Going against the biotech trend, David Feilke chose a conventional University of Arkansas soybean variety for his verification field. “We planted Ozark,” says the Slovak-area producer. “We were interested in how it would compare to others. We plant seed for private companies. The way I look at it, Arkansas farmers helped pay for (Ozark's development), and I wanted to see how it would do on the farm.”

Dwayne Beaty is pleased Feilke chose the conventional variety to plant. “Many growers ask why the university isn't in the breeding business in a bigger way,” says the verification coordinator. “Roundup technology is nice, but seed costs can be very significant, especially if they have to replant a couple of times. This field is as clean as any I've seen in the county — Roundup or not.”

Planting and some fun

This is the first year in several Feilke has gotten away from Roundup Ready varieties. Ozark has worked out well on 53 acres of silt loam beside a main road. The seed was flown on May 21, and a 0-45-90 fertilizer program was used. A third irrigation was completed the second week of August.

“Knowing (the verification) guys, we'll water a couple more times,” says Feilke, laughing loudly with Extension personnel in earshot. “(The verification guys) like to come by late Friday evenings and say, ‘Hey, if you're not doing anything for the next couple of days, how about watering?’ It never fails!”

“Yeah, I get the dirty work,” says Hank Cheney, tongue firmly in cheek. “I get to come out here and tell David what to do…. That's always a barrel of laughs.”

“They come by every week,” continues Feilke with his gentle ribbing. “You know, 95 percent of the time I'm really glad to see them. But there are those occasions when I'm too busy. That's when Dwayne (Beaty) calls Hank (Prairie County Extension agent) and has him deliver the instructions.”

Cheney chuckles and shrugs his shoulders. Every once in a while, his job requires “falling on a grenade for the team,” he says. At this, fresh laughter echoes around Feilke's equipment shed. If the give-and-take is any indication, the men are genuinely fond of each other.

The good thing, says Feilke, getting in one more shot, is verification coordinators “guarantee you'll make 80 bushels per acre or they'll make up the difference.”

At this, several Extension employees exaggerate coughs and clutch their chests feigning heart attacks.

“Those are just jokes,” says Feilke. “These are great guys and the program is truly a fantastic deal.”

Programs and rates

To prepare the Ozark field, Storm, Select and Blazer were applied. “It was very clean,” says Feilke.

The field wasn't cultivated — a practice Feilke has “pretty much” abandoned over the last few years. He put the beans on beds to help with irrigation.

The field was planted at about 65 pounds per acre — about $22 per acre. “That isn't bad,” says Feilke, “especially compared to Roundup varieties. Those can run $50 per acre. One time, when working with (former soybean specialist Lanny) Ashlock, we planted an 82-pound rate; we've cut back some.”

Feilke, a fourth-generation Grand Prairie farmer, grows rice, corn, soybeans and some wheat. “I've been farming long enough to know better,” he says.

Why get into the verification program? “Basically, we were having yield problems across the farm.” Looking for answers, Feilke called Cheney.

“I had not worked with David prior to this,” says Cheney. “Since we started, he's put in a corn variety trial and a soybean variety trial. He has been a great cooperator. I've enjoyed getting to know him.”

What has the verification program taught Feilke? “Like most farmers, we're spread too thin,” he says. “That causes timeliness issues. (The verification workers) don't expect you to drop what you're doing to (follow their recommendations). But talking to them reminds you to stay timely… and it works.”