- Arkansas operation goes big in corn.
- Precise management top priority.
Arkansas farmer Tommy Young
Asked about the shift to corn, Young says there has been a profound move to corn from Newport east. “Rice was the predominant crop around here for a long time. There was very little cotton grown.
“Instead of just planting wheat and beans on our sandier soils, we began putting in center-pivot irrigation. That was a must in order to grow good corn. That meant we shifted to much more corn at the expense of dryland milo.”
The reason the Youngs moved away from rice was the price of the crop didn’t keep pace with rising input costs. The operation has since moved to what Young refers to as the “miracle rotation”: corn, winter wheat, soybeans.
“Corn year one, winter wheat that fall and then soybeans double-cropped into the wheat straw using no-till drills. That’s our conservation-minded planting.”
By having corn in the mix, “it creates much better yields in the wheat and beans. Over the past three years, for example, we’ve seen yields of over 200-plus bushel corn, and above 50-bushel soybeans. It isn’t uncommon for us to make 80-bushel wheat and see 115 bushels on the yield monitor.”
Out of all the crops, the most dramatic yield change has been in the wheat. “We used to look for 60 to 70 bushels. Now, we’re looking at 80 to 100 bushels. If corn was pulled from the rotation on that particular soil type, it’s unlikely we’d be seeing such high yields in the beans and wheat.”
In recent years, one constant threat to the operation, both to yield and conservation efforts, are herbicide-resistant weeds.
“We’re to the point where if you don’t kill a pigweed on Friday, by Monday it’ll be too late,” says Young. “We’re back to tillage -- having to throw our conservation tillage practices back in the closet…
“We have farms in the South that are in danger of literally being overrun by the weeds. The EPA and USDA are to blame for some of that. They need to look at the sound science and products in the development pipeline and approve them and move forward.
"We have the best sprayers in the world -- $350,000 for some of them -- with the best computer-monitoring systems: precision application, wind speeds and all the rest. Yet, we have very little to pour in them that does a good job.”
Young and his nephews produce a “tremendous amount” of their crops for seed. Rice is the exception. “We haul our rice to Riceland and they handle our marketing through seasonal pools.”
As for corn, “we have enough storage to handle it all through our farm system. We sell corn anywhere within a 200-miles radius of the facility. Our trucks can deliver to anyone who may need, say, 50 loads in a week. We can handle all that ourselves.
“We do some forward contracting. In the past two years, it hasn’t been as much a challenge to market and get a decent price. Now, though, the prices have fallen so that has changed. Storing of our grain is the main marketing tool we have to make gains later in the year after harvest season is over.”