For Sledge and David Taylor of Buckeye Farms, Como, Miss., the 2014 season arrived wet, feeling vaguely similar to 2013.
“It’s the second year we’ve seen a lot of moisture, but this year it continued later in the season,” says Sledge.
Normally, irrigation rigs would have been running as early as June. “We irrigated about 130 acres of corn in the hills for the first time in late July,” said Sledge, father of the pair.
Taylor, who farms with his son, David, on both Delta and hill land in north Mississippi, grows cotton, soybeans, corn, and wheat. This year, they added peanuts to the rotation for the first time.
The season has never been quieter, David says — “It was Iowa-like weather in more ways than one.
“We had ideal grain growing conditions in the Mid-South. It has been a dream summer. We usually don’t have a day off because we’re checking pivots starting in May. It was the most relaxing summer; we may have worked two weeks to spray the crop.”
On the downside, the prolonged wet weather continued into June, delying wheat harvest by three weeks and pushing soybean planting much later.
No replanting was needed
Despite heavy rains in the spring, no replanting was required. Corn was on 930 acres, split nearly evenly with 430 acres in the Delta and 500 in the hills. They planted approximately 1,200 acres of wheat beans, for a total 2,150 acres of soybeans.
“We planted corn during the first week of April and had it all in the ground by the 14th,” David says.
Seeding rate for corn ranged from 33,500 to 35,000 depending on variety. “Most of our acreage was in Pioneer 2089,” he says. They planted P2088 in 2013.
“We did our first watering when the crop was 14 days from black layer,” says David.
For dryland beans, they chose DEKALB DKC 66-97. “We’ve planted it for several years because it’s consistent,” David says.
GMO crops offer advantages, Sledge notes. “The GMO genetics give us more options and allow us to reduce the amount of sprays.
Variable rate fertility
“On our soybeans and corn, we used a variable rate of phosphorous and potash. For the corn, we used GPS soil sampling to determine fertilizer levels. As a consequence, some areas needed little to no fertilizer, and others needed more than the normal rate.
“In general, our total fertilizer use is a little less than fertilizing on a one-rate-fits-all plan.”
The Taylors rotate crops on hill ground and in the Delta. “We plant corn for two years, then soybeans, and then cotton,” Sledge says.
“This helps keep weeds, diseases, and worms in check. We’ve had a light season for insects, but persistent weeds continue to be an issue.”
Idyllic temperatures continued through the season. “Day and night temperatures were cool, and we had ample moisture. We only had to run one irrigation for the corn in the hills at the end of July.”
They began harvesting corn in early September, followed by beans. Moisture content for corn remained over 19 percent as a result of the consistent rainfall. “We started harvesting in the 17 percent moisture range,” says David.
Yields over 200 bushels
Corn yields didn’t disappoint. “It looks to be as good, if not better than last year,” Sledge says. “We’re averaging well above 200 bushels on irrigated ground.”
Disease and pest pressures have generally been light, David says. “There was some earworm pressure around silking time, in the Delta under the pivots.”
Harvest began in early September for their double-crop beans, which had a seeding rate of about 140,000 per acre. “We did see a lot of frogeye leaf spot,” he says. “Everybody’s had it heavy this year. Soybean varieties planted this year included Group 4 Armor DK4744 and Asgrow AG 4531 and AG4632. We plant all Pioneer beans behind wheat, usually Group 5s (5.4-5.7).”
This year, the Taylors didn’t spray dryland beans at all for insects or fungus. “We sprayed wheat beans for podworms or boll- worms.” On irrigated beans, they sprayed a fungicide at the R-3 stage.
Frogeye leaf spot suspected
“Our soybeans looked really, really good through the season,” Sledge says, “but some of our earliest beans to harvest didn’t produce as well as we’d hoped.”
He estimates yields on certain fields to be 15 percent less than in 2013. “Early indications point to frogeye leaf spot, but we’re still not sure.”
After 40 years of farming, Sledge holds a pragmatic, yet cautious view of the future. “Every year is a little different,” he says. “There were years with floods and years with droughts — but no major changes. I think that as varieties improve, yields will continue to increase. Irrigation will be a critical component to having consistent yields.”
He says he has booked and pre-sold more corn than ever because of pricing concerns.
“The next years may be difficult,” Sledge says. “We’re facing surpluses and cheaper crop prices. Input costs may not fall as rapidly as we hope.
“We hope for drought-tolerant varieties in corn, and continual technological advances in farm equipment. If the world economy continues to do well, I think we will continue to have a demand for soybeans and cotton.”