This growing season has been a challenge for most in agriculture, however the farmer and their trusty crop consultant can weather the storms. Six members of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants give a crop update from six states:
Texas High Plains growers faced unusual challenges this year from cold temperatures, rain and hail. Temperatures did not reach the upper 80’s until late May which delayed planting. James Todd in Plainview reports that his growers lost 70% of their cotton to weather related issues. It has been a race to get late corn planted after failed cotton. One of his customers was able to plant approximately 4000 acres of corn in 2.5 days by using 4 planters. “There is so much on the line and everyone was hoping this was going to be the good year after suffering low yields and low crop prices in 2018. Farmers just want someone to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel and help make these important decisions,” Todd says.
Flooding and a very wet spring plagued growers in the Mid-South. This along with low commodity prices are hitting growers hard and according to Louisiana crop consultant Harold Lambert, the only price that is not at a low is sugar. About 90-95% of the seven different crops in his area is planted compared to normal 99%. “Growers are smart”, Lambert says. “They are very good about having a Plan B or even a Plan C. If we are planting late or replanting by certain dates, I will continuously remind them about the risks and keep them on schedule.”
Rice acres in Missouri are down by 25-30% depending on the county reports consultant Amy Beth Dowdy. Those acres were half preventative planted and half were planted to soybeans.
For researcher and crop consultant Matt Winslow, the problem facing growers in North Carolina is extreme weather and changing insect pressure. With one of the driest springs on record, they had to stop planting because the moisture was too deep. Insects that usually are not an issue in the area are becoming a problem. For example, they are battling blister beetles in potato. Typical insect pests are a problem earlier than normal with stink bugs hitting pre-tasseling corn and plant bugs hitting pre-square cotton. When asked about the relationship between consultants and growers, Winslow says, “Most folks think that when we have a down year in prices that the consultant will be the first on the chopping block when farmers face decisions about budget. We have found this to be the exact opposite. It’s during the leanest times that consultants become so valuable. It is during that time the money savings are realized by the farmers.”
In addition to weather and low commodity prices, Debra Keenan in Chico, CA commented that growers are also having to deal with geopolitical concerns about commodities tariffs. From a researcher standpoint, Debra reports that at bloom the weather was wet and it was tricky to make the requested application in a timely fashion on almonds. Many growers had to apply by air and they had to be creative on missing plots. Most of the crops were planted on time with the exception of about 5% of the rice as it was still wet past the last planting date.
Further north in the Red River Valley of North Dakota, weather was not the main concern for Dan Moser. According to Moser, the biggest problem he has is teaching farmers how to use all the new technology that has been incorporated into the crops, i.e. Dicamba, Liberty, etc. “It’s a whole new way to farm for many. Trying to make the different deadlines state by state for dicamba is also a challenge,” says Moser. About 95% was planted at the time of this writing compared to the usual 100%. On the preventive plant acres Dan recommended to plant radishes, barley or winter rye for soil health reasons instead of tillage. Most of these crops will be planted by mid-July.
Whether we have been through the worst for the 2019 season is yet to be seen. Like the mailman, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will deter the farmer’s best friend, the crop consultant, from providing timely and quality advice.
This article was written by Allison Jones, executive vice president of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants.