I think it can work for me,’” Chafin says.