Danny Logan’s farm office wall includes photos of him with Katie Couric and Willard Scott on the Today Show set — taken while he served on the board of Cotton Incorporated, a show sponsor in the 1980s.
But times change. Katie has moved on several times; Willard is semi-retired; and in recent years, corn has become king in the crop rotation program on Danny’s northwest Louisiana family farm.
He and his son, Stephen, farm about 5,300 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans and cotton along the Red River north of Shreveport.
Better corn hybrids and higher corn prices have made the crop a staple in their rotation, and a strong demand for corn at regional poultry production facilities helps them maintain a good marketing program.
“We normally store half our corn production and sell the other half to poultry operations for harvest delivery,” Stephen says. “More corn production has strengthened our overall rotation.”
All crops are planted in 38-inch rows. The Logans often don’t decide which crop will go on a particular field until as close as three weeks before hooking up the planter.
“We can easily go from one crop to another because they have nearly the same soil preparation,” Danny says. “We don’t make that determination until late winter or early spring.”
Irrigation is their key to higher corn yields in an area that can face extended hot, dry days during the peak of the growing season. “We spend a lot of our time and effort in expanding irrigation,” Stephen says. “Irrigation is our best form of ‘crop insurance.’”
Their dryland corn yield averages 135 bushels to 155 bushels per acre, compared to 200 to 210 bushels or more for irrigated. “As we try to push our corn yields to 200 bushels or more, it takes lots of water,” Danny says.
They use mostly polypipe furrow irrigation, but they also have some center pivot. Most irrigation is from wells, with some water coming from the neighboring Red River. They’ve worked to improve their watering efficiency with the PHAUCET (Pipe Hole and Universal Crown Evaluation Tool) computer program method of calculating irrigation timing and amounts.
Stephen’s son, Taylor, handles the surveying and data collection needed to utilize the PHAUCET. This helps determine the size of holes to punch in the tubing for water flow and calculates pressure change along the tubing.
It can also help address different row lengths in the same set, can help increase the number of rows irrigated in a set, and should help rows water out more evenly, according to University of Arkansas research.
The research has shown that PHAUCET can help reduce runoff and irrigation pumping time, with as much as a 25 percent average reduction in pumping time.
“This system helps us survey the quantity of water available, the slope of the field and other factors to help determine how to get the most out of our water,” Stephen says.
The Logans plant corn at a seeding rate of 30,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre.
“We don’t go any higher on irrigated fields,” Stephen says. “We used to plant 27,000 to 30,000 seeds per acre, but we increased plant populations with the newer and better hybrids.”
Insect control in corn is mostly handled by planting Bt-stacked hybrids. “We don’t see any worm infestations,” Stephen says.
Soybeans grown after corn, and vice versa, offer stronger yield possibilities. “Our bean yields have been unbelievable — 55 bushels to 60 bushels per acre,” Danny says. “That’s a good crop for this area.”
Soybean varieties, maturity group 4s and 5s, are normally planted to help balance harvesting corn and cotton. “We’re able to complete our corn harvest in about 3½ weeks, then go to beans and then cotton,” Stephen says.
Cotton remains a part of the rotation in order to boost soil fertility and help with weed control. “We also like to maintain cotton in our program to support our local gin,” Danny says. “Cotton has been good to this farm since its beginning. Even though corn and soybeans now play a larger role, cotton is still an important player.”
The rotation must cope with weed resistance problems that are now common over much of the Mid-South and Southeast.
“We’ve started a fall herbicide program following harvest,” Stephen says, with paraquat as the primary base herbicide. Prior to planting, a burndown herbicide mixed with a residual is applied in their multiple-modes-of-action program.
“We know our herbicide programs will have to be constantly monitored,” Stephen says. “Pigweed and ryegrass are showing strong resistance, and we’re also afraid we’ll see johnsongrass resistance, and even bermudagrass resistance.”
Despite production problems that seem to appear every year, the Logans are sold on a well-rounded crop rotation that includes corn. “Prices are still favorable for corn production and soybean markets are also strong,” Stephen says.
“With our 38-inch row production system, we have freedom to shift our planting intentions quickly. And as we increase our ability to irrigate, each crop will be able to be produced more efficiently and with less risk.”