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One great, all good

Despite the season’s less-than-ideal weather, the state’s corn yield will set another record, while soybean and cotton crops only report slight decr
By Sarah Geyer 11/15/2018


The soybean harvest at Essary-Cherry Farm in Milledgeville mirrored the state’s expected average yield with the farm’s 3,000-acre crop averaging 50 bushels per acre. Average yield for Tennessee’s corn crop is expected to reach 174 bushels per acre, setting a record for the second consecutive year, while cotton’s statewide expected yield should be 1,034 pounds per acre. — Photo by Cole DeLong
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As of press time (Nov. 5), combines and pickers across Tennessee are running at full-throttle as farmers wrap up their corn harvest and continue to progress with the harvesting of their soybean and cotton crops.

Here’s the simplified version of Tennessee’s 2018 crop production results: Corn did great. Soybeans and cotton did good.

Here’s the detailed version. According to the Oct. 11 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Tennessee’s corn yield will likely reach its second consecutive record-setting year with an average 174 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from last year. At press time, nearly 100 percent of the state’s crop has been harvested.

Earlier estimations for this season’s soybean numbers were expected to increase slightly over last year, but as harvest nears 50-percent completion, the crop’s yield appears to show no gain with an average of 50 bushels per acre.

Predictions in September estimated cotton yields would exceed last year by nearly 50 pounds per acre. At the harvest halfway point, however, the numbers are only showing a 1-pound increase, with an average of 1,034 pounds per acre this year.

“It has been a really good year considering the weather,” says Chuck Danehower, area specialist in farm management for the University of Tennessee Extension Service. “Too much rain during the spring meant late planting and for some acreage re-planting. Then a long dry spell in late summer caused concern for the end of the growing season. However, we still got some pretty good yields.”

The following producers share how this year’s crops fared on their farm.

Corn — William and Paul Mitchell, Summerville, Ga.

For the second year, William Mitchell’s corn yields have outperformed the average. The producer estimates this year’s grain harvest averaged 200 bushels an acre, and silage pushed 30 tons an acre. Without a yield monitor in his combine, he doesn’t have exact figures.

William, along with son Paul, who recently joined the farming operation, grows 500 acres of corn on the third-generation family farm in North Georgia’s Gore Community. They also raise several houses of chickens and more than 3,000 brood and stocker cattle

With the expertise of Lloyd Nelms, outside salesman with Southeastern Farmers Cooperative, the farmers have created a crop management plan that is yielding stellar results.

This year, the Mitchells planted several Croplan seed varieties with up-front applications of potash and nitrogen at 50 units each. They later side-dressed an additional 100 to 120 units of nitrogen.

William also credits part of this year’s success to the recent addition of cover crops, adding that a careful soil-sampling program and efforts like spreading chicken litter in the spring to keep nutrients in balance are also important.

The biggest factor, says the farmer, as always, is the weather.

“There was plenty of moisture this summer,” he says. “We had thunderstorms all summer. It was difficult for hay, but good for the corn. I thank the good Lord. He’s been good to us.”

Soybeans — Ricky and Kevin Essary and Jason Cherry, Milledgeville

“This year’s growing season was a struggle from the start,” says Jason Cherry, who raises 3,000 acres of soybeans on the family’s Essary-Cherry Farms in Milledgeville with his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Ricky and Kevin Essary. “It rained from January to July, which kept us from early planting. That is a big deal since more than half of our crop is early maturity soybeans. Then when the rain finally stopped, we got hardly a drop in this area until mid-September.”

Both the early, wet conditions and the extended dry spell affected the family’s soybean production. The farmers yielded 50 bushels per acre, a 10- to 15-bushel decrease from last year.

“Even though the soybean yield is less than last year,” says Ricky.  “It is actually better than we expected, especially considering how dry the last two months was.” In addition to soybeans, the family also raises nearly 1,000 acres of corn and 2,500 acres of cover crops.

The trio is committed to careful crop management, says Mike Clayton, sales and marketing manager for First Farmers Cooperative, where the farmers are long-time members. He adds the row-crop producers are often trying new techniques, but some practices are non-negotiable like early planting.

“We plant so early for two reasons,” says Jason. “More of the growing season is before summer solstice, providing more hours of much-needed sunlight for the crop, and we’ve got more daylight hours for harvest. I always tell people, ‘one day in a combine in August and first of September is two days in October and three days in November in what you can get done in a day’s time.’”

The farmers say they are also believers in the importance of a premium seed treatment.

“It has to be high quality, the best you can afford,” says Jason. “We don’t skimp on that. It’s money well spent.”

Another firm rule for the farming family is the use of fungicide, both curative and preventative.

“We spray with fungicide no matter if it’s dry or not to help prolong and make a little healthier plant,” says Kevin.

But as Ricky points out, even the best crop management techniques can’t improve weather conditions.

“You can’t have a good crop every year but we’ve been blessed with what we do have,” says Jason. “We can’t complain, but hopefully next year will be better.”

Cotton — Jordan East, Friendship

West Tennessee cotton farmers, like Jordan East of Friendship, cite lack of rain in late summer for the crop’s yields not reaching predicted poundage.

Jordan, who took the reins of his family’s row crop operation from his father John nearly a decade ago, raises 2,300 acres of cotton and 1,100 acres of soybeans on farmland in Crockett, Haywood, Madison, and Gibson counties.

“We were able to get the cotton planted in a timely manner without a considerable amount of replant,” he says. “The growing season was really good until late July. We needed a few more rains in August that we just didn’t get. Had it not been for that, I think we would have had a record cotton crop this year.”

Nearing the halfway point of his harvest, Jordan says what’s been ginned so far has been over two bales, and his yields are averaging a little better than 1,000 pounds per acre.

The young producer plants several varieties of cottonseed to reduce risk, and says that at this point in the harvest, Croplan is his top performer.

“I don’t have any grades back on it yet,” says the member of Mid-South Farmers Cooperative’s Alamo location, “but yield-wise, Croplan is the best.”

The area’s extended dry spell wasn’t Jordan’s only weather issue. The rain that followed lasted for a week, he says, adding that some places got 12 inches or more at an inopportune time.

“A lot of the cotton was defoliated at that time, and that seems to have hurt the grade some,” he says. “The grades my cotton is getting aren’t bad, but they are not the premiums that we are used to. It’s caused by weather, and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

For more information about implementing any of the crop management strategies mentioned above or in the story on page 10, contact your local

Co-op agronomist.

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