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“The ability to irrigate can help to lessen the risk involved in growing a crop like corn that needs water for maximum yield,” says Clint Tindall, who farms with his father, Butch, in northeast Mississippi. “And it can make a big difference in cotton, too — last year, on one of our farms we got 1.6 bales non-irrigated and 2.25 bales with irrigation. Crop insurance just isn’t that practical for many farms in this area. So, irrigation is our form of crop insurance.
BUTCH TINDALL, left, and his son, Clint, are adding irrigation capability, where practical, on their farms in northeast Mississippi.
While waiting for fields to dry after a 2-inch rain earlier in the week, on a coolish late April morning Clint Tindall and his father, Butch, sit in the sunshine at their shop in the hills of Webster County, Miss., talking about the contrasts of their farming lifetimes and the challenges of modern agriculture.
“I’m the third generation to farm here,” says Clint. “My grandfather, Howard, farmed here all his life, growing cotton, corn, and some cows. My father has farmed all his life, and I’ve been a part of farm life from childhood. I’m hoping my two sons will continue the tradition.”
Butch says: “Farming is all I’ve ever done, I became a part of the family operation in the early 1970s, and we farmed together until 1995, when we split the operation. We had around 2,000 acres by then, growing cotton.”
“1995 was the year we all remember as The Worm Year — and it put a lot of farmers out of the cotton business. But we were able to get through it, and since Clint came back to the farm, we’ve been expanding and making improvements in our operations.”
After Clint earned his agricultural economics degree at Mississippi State University, he came back to the farm in 1997 and worked as a farm employee for his father until 1999, when he joined the operation.
“In one year, we went from 700 acres to 1,700 acres, all cotton,” he says. “We’ve continued expanding and now farm 2,700 acres in Webster County and adjoining Calhoun County, most of it rented.”
Queried about field numbers, he laughs: “I don’t really know how many fields we have — at least a hundred, maybe as many as 150, in all different sizes.
In 2008, they started diversifying and added corn and soybeans. But says Clint, “Our crops in any given year depend on what we think offers the best income prospects and what we need to do in terms of rotation.
“We really like growing both cotton and corn, and we’re trying to do all we can to push yields for those crops. We’ve started some irrigation projects, and will continue to add watering capability where it’s feasible.
“Right now, we can furrow irrigate 300 acres with water from two holding ponds, one 20 acres and the other about 10 acres. Center pivots just don’t pencil out for us — you have to go down several feet or more for water, and you need a big pump, which is expensive. Then, you’ve got the cost of the pivot.
“So, the more economical route for us is to take marginal land out of production to build holding ponds, put in relift pumps, and irrigate from polypipe.
“We try to be as conscientious as possible with our water use, and the water in the ponds has been adequate for our needs, combined with some timely rains.”
They bought a John Deere 9420 tractor and a dirt pan to use in building ponds, Clint says, and to scrape down some of the high spots and improve the grade in fields they plan to irrigate. They’re also working with NRCS on tailwater recovery systems.