SANTEE, S.C. — Uniformed crops and updated technology are key to having successful corn and soybean crops.
This was the message about 250 growers were given during the first-ever South Carolina State Corn and Soybean Growers Meeting, hosted by Clemson Cooperative Extension Service in December.
Missy Bauer, an independent crop consultant with B&M Crop Consulting in Coldwater, Mich., said there are five factors farmers can use to help them produce high-yielding corn crops — a fertility program, proper nitrogen management, stand establishment and ear count, proper root growth, and soil density and pest management strategies.
“Farmers who utilize these practices increase their ability to have high-yielding crops,” Bauer said. “The first step in field establishment is conducting soil tests. Soil sampling is the foundation of a good fertility program. Soil tests should include tests for soil pH and lime, phosphorous, potassium and micronutrients.”
Other topics Bauer addressed included picket fence stands and photocopied plants and ears, uneven emergence effects on plants, optimum environments for roots, soil density’s effects on roots and how having equipment with the latest technology can help increase yields.
“Farmers also need to clean and maintain their equipment,” Bauer noted. “Winter, when the equipment is not being used, is a good time to do this.”
In addition to high crop yields and well-maintained equipment, growers also will want to watch the markets. Edgar Woods of Palmetto Grain Brokerage in Ridgeland, S.C., said agriculture is a competitive game.
“(The United States) is not the only supermarket,” Woods said. “We need to keep an eye on China. What China does is super important.”
Woods said farmers need to look ahead, adding he is hearing more corn acres and fewer soybean acres will be planted in 2018.
“Farmers have to have good yields in order to maintain,” he said. “Yield is hyper important. The demand for corn is growing, so farmers who can produce good yields should be O.K.”
As farmers are preparing for the new growing season, Woods said they need to keep in mind 2017 was a record year for several crops. Farmers need to think about what they will do differently, keeping in mind storage needs and so on, he said.
Double-cropping soybeans with small grains and other crops is another method farmers can use to increase profits and improve the environment. David Holshouser from Virginia Tech talked about how double-cropped soybeans have become a mainstay to Virginia. Double-cropping means growing and harvesting two crops on the same plot in one year.
“Intensively managing small grains, followed by high-yielding soybeans, provides for greater profitability and more efficient use of land, labor, equipment and inputs,” Holshouser said. “The double-crop system also provides environmental benefits by preventing runoff, mining leached nutrients and improving soil quality.”
Harry Ott, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, talked about the fight to get cotton back as a Title I crop, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and water issues. Cotton was removed as a covered commodity of Title I of the 2014 Farm Bill. This made it ineligible for the Agricultural Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage programs.
“The future of agriculture depends on us,” Ott said. “We need everyone to get involved and show their support for agriculture.”
This was the first time South Carolina has held a combination corn and soybean state meeting. David Gunter, a Clemson University Extension feed grain specialist at the Edisto Research and Education Center, said this meeting was patterned after state cotton and peanut meetings.
“We thought it was time for South Carolina to have a combined state corn and soybean meeting,” Gunter said. “The response was great. We had a great crowd of growers who came and listened to three really great speakers. We plan to have similar meetings in the future. Our responsibility is to help the growers in South Carolina and I believe meetings like this help us do just that.”
Thomas DuRant of Gable, S.C., said meetings such as this are beneficial.
“We all enjoy farming, but it has to make sense,” DuRant said. “I’ve been farming a good while, but I can’t just do it because I’ve always done it. I need to know what I need to do before I start a new growing season so that I can maximize what I do to get the best results. Meetings like this are valuable because I learn about new technology, proper growing techniques and other topics that will help me grow high-yielding crops.”
The 2017 meeting was held in Santee, but Gunter said the location of future meetings may change. More information will be available in 2018, he said.