High commodity prices and good returns are positives for producers interviewed about the coming season during the recent Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis. But resistant weeds, variable weather, high input costs and volatile markets continue to trouble many of them.
Jeremy Jack, who farms around 7,000 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans, rice and wheat around Belzoni, Miss., says his crop mix will stay about the same for 2012 although he’ll probably increase cotton acres and decrease rice plantings. “Corn looks the best right now, followed by cotton, soybeans, rice and wheat. With cotton, corn and soybeans, you can lock in a price that will guarantee a profit. Right now, with rice, you can’t. The guaranteed income is not there.”
As planting season nears, Jack is on go. “We’ve purchased all our fertilizer and sold 50 percent of our crops at a good price. We have not booked as much fuel as we wished we had. Fuel and the weather are going to be big variables. Is it going to be a hot, dry year, and will I have to buy a lot of high dollar fuel?
“Another risk is commodity prices. Will they hold steady, or fall toward the end of the year? It’s something that is very worrisome for us.”
Benton Felts, who farms cotton, soybeans, rice and grain sorghum around Joiner, Ark., will cut back on cotton because of glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed. “We going to try and get those cleaned up in the grain sorghum crop. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get it back to cotton the following year.”
Rice acres will the same to lower for Felts. “We’re going to pick up more soybean acres, and we’ll plant more LibertyLink soybeans to address the pigweed problem.”
As one might guess, Felts had a tough time with pigweed in 2011. “Some of the first pigweed in the county was found on our farm. The University of Arkansas came out and did some tests and found out that it was resistant. We had been rotating milo and thought we were doing a good job of resistance management. We weren’t spraying Roundup after Roundup. But we weren’t getting the milo sprayed in a timely manner because of the wind and the pigweed must of just taken off.”
Barry Pool, who produces around 600 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat with his father Barry, Sr., and grandfather, Eugene, in Town Creek, Ala., said the farm made a good cotton crop in 2011. “We made what we booked and then some. We planted our corn late because it was so wet, and we didn’t have as many acres as we would have liked. We had good yields in our corn though.”
Last season, glyphosate-resistant horseweed and pigweed was a problem on the farm, Pool noted. “Last year, it rained so much, we couldn’t get in the field to plant until late. This year, we’re going to try and get a one-pass tool and hit the fields with a pre-emergence herbicide before we plant.”
William Tucker from Vaiden, Miss., farms about 200 acres of cotton and works for the boll weevil eradication program. His 2011 cotton crop took a big hit from drought, and yields dropped from an average of 800 pounds to about 650 pounds.
“I don’t put enough in the crop to make 2.5 bales to 3 bales. I don’t have a lot of expenses like a lot of growers. It’s just me.”
With no irrigation, the biggest variable concerning Tucker is weather. “You can’t make it rain.”
Nicky Burgess, a Crockett Mills, Tenn., producer and crop consultant, farms corn, and cotton and consults for a large farm near Ripley, Tenn. Last year “was a pretty good year,” for Burgess. “There were some low areas, but overall it was about average.”
For 2012, Burgess plans to stick with a traditional rotation of cotton and corn “with soybeans in the mix.”
Most of his consulting work is in precision agriculture, primarily data management consulting. “I think growers are really starting to realize how much this data can mean to them. I try to take precision agriculture data and make it useful. It’s pretty exciting. There are a lot of new things coming. Everything is becoming more integrated, and the wireless technology that is becoming more available will allow us to transfer this information real time, without having to go to a piece of equipment and remove information. That is going to open up a lot of new opportunities.”