During a mid-July visit, Carl and Jonathan Beavers stood under a baking sun and hoped the massive effort they were putting in their soybean crop would pay off. Those hopes have been realized.
It’s now October 1 and, outside Griffithville, Ark., a combine is throwing chaff and dust into the air. It’s also rapidly filling up the hopper. The father and son team are smiling. “The worst we’ve cut has been 64 and the best 76,” says Carl. “We only lack a day cutting. We’re tickled because the beans are cutting about 40 percent more than usual.”
“Why that happened this year – with all the troubles we’ve had – I don’t know,” says Jonathan. “It’s just kind of weird. Once the leaves began falling off, we saw the plants were loaded.”
From July through mid-August, the western side of this field “looked like a Bush Hog had been across it,” says Carl. “It was the craziest thing – the plants just sat there, six inches tall, for five or six weeks doing nothing. It worried us so much we had everyone come out and look at it and we seriously considered replanting.
“At first, I thought, ‘Well, this is so bad maybe someone drifted something onto us. Maybe a plane accidentally sprayed where it shouldn’t have.’ But, no, that definitely wasn’t it.
“Then, I called my seed and chemical guy at Helena, Tony Holder, and said, ‘Man, I know the bags were sealed and certified Pioneer 47T89s. But is there any chance we planted the wrong variety somehow? Is there any way?’ I was assured that wasn’t the case.”
Then, suddenly, the soybean crop took off. What had happened?
“It turns out we had deer coming into this field and grazed it down,” says Carl. “We’d seen a herd in the field but they fooled us because they didn’t graze it in the typical up-and-down kind of way. We’ve had deer in beans before and this looked nothing like that.”
Jonathan believes the tall pines that surround the field on three sides provided the deer with a sense of safety. “They weren’t in any hurry and were just content to take their time to get their nutrition.”
Another interesting thing, says Carl, is the bean plants “branched out big-time where they’d been bitten off at the growing point. I know there have been folks that’ve done that with machines before to stimulate that branching effect. But here it was done accidentally with deer.
“You know, the experience with this field just reinforces my belief that farming is like connecting dots. You go from one dot to the next, trying to figure things out, how to do things better. I think farmers will identify with what I’m saying.”
Despite the successful bean yields, this field will be in corn next year if it can be planted on time. Otherwise, more beans.
What’s happened since July?
“We kept irrigating these beans as if they were corn,” says Jonathan. “We didn’t let up until the pods were filled at the top. Usually, our beans are loaded on the bottom and kind of straggly at the tops. This year, the plants are loaded from top to bottom.”
The pair never thought the beans would go ahead and die, dry down. “They just kept on pushing so we thought it would require a spraying so we could harvest,” says Jonathan.
“They had everything they needed and didn’t want to die: water, genetics, fungicide,” adds Carl.
Jonathan is running a hipper right behind the combine. “We’ve found you want to start when the dew is off because otherwise it won’t slice the stubble. Then, in the afternoon, you have to pay attention because there’s a point when the ground will start balling up. It’s kind of like trying to plant wheat into stubble.”
Jonathan is looking to throw up a big, tall bed. By spring, “that bed will have melted down and I’ll run a roller/bedder over it and then plant.”
“Doing it this way means we get major drainage through the winter,” says Carl. “It’s almost like having a ditch every 30 inches across the field. Then, you’ve got dirt piled up 10 inches exposed to the weather. The only negative to some degree is breakdown of the straw can take a bit of extra nitrogen.”
Jonathan goes over the fields with a hipper twice. “The beds are tall and full of mulch holding things together, decomposing slowly. Next year’s crop will be getting the nutrients from that and also the roots will have an easier path down into the soil. It’s ugly but it really works for us.
“Spring isn’t the time for us to work ground. Springtime is for planting. That’s how I look at it.”