What is in this article?:
- On Taylor farm in Arkansas, peanuts add diversity and rotation benefits
- Minimal disease problems
“We ended with a 4,200-pound yield average for our 2011 peanuts," says Michael "Mikey" Taylor of the first-ever peanut crop for him and his father, Mike, on Long Lake Plantation at Helena, Ark. "We were very pleased with that, given that the national average was about 3,300 pounds.” This year, the Taylors have almost doubled their plantings, to 900 acres.
THE 2011 PEANUT CROP for Michael “Mikey” Taylor and his father, Mike — their first ever — turned out well and this year they nearly doubled the acreage on their Arkansas farm. Mikey and his two children, Merrie Leigh, 5, and Wells, 2, check out the crop's progress.
Minimal disease problems
Diseases are not as much a problem on soils where peanuts haven’t been grown before, he notes.
“We don’t have to make nearly as many fungicide applications here as they do in southeast states where peanuts have been grown for decades. About the only problem we had last year was some white mold, but we still only made about four or five fungicide applications.
“Our first application this year was Tilt and Bravo, and from here on out we’ll follow our consultant’s recommendations as to when to spray and what to apply.
“We use an agricultural liquid fertilzer, which we get from my father-in-law, Chris Kale, at Farmers Supply at Marvell, Ark. It’s very plant-safe, and is a blend of boron, calcium, and potash. We made two foliar applications last season. It provides an extremely fast response — the day following application we could already see a change in the color of the plants.”
For weed control, Mikey says, “We apply 3 ounces of Valor and 1 pint of Dual behind the planter, then come back with 1.5 pints of Storm and 1 pint of Blazer plus 1 pint of Dual. After that, we’ll make an application of 4 ounces of Cadre and 1 pint of 2,4-DB, and that pretty much takes care of our weed control for the season.
“We applied some Belt last year for worms, but generally, insects were not a problem.”
In addition to their own consultant, he says Birdsong Peanuts’ consultants, Alan Blaine and Mitt Wardlaw, “are always available, too, when we need advice about disease, pest, or other problems.
“The Birdsong folks have been wonderful to work with. When we were harvesting, we never had to wait on a trailer, or stop and wait on anything. If we had a problem, they were there to help, or if we needed a part, they’d send it back with the next trailer. All our parts and chemicals came through MS Peanuts at Aberdeen, Miss.
“When we were ready to start digging last year, Brian Atkins, their buying point manager at Prairie, Miss., came over and worked with us to be sure things went smoothly and that everything was on schedule.”
While peanuts have thus far been a good fit in their cropping program, Mikey says, “I don’t see us expanding beyond our current acreage; we’re pretty much at our maximum from the standpoint of suitable land, and we don’t want to have to buy any more equipment. But if the price continues at a level that shows us a profit, we’ll probably continue at our 900-acre level.”
Because their soils are subject to washing and sandblasting from spring winds, he says, since the mid-1990s cover crops have been a key part of their farming operation.
“We’ll have a cover on 60 percent to 70 percent of our acreage,” Mikey says. “We plant a mixture of cereal rye, at 15 pounds per acre, and winter radishes, at 4 pounds per acre. These are usually seeded right behind the corn combine.
“The radishes can be as much as three feet in length, with huge underground tubers. Their roots can go down 60 inches or more, which helps facilitate water penetration into the soil. About March 1, we’ll burn down the cover with 2 ounces of Valor, plus Touchdown and 2,4-D.
“Ours is basically a minimum-till operation; we try to do as little tillage as possible, mostly strip-till subsoiling. After burndown, the radishes and rye decompose pretty rapidly, adding organic matter to the soil.”
Mikey’s great-grandfather, Earl Wells, started farming here in 1938, and “our family has been farming here ever since,” he says.
“I grew up in farming, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Now, being able to farm with my father is very rewarding. My wife, Laura, and I live here on the farm with our two children, Merrie Leigh and Wells. I’m hoping it will one day mean as much to them as it does to me.”
And he says, as the season moves forward, “We’re just hoping for a dry harvest season — which is always critical for peanuts.”