Jason Berry is a third-generation farmer from Bayou Meto, in east Arkansas.
“We’re west of DeWitt by about 10 miles — just a jog from the One Horse Volunteer Fire Department,” says Berry, who recently hit 102.894 bushels per acre in the state’s soybean yield contest. “I used to farm with my dad but he retired in 2010. He still lives around here and helps during the spring and fall. He climbs up in the tractors.”
For the longest time, “we were planting two-thirds of our acreage in soybeans and a third in rice. A few years ago, we threw corn into the picture and cut back on the rice and bean acres a little bit. Now, we’re probably at two-thirds soybeans with the remaining third divided between rice and corn.”
Most of the land Berry farms is silt loam. “There’s not too much heavy dirt although I have one farm that’s got some Sharkey clay. Some of the land is hilly and we wanted to get away from levees on hillsides. We leveled what we could, but some of it isn’t feasible for that. The corn fits nicely on the hillsides and, most of the time, we plant rice on zero-grade, straight-levee.”
On hitting 102.894 bushels per acre, Berry has “been in the top three for yields in the region before. A couple years ago, I hit just under 100 bushels, and that really made me want to get it over that last hurdle.
“There are a few guys that help with my soybeans. (Armor’s) Curtis Fox always gives good advice. (BASF’s) Brad Koen also helps me a lot — he’s actually the one who got me started in the 100-bushel competition.”
This year, Berry planted several soybean varieties. “(Pioneer’s) James Watkins turned me on to 46A16, which turned out to be excellent. Before he moved to Pioneer, James used to walk our rice as a consultant, and he’s had a long history here. He knows what’s going on with our acreage.”
The winning field was in rice in 2016.
“There were other variety picks we thought might have been as good — and, sure enough, they did very well. But, for us, this was the year for 46A16.”
At first, watching them grow wasn’t that impressive. “They didn’t look like anything special at the start. I had another variety, 47T36, in the same field because I only had 30 bags of the 46A16.
“I went to that field twice thinking it was time to cut, but it wasn’t. When I finally got into the field, I started with the 47T36. They were good and I could tell where we’d put out two shots of fungicide because we’d left a strip. You could see the green leaves.”
Then Berry made a pass through the 46A16 and got excited. “The other variety had cut well, but when we finally got into the 46A16 it was obvious the news was going to be good. Folks with yield monitors know when you turn around at ends, it takes a while for the monitor to get back up to read the normal yield. In that field, though, every time I turned around and got lined back out the monitor never dipped below 100.”
Understandably, in mid-November, Berry already has “a lot of 46A16 set aside for next year. The seed has already been ordered, and we don’t normally go that heavy in just one variety. We also had an Armor variety that was excellent this year. I’m guessing two-thirds of our soybean acreage will be in just those two varieties next year. Hopefully, the Dual/Sencor and rain combination will be favorable again.”
Last spring, Berry began planting early, between April 7 and April 9. He was finished planting soybeans by April 21.
“Going so early was new to us. In 2016, we started planting April 20 for the first time. That was a success, though, so we pushed planting back even more this year.
“We did have some damage in the fall on some beans that were ready when Harvey came through. But the yield benefits offset any problems we saw with damage.”
Berry put chicken litter on the contest field in the fall of 2016. “The year before last, when the field was in soybeans, the crop did very well. After rice, I figured, ‘I’m going back to that field. That’s the one to focus on.’ So, we put out the chicken litter, then normal P and K and whatever the soil samples called for.
“We also put Seed Coat from DeltAg on our soybeans. Another DeltAg product, CropKarb, went out with one application we made. When we put our fungicide out at R-2, we put out a quart of CropKarb. The second fungicide also contained 10 ounces of PercPlus.
“We also made two applications of (BASF’s) Priaxor. We’ve been using Priaxor for several years, and it’s done well for us.”
To knock out weeds, “we put out Dual and Sencor preplant. Then we came back with Roundup over the top with a pint of PercPlus. There wasn’t a second herbicide application.”
There are places in the area where resistant pigweeds “are terrible. Until last year, we were in a LibertyLink program, so that probably helped us. We raised seed beans for Hornbeck Seed for the longest time. Daddy was growing beans for seed when the company started, and I continued until they sold to Bayer. Since then, Bayer moved their production north.
“So, we do have pigweeds. But planting so early along with Dual/Sencor and timely rains worked extremely well. The rains really fell when needed. We irrigated three or four times and probably didn’t have to. We were pushing the crop — they weren’t really hurting for water.”
Berry is all furrow-irrigated and uses all surface water. “Our water comes out of the Arkansas River, or Bayou Meto, and it’s good-quality.”
How did Xtend soybeans do in the area this year?
“There weren’t a lot of problems with dicamba beans around here. A neighbor used the Xtend technology around me, but I didn’t see any issues. He had a good, clean crop.
“They did have some problems closer to Gillett, Ark., where my father and uncle own a farm. They had some damage they thought was significant but, when they cut, it turned out the beans were able to grow out of the drift.”
Berry planted “a lot” of dicamba-tolerant soybeans. “That was strictly for the yield technology and I never sprayed them. Next, year, I plan for more dicamba beans, but I’ll still plant LibertyLink where the pigweeds are bad. It just works for us, and we’ve killed some bigger pigweeds.”